Are Silverfish Dangerous? 7 Things to Know

Silverfish may be creepy-looking, but it is not dangerous to humans. Many people may think it is dangerous because of the way it looks with the metallic colors on its scales and body that is shaped like a teardrop with six legs and three tail-like appendages on the end of the body.

Silverfish are often found in offices, schools, stores, and libraries as well as homes.

While not dangerous to humans, it can, however, still cause problems in your household and lead to infestations.

You can identify silverfish in your home by the yellow it leaves behind along with the damage. Sticky traps can also help with identifying an infestation.

Here are some of the ways they can cause problems:

  • Silverfish are not dangerous to humans.
  • It can cause damage to paper goods and wallpaper.
  • Fabrics, especially when damp or starchy, can attract silverfish.
  • Silverfish can get into food stored in cabinets.
  • Dead skin can be a source of food for silverfish.
  • Molted skin of silverfish can cause allergies.
  • Silverfish can cause an infestation in your house.

1. It is important to know that silverfish are not dangerous to humans.


Silverfish do not bite as its jaw is too weak to break human skin, and it’s not interested in blood, like many insects. It eats by scraping or dragging its teeth across its food.

Silverfish can survive for weeks without food and water, and up to a year without food if it has access to water.


It does not sting, and it is not poisonous or venomous. Silverfish also do not carry diseases like some other insects, such as mosquitos.

It does not have wings but can run very fast. It got its name because its movements look like a fish as it swishes across the floor.

2. Silverfish eat cellulose

Cellulose is carbohydrates or starchy sugars, which can be found in paper goods, such as books and photos, and wallpaper glue.

It also does not like wood, like termites, but does like the ingredients that are used in creating wood-based paper goods. When it finds a food source, it may build a nest nearby.

Paper Products

Silverfish enjoy eating paper products, including the glue on book binding and covers, photos, and stacks of paper.

If you have these stored in the attic or basement, you could have a problem with silverfish eating them without knowing they are there. The basement, which could be damp and dark, is a favorite place for these pests. Anything stored there could be in more danger than the attic.

It can be unfriendly to find silverfish poop or an alive one when you open a book to read it.

The best way to protect against silverfish eating your paper goods and books, especially valuable ones, is to store them in plastic containers or bags that are tightly sealed. This can be a good solution for photos and important papers but is more challenging for your book collection.

Silverfish also have a fondness for wallpaper glue, which could result in your wallpaper no longer being stuck to the wall.

It may also eat the paper too and the wallpaper may become very unattractive looking with holes all over it. The only solution is to eliminate silverfish from your home.

Before you bring in boxes of books, papers, or photos into your home from other locations, you should look through the boxes to see if there are any signs of silverfish.

It is possible that there was an infestation at the previous location and after being brought inside, silverfish could quickly spread throughout your home.

3. Silverfish will eat natural fibers like cotton, linen, and silk

They have also been known to eat synthetic fibers and leatherwear. It has been found to munch on things like tablecloths, sheets, curtains, upholstery on furniture, rugs, carpets, and clothes.

The starches used to press clothes are full of cellulose and will draw in silverfish. Clothing that has stains or spills from sugary foods or liquids will also attract these pests if not treated before going into the hamper.

Damp Clothes

Damp clothes left on the floor or hamper can attract silverfish as well. Damp, moist environments are ideal for silverfish.

It is a good idea to dry out towels and other fabrics before putting them in the hamper to help lessen the attraction for these pests.

4. Food stored in your cabinets can be a target for silverfish

If you have coffee, sugar, flour, oats, or other high carbohydrate foods in your cabinets, read this attentively.

These are a particular favorite for silverfish and can provide sustenance for an infestation of these pests for a long time.

Silverfish also enjoy proteins and have also been known to eat dried beef and other silverfish that may be dead or injured.

To protect your food from silverfish, place these items into airtight plastic or glass containers, as these pests will chew through paper and cardboard packaging.

5. Your dead skin, especially dandruff, can also provide a good meal for silverfish.

While they tend to shy away from humans, silverfish, which are nocturnal, may find that eating dandruff on your head or the pillow, while you are sleeping, is worth the interaction with you.

Silverfish may eat hair and investigate your hairbrush for your dandruff, hair, or other dead skin it might find.


Some myths suggest that silverfish or earwigs, which can both be creepy looking, can and will crawl into people’s ears to burrow into brains or lay legs there.

While there is anecdotal evidence that silverfish can find its way into ears, it is not a common thing. Neither silverfish nor earwigs will burrow into the brain or lay eggs there.

6. When silverfish molt their skin, it can cause an allergy problem for humans, though it is not common.

Silverfish molt its skin every 2-3 weeks. The molted skin has a protein known as tropomyosin, which can be found in some shellfish as well as shrimp.

When this protein combines with other allergens, that can result in an allergic reaction for some people. People can also be allergic to the fecal droppings of silverfish.

Molted skin can attract dust and cause an allergic reaction for some people in your household, especially if they already have a sensitivity to dust, and can cause breathing problems for some people who have an allergic reaction to indoor allergens.

The allergen can be inhaled or ingested. The most common side effect is inflammation of the nose.

Efforts should be made to eliminate silverfish if someone in the household or office is allergic to it. You should vacuum the entire house, especially the areas that would be prime places for silverfish, and furniture regularly and keep dust from accumulating.

These two things can help prevent this from being a major problem and assist in keeping them from taking up residence in your building.

7. Silverfish can cause an infestation in your house

It only takes a few mating partners to make this happen in just a couple of months. These pests can reproduce quickly, with the females laying 1-3 eggs at a time, which then hatch in a few months.

Silverfish also can live for about three years and do not reach adulthood for 1-3 years, depending on the sources of food available.

As a result, just a few silverfish can easily become an infestation, and can potentially lead to substantial damage around your home.

Silverfish have been found breeding in many places around the home, including voids in walls, in or under the flooring, the attic, and the basement.

Eliminating Silverfish

You can reduce the number of places for them to live and breed with these tips:

  • Keep key areas of the house clean.
  • Lower the humidity with a dehumidifier.
  • Eliminate water sources such as leaky taps, sinks, bathtubs and toilets.
  • Remove dust and debris that may attract silverfish by cleaning out an area full of paper and other goods.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the home using the attachments to get into all the cracks and crevices.
  • Do not keep stacks of paper or piles of fabric in the home.
  • Silverfish are repelled by cedar shavings, cinnamon citrus fruits, salt, cloves, and cucumber peels.
  • Spiders are natural predators of silverfish and can help cull the numbers in your home.
  • Fill cracks and crevice with caulk wherever silverfish could get into the house.
  • Divert water away from the foundation to reduce moisture.
  • Install roof ridge vents to allow humidity in the attic to escape.
  • Chemical baits are not effective with silverfish on their own, but in combination with other methods, it can be helpful.
  • Sticky traps may work with small infestations in your building but are better as a tool for identifying the infestation.
  • Boric acid is also not recommended for large infestations, but it may work on small ones in areas where pets and humans will not interact with it, as it can be harmful to them.

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

Extreme Cases of Silverfish Damage
Does Lysol kill Silverfish? The Facts And Results

How to Get Rid of Silverfish – 5 Minute Guide

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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