Silverfish are strange looking insects that belong to the Zygentoma order. Although several insect species belong to this order, the name “silverfish” is commonly used to refer to all Zygentoma species. However, the Entomological Society of America officially considers only one species to be a silverfish, and this species is a common home invader known as Lepisma saccharina. Silverfish are well known for their strange habit of consuming cellulose items, such as paper, as well as foods and materials that have a high starch content and, oddly enough, they cannot resist the taste of glue. Due to these feeding preferences, silverfish can be economically damaging insect pests, and they are particularly well known for infesting museums and archives where they have fed on historical documents, artwork, wood and important books. When silverfish infest homes, they feed on all these items as well as clothing stored in closets and dressers. While silverfish are mostly nuisance pests within homes and buildings, home infestations have resulted in hundreds and even thousands of dollars in property damage.
Silverfish dwell beneath rocks, leaf litter, within caves and even within ant nests, but they find indoor habitats particularly hospitable, as these pests feed on sugars, cellulose, linens, silk, cotton, vegetables, cereals, dried meat, dead insects, and other silverfish. The amount of materials and food that silverfish feed upon cannot possibly be listed in this article, but some of the most common forms of damage that these insects inflict within homes include the glue used to hold up wallpaper, curtains, carpets, book bindings, and furniture fabrics. Silverfish are almost always found within high humidity indoor environments where the temperature ranges from 72 to 81 degrees, which can bring numerous specimens into bathrooms, basements, kitchens and attics. Silverfish are often eradicated from homes by professional pest controllers, but their extremely fast movements make individual specimens difficult to catch. Although silverfish can be found all over North America, as well as on many other continents, the pests happen to be particularly abundant within homes in the northeast where residents often build makeshift traps using sugar to lure the insects to their death.
Have you ever found silverfish feeding on any food or materials within your home?