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Silverfish are harmless to humans and pets, but can ruin clothing and steal food. For these reasons, it is advisable to actively combat the insects - initially with general methods such as essential ventilation. If the desired successes are not achieved, concrete measures must be taken, for better or for worse. We explain to you classic and special means that help to drive silverfish out of your home.
Mini profile - a short portrait of the silverfish
- common names: silverfish, silverfish
- scientific name: Lepisma saccharina (“sugar guest”)
- Colour: shiny silver
- Size: approx. 2.2 cm (including attachments)
- special features: 2 front feelers, 3 tail appendages, 2-, 3- or 4-jointed feet, no wings
- Lifetime: max. 8 years
- required living conditions: warmth (20-30°C), high humidity (80-90%)
- Food preferences: Sugar and starchy foods, dander, hair, mites, mold, cellulose
- typical characteristics: photophobic, nocturnal, quick
- natural enemies: spider, earwig
Classic measures against silverfish
First of all, it is important to create conditions in the apartment or house that silverfish do not like. With the measures that we present to you below, you can gradually get rid of fish that are already present and prevent a new infestation. In addition, the actions generally ensure a good climate at home.
Measure 1: Regulate heat correctly
Silverfish depend on warm temperatures. They need average temperatures of 20 to 30 degrees Celsius to thrive, survive and successfully produce offspring. For you, this means that you should never overheat your home. Above all, keep the bathroom and kitchen at the lower limit as far as heat supply is concerned.
These are the rooms in which silverfish particularly like to do their mischief. Of course, the priority is that you don't freeze. But if in doubt, it is advisable to generally level the temperatures out at least below 25 degrees. Then the insects have less desire to populate your room.First measures and prevention against silverfish
Measure 2: Ventilate regularly
It is even more important to keep the air humidity as low as possible, because the silverfish are attracted to humid air, while they do not like dryness at all. How do you do that? Very simple: air all the rooms several times a day.
Ventilation is optimal - this means that it is better to open all the windows completely two or three times for around five to ten minutes than to leave them open for many hours. This is how you drive the humid air outside - and the silverfish out of your four walls. You also prevent mold growth, which is known to have harmful effects on health.
Measure 3: Carry out a mold check
Speaking of mould: If you encounter several silverfish in one and the same room, the cause may be a moldy zone in the room. Mold is one of the favorite foods of Lepisma saccharina and therefore attracts the insect. So check the walls and the joints if the fish infestation occurs in the bathroom or kitchen.
If you find that mold is actually present, you need to get rid of the fungus as soon as possible. We advise you to hire a professional for this purpose. After the deed is completed, the silverfish usually disappear and look for a new "victim".
Measure 4: Close cracks and holes
Silverfish are quite small, so they can easily fit through tiny cracks and holes. The joints in old apartments in particular have repeatedly proven to be susceptible to such flaws - and offer various insects the opportunity to conquer living spaces. Even silverfish, which otherwise mainly live in the sewage system, grab these opportunities by the forelock.Seal joints and inhibit the appearance of silverfish
So check whether there are any suspicious gaps in the wall, tile and joint areas and close any cracks and holes with silicone. Do-it-yourselfers can do the act themselves. If you are completely inexperienced, it is best to seek competent help.
Measure 5: Maintain hygiene
Silverfish don't think too much of cleanliness. They like it better when there is a lot of hair and dander from the human residents, as well as dust mites lying around on the floor. These elements serve as food for insects.
Even clothing that hasn't been washed in a long time and has been sitting in the laundry basket for what feels like an eternity tastes good to the little fish, which are surprisingly able to digest cellulose - an ability that is otherwise only found in very few other creatures. Anyone who has not taken it very seriously with home cleaning should be more consistent in the future, because you can get rid of silverfish with hygienic conditions.
Ready means of combating
Ready-made remedies against Lepisma saccharina
In order to fight silverfish in a targeted manner, various ready-made products are available in supermarkets and drugstores. We would like to briefly present the three most common ones below. We also explain why chemical products are not always the easiest options to combat Lepisma saccharina.
Action 6: Use silverfish trap
Bait boxes are available for a wide variety of pests - including silverfish. The principle is usually the same: you open the "gates" of the respective silverfish trap so that the insects have access to the inside. There, the insects are greeted by a tempting but actually poisonous chemical solution. They pick them up and later die from them.
In addition, the silverfish infect their relatives through direct interactions. At first it all sounds like a sensible way to fight Lepisma saccharina efficiently. But be careful, there are reasons that clearly speak against the use of a bait box.
Avoid using a chemical silverfish trap if you share your home with small children or pets like dogs and cats. The core of the remedy is often harmful to both the human and animal organism and can cause severe poisoning.
The best way to illustrate the potential dangers is a playful cat chasing and consuming a silverfish that has been tampering with the bait box. The infected fish transmits the poison to the cat and endangers its health. A bite of the pet in the trap carries the same risk.
The environment is another reason not to use a chemical bait can. After all, the chemical club has to be disposed of sooner or later. Even the smallest contribution of poison harms Mother Nature. If you want to protect them with all your might, avoid the "mallet method", especially since there are many good alternatives.
Measure 7: Use bug spray
Measured against the minimal effort and the speed of success, an insect spray is logically a good alternative. With such a product, you can get rid of silverfish relatively quickly. All you have to do is spray the affected areas and wait. After a few days, the plague usually comes to an end. But the same counter-arguments apply as to the chemical bait cans. In addition, not every surface tolerates the chemical preparation.
Corresponding instructions are noted on the spray and should not be ignored. In short, insect sprays are only recommended in absolute emergencies - for example, in the event of a massive infestation that severely restricts one's own life. In such a situation, however, the question arises as to whether it would not be better to hire a pest controller - "exterminator".
Action 8: Mothballs
Get rid of silverfish with mothballs?! This can really work. The balls are primarily adapted to clothes moths. However, the strong odor that gradually spreads to the entire surrounding air is also able to drive away Lepisma saccharina.
And considering that not only moths, but also the cheeky silverfish like to nibble on clothes (due to their ability to digest cellulose), it is doubly worth putting mothballs in the closets. But here, too, you must under all circumstances take into account that the substances contained in the balls (naphthalene and p-dichlorobenzene) are classified as harmful to health and hazardous to the environment.
home remedies to combat it
Special home remedies for silverfish
As you can see, chemical preparations like bait cans, bug sprays and mothballs are only suboptimal for controlling silverfish. Fortunately, there are also numerous home remedies for the problem of a silverfish infestation that have already proven their effectiveness.
The spectrum ranges from lavender (oil) to pieces of cucumber and plaster of paris. From our long list, select the methods that are easiest to implement in your case. If one measure doesn't work, try another until you succeed in driving away the unwelcome insects.
Measure 9: Lavender (oil)
Silverfish cannot stand the intense lavender scent, which is sometimes annoying even for humans. So what could be more obvious than taking advantage of this fact to drive away the unwanted insects?! How it works: Mix two teaspoons of lavender oil and 400 milliliters of water in a spray bottle.
Use your natural bug spray the same way you would use chemical equivalents: Spray on the affected areas. In addition, you can generally spray the home remedy you have prepared yourself in the premises, provided that the scent does not bother you.Fight silverfish with lavender oil and water mixture
Action 10: Cedar Wood Powder
Cedar wood behaves in a similar way to lavender: it has an intense smell that "turns off" a wide variety of insects and thus drives them away. This includes silverfish. The application is very simple: Scatter cedar wood powder or shavings in dark corners under the furniture (also under the refrigerator, where silverfish prefer to be!) and leave the cedar wood elements there for a longer period of time (at least two weeks).
Action 11: Lemon Juice
And it continues with odor-intensive agents. Lemon scent is also not for silverfish. As with the lavender spray, you only need a spray bottle in addition to the inexpensive lemon juice. In the latter fill 750 milliliters of water and 250 milliliters of lemon juice. Shake well and then spray everything that should (in the future) be free of silverfish. The practical household remedy is absolutely harmless for children and pets.Drive away silverfish with lemon scent
Special tip: Sometimes silverfish go to bed because they can find and eat dust mites there. To prevent this, it is advisable to wash the bed linen with a detergent that contains natural lemon scent. In addition, you can sprinkle lemon peel on the bed sheet - especially if you have already discovered little fish in your bedroom.
Measure 12: Spice mixture
There are more smells that repel Lepisma saccharina. Special mention should be made of spices such as sage, rosemary, cloves and laurel. Mix these ingredients in small cloth bags and place the latter around the infested premises. Again, choose dark corners.
