A Collectors Enemy – Silverfish

Hated by all collectors!

If you are a collector of any kind of paper items, magazines, newspapers, clippings, books, etc, you have a hatred for these little bugs, silverfish. This Lepisma saccharinum is a small primitive wingless insect. They are hated due to their consumption and destruction of property.

Silverfish are a cosmopolitan species, found in Africa, the Americas, Australia, Eurasia, and parts of the Pacific. They like moist areas (humidity between 75% and 95%) and are found in attics, basements, bathtubs, sinks, kitchens, old books, classrooms, and showers.

Reproduction happens in a half hour or so ritual. In the first phase, the male and female stand face to face, their vibrating antennae touching, then repeatedly back off and return to this position.

In the second phase, the male runs away and the female chases him. In the third phase, the male and female stand side by side and head to tail, with the male vibrating his tail against the female.

Finally, the male lays a spermatophore, a sperm capsule covered in gossamer, which the female takes into her body via her ovipositor to fertilize her eggs.

They are named for their color and their fish-like movement and scaley bodies. The silverfish is a nocturnal insect typically 0.5–1.0 inches long. They typically live for three years.

They consume matter that contains polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives. These include book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar.

Silverfish can also cause damage to tapestries. Other substances they may eat include cotton, dead insects, linen, silk, leftover crumbs, or even their own exuviae (molted exoskeleton). During a famine, a silverfish may even consume leather and synthetic fabrics. Silverfish can live for a year or more without eating if water is available.

They are responsible for the contamination of food and other types of damage but they do not transmit disease. Their enemies are earwigs, house centipedes, and spiders such as the spitting spider and me if I see one.

Silverfish see dusty areas of the home as a smorgasbord. Since dust is mostly made of organic residues, like human skin and dander, silverfish can usually survive on dust alone. Silverfish are not harmful to people. They do not bite, sting, or carry diseases or pathogens. They do leave small black dropping and yellow stains on surfaces they have been consuming. To get rid of them, put some flour, dried cereal, or pet food in a glass container. Leave the top off and wrap the outside with tape. Silverfish will be able to get into the jar by using the textured surface of the tape. They won’t be able to get back out, though, because their feet can’t get traction on the smooth glass surface inside. Another method is to wet an old newspaper and roll it up. Silverfish will crawl into it and start making their homes. After a few days, throw the newspaper away in a sealed, airtight container. Other methods are to put out sticky traps or use cedar oil in a diffuser or spray (several drops mixed with water) the affected areas.

Bay leaves deter Silverfish and sprinkling borax about will kill them. They also make poisons and traps you can buy. Getting a pest control company would be best if you have a bad problem. I’ve been attacked some during the years. It is best if you can rotate your collections and check them often which is hard to do.

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: