Do Silverfish Pester Humans?

Silverfish are common insects that may infest and feed on items (especially paper items) in the home. They are frequently spotted in bathrooms where they enjoy the moist environment; they especially enjoy such places if there is mold or mildew to eat. They don't directly harm humans, but these bugs are still often considered pests because they can damage some household items, especially in large populations.

Silverfish sitting on wood, extreme close up
credit: Henrik_L/iStock/Getty Images
An extreme close-up of a silverfish.

Features

Silverfish are small insects -- typically between 0.6 and 1.27 centimeters (1/4 and 1/2 in.) long -- and have shimmering, silver-colored scales. When they move, their tail end moves to and fro similar to a fish's fin -- hence the "fish" part of the name.

Silverfish Chewing Habits

Silverfish do chew, and through their chewing and eating may damage paper, clothing and other items. They also eat food items, such as sugar and flour and products containing those ingredients. However, despite their ability to chew holes in paper, they do not bite humans, according to Richard Kingsley at madsci.org.

Silverfish Habitat

These insects can slip easily into very small spaces due to their size and flattened body structure. Look for these creatures in cupboards and drawers, beneath the bathtub, in corner crevices and in seams of wallpaper. However, even if you do not see them, your home may still have them: Silverfish enjoy the dark and are most active at night.

Prevention/Solution

Aside from using Boric acid or pesticides to get rid of silverfish, you can also get rid of their food source. Keep moisture in the home low as silverfish do not like a dry environment. Controlling moisture will also help prevent mold and mildew, upon which these bugs like to feed. Keep all grains, cereals, flour, sugar, cookies and other cupboard items in tightly sealed containers. If the silverfish have no access, they will not infest the food. In addition, remove all unnecessary cardboard boxes from the home and store paperwork in sealed containers. Once silverfish are in the home, there is no way, short of using insecticides, of keeping them away from wallpaper. Diligent and thorough cleaning, however, will help.

Other "Silverfish"

While the insect most commonly referred to as silverfish is Lepisma saccharina, several close relatives may bear the moniker as well. In particular, the genus Ctenolepisma includes species often called the four-lined, grey and urban silverfish. The firebrat (Thermobia domestica), meanwhile, is another close lookalike in the same taxonomic order as the others. Like true silverfish, these pests aren't dangerous to humans but can infest food and paper products.

Considerations

Silverfish are sometimes mistaken for centipedes, which do inflict painful bites. One way to tell the difference is to note how many legs the bug has. Upon close inspection of a silverfish, you'll see that it only has six legs.