Silverfish are wingless, teardrop-shaped insects that measure between 1/2 and 1 inch in length. They are bluish-silver or light grey in color, have long antennae and three long bristles on their rear. They move in a wiggling motion that resembles the movement of a fish. Between their shape, color and the way they move, it is easy to see how they got their name.
Silverfish are nocturnal and move very quickly. They are secretive, which means a silverfish infestation may go undetected for a long time. They reproduce quickly and typically live for two to eight years.
What really makes silverfish notorious, though, are their destructive feeding habits. Silverfish eat carbohydrates, particularly sugars and starches, and will feed on shampoos, glue, book bindings, carpet, coffee, dandruff, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, cotton, silk, linen and even their own exoskeletons after they molt!
Given the remarkable range of their diets, it may be surprising to learn that silverfish can live for a year or more without eating.
Silverfish are capable of thriving in most climates, but prefer dark, damp areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, attics and basements. They are especially attracted to paper and damp clothing and are commonly found in stored boxes in garages and sheds, where the glue holding corrugated boxes together serves as a perfect food source.
Their nymphs develop faster in areas that are humid, so one of the best ways to prevent an infestation is to control humidity.
Most of the time, you will see a silverfish on the floor or in a sink or bathtub which they are unable to escape due to the slippery surface. They can also leave clues in the form of damage to the areas where they feed and in their feces which look like tiny flecks of pepper.
While silverfish are considered household pests because of their destructive feeding habits, they do not transmit disease and do not pose a health threat to humans or pets.