Measure 13: Cucumber
Here comes something like "grandma's home remedy": Cut a cucumber into pieces and place them wherever you suspect silverfish or want to get rid of them. After a few days, replace the old cucumber slices with new ones. The smell of cucumbers is also one of the hated smells of silverfish.
Measure 14: Potato
If you don't want to drive away the insects, but want to catch them, you can try potatoes, among other things. Since these contain a lot of starch, they are a tasty food and lure for the fish. Cut open a (uncooked, raw) potato.
Place the halves in an opened paper bag and leave on the bathroom or kitchen floor overnight. Ideally, the insects will congregate at the feeding station to nibble on the potato, allowing you to expose the entire packet the next day or discard it.Catch silverfish with raw potatoes
Measure 15: diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth, also known as mountain or silica flour, is a powdery substance with a whitish color and an extremely porous structure. It mainly consists of the shells of fossil diatoms. The product is harmless to humans and pets. Silverfish, on the other hand, inflicts significant damage.
The diatoms bind the fat layer of the insects, causing them to dry out and die. To attract the insects to the diatomaceous earth, it is best to mix it with sugar. Because Lepisma saccharina are quite keen on the sweet food, as the name of the animals suggests (Lepisma saccharina means "sugar guest").
Tip: Instead of diatomaceous earth, you can also experiment with conventional salt (plus sugar). In and of itself it has the same effect as the diatoms and is generally always available.
Measure 16: Plaster
You can take advantage of the fact that silverfish love wallpapers and the like. Apply plaster to a damp cotton cloth and leave it in the bathroom or kitchen overnight. With a bit of luck, the animals will gather on the cloth to fill their stomachs. As a rule, they do not survive the feeding frenzy. Discard the dead fish.
Build your own traps
Extra tips: make your own silverfish traps
In addition to the means described, there are also ways to make real silverfish traps yourself. We present you the four most common DIY variants, which are neither time-consuming nor financially expensive, but definitely have an effect.
Measure #17: honey newspaper
What you need:
- old newspaper
- paint brush
How to proceed:
- put a good amount of honey in a small bowl
- pick up a large double-page spread from an old newspaper
Tip: You can also use a piece of cloth instead of newspaper.
- coat the double page with the honey - with the help of a brush.
Important: Don't be too frugal!
- place the newspaper in a dark place - say, under the refrigerator.
The sweet honey scent attracts the little fish. They crawl onto the coated surface and stick. Once you have collected some animals in this way, you can dispose of them or take them outside.
Baking Soda Honey Carton
Action #18: Baking Soda Honey Carton
What you need:
- baking powder
- paint brush
- piece of cardboard
How to proceed:
- mix three tablespoons of baking soda with three tablespoons of honey and three tablespoons of water in a bowl
- paint a piece of cardboard with the mixture (brush!)
- put the carton in one of the classic “silverfish places”, i.e. in the bathroom or under the fridge
The honey is the bait and the baking soda is the cause of the little animals dying. They eat the mixture and the baking soda puffs up inside the fish, which inevitably leads to the death of the insects.
Tip: You can also use sugar instead of honey.
Action #19: Sugar Glue
What you need:
- wide double-sided tape
How to proceed:
- cut several strips of wide double-sided tape
- clear one adhesive surface of each tape you cut off
- sprinkle sugar on the free adhesive surfaces and make sure the sugar crumbs stick well
- now also loosen the lower adhesive surfaces and attach the strips again in a dark place, but this should be easily accessible for your hands so that you can easily remove the strips afterwards
"Sugar Glue" works the same way as the "Honey Newspaper".The insects will be attracted and stick to the tape, allowing you to remove them from your home in one go.
Action #20: Oatmeal Jar
What you need:
How to proceed:
- put some rolled oats in an open mason jar
- cut a sufficiently long piece of string and wrap it around the glass
- place the silverfish trap in a typical location for the insects - for example under the sink in the bathroom or under the refrigerator, if this offers enough space
A Lepisma saccharina not only likes sugars, but also starches such as oatmeal. The cheap product therefore acts as a lure. So that the little fish can get into the glass without any problems, they need the cord as a kind of "ladder". So they crawl up the string and fall into the glass, from which they can't get out. You can release the collected animals in nature or dispose of them directly.
Tip: As an alternative to the string, a simple wooden stick that you lean against the glass is also suitable as a climbing aid for the insects.