Silverfish vs Termites – Everything You Need To Know

There are many pest species that can inhabit the home and make a nuisance of themselves, and you may have come across both silverfish and termites.

Today, we are going to look at the differences between these two insects and what they have in common, as well as which one you are more likely to see in your home.

Silverfish are small, elongated insects that are shiny and grow around a centimeter long. Termites are somewhat similar to cockroaches, and they tend to eat wood and vegetables.

Both can be found in the home at times, although silverfish are probably more likely to be in your house.

In this article, we are going to explore the following:

  • What termites and silverfish are
  • Which insect you are more likely to find in your home
  • What issues both insects can cause
  • Where in the home they are likely to be
  • Whether silverfish prey on termites

What Is A Silverfish?

A silverfish is a small, silvery insect (not a fish) that is often found in damp, dark spaces. It has no wings and cannot fly, but will scuttle very quickly, and can disappear into surprisingly small cracks at times.

Silverfish do not pose any risk to humans, although the skin that they shed does occasionally cause allergic reactions.

They do not bite humans, and in general, if you just have one or two in your home, there is nothing to worry about. You will probably only see them occasionally, and they will rarely breed fast enough to be a problem.

However, in large numbers, silverfish can become an issue because they will eat almost anything – not just the things that we consider food.

Silverfish are particularly notorious for being book munchers, but they will also destroy clothes, glue, wallpaper, and other household items, especially if you have a lot of them.

Silverfish are an ancient species, and you may see them in your home at any time of year; they remain active throughout the winter and the summer.

What Is A Termite?

A termite is a small, ant-like creature, which is most closely related to the cockroach. There are many different kinds of termites, but they all have segmented bodies, wings, and six legs.

They tend to live on decaying wood and plant matter, and they live in enormous colonies with hundreds or thousands of members.

Termites do not bite people either, but they are also very destructive insects that you do not want in your home – especially if your home mostly consists of wood.

A colony of termites can be immensely destructive and needs to be dealt with fast.

Which Is More Likely To Visit Your Home?

This depends on where you live and what your home is made of, but on the whole, more people will see silverfish in their homes than they will termites.

Silverfish can sneak through small cracks and crevices, and will often enter the home to retreat from droughts or heavy rainfall.

Once inside, they often find a steady source of food and safety from predators, so they may hang around.

They can hide in the cracks in the walls and will often cause minimal issues as long as they don’t massively grow in numbers. Most people see a silverfish or two at one time or another.

By contrast, termites are more likely to live in the walls of your home, but this will probably only happen if your home is made of wood.

It is relatively unlikely that termites will get into things like windowsills or door frames unless there is enough wood around to sustain their colony.

If you have wooden flooring, they may enter your house, but in general, they are more likely to attack decking or the underside or walls of your home, where there is plenty for them to eat and enough space to build a proper colony.

You might be wondering whether they are an issue – and the answer is that yes, they are.

It is thought that termites do more damage to homes in a single year than floods, fires, and tornadoes put together – which should give you a good indication of how common this species can be.

If you think you have termites, it’s important to get pest control in immediately to protect your house from serious damage.

Is One Worse Than The Other As A Pest?

Unless you have some extremely valuable and rare books, termites are almost always a worse home invader than silverfish.

While silverfish can be annoying and destructive, working their way through your possessions, they are often only present in small numbers and do not do enormous amounts of damage.

A silverfish on a bookcase is a nuisance that will sometimes ruin something that you love, but on the whole, these insects are not that bad.

Termites, by contrast, always build a colony and will eat their way through wood fast.

They can do immense amounts of damage to a home, particularly one made mostly of wood, and they are often hard to detect because they generally come from underneath or inside wood, working their way out.

They can cause structural damage, damage in attics, damage to furniture and wooden flooring, and damage to window frames or wooden walls. Sometimes, termites will get into wooden antiques, ruining them completely.

Do not underestimate these insects, because, unlike silverfish, there tend to be a lot of them, and they can be very bad news for a homeowner. You never get a solitary termite; it’s always part of a colony!

Where Are They Most Likely To Hide In Your Home?

The two insects may turn up in quite different places. Silverfish need moisture to survive, and they are usually found in bathrooms, shower rooms, or toilets. They may also be found in the kitchen, especially under the sink or near the drains.

They can move through dry spaces, but they won’t survive for very long away from water, and usually, they will return to damp spots to sleep.

Often, you will find that silverfish live inside cracks and crevices, and only come out to feed. You may not be able to see exactly where they go when they aren’t feeding.

Some like to get behind wallpaper, especially if it is damp, as this is a great source of food for them.

You might find silverfish in other parts of your home, but they need some moisture to survive, so if they are in rooms like bedrooms, you might have a damp problem in your home.

Some termites also need water to survive, but you are unlikely to see them in a bathroom, which is usually made up of tiles. There is no food for them there.

Instead, they will usually start on the outside of your house, or underneath it. They will start eating away at the wood from the outside, where the air is damp, and work their way inward.

You are much more likely to see silverfish than you are to see termites, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs of termites (such as swarming) to increase your chances of spotting an infestation before it has had much time to do damage.

You may be able to deter silverfish from your home by decreasing the humidity and fixing any leaky pipes or sinks, but this probably won’t work with termites – they are likely to be getting their moisture from outside.

However, if you do have termites in the house (e.g. in a floor), decreasing the moisture levels may help.

Do Silverfish Eat Termites?

You might be wondering whether one problem could lead to another solution. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Silverfish do not eat other insects, and termites only consume wood, so you can’t count on either of these invaders to cancel out the other one.

Very few things eat silverfish, in fact, which may be one of the reasons that the species has survived for so long.

Termites have predators, but because they are usually inside the wood that they feed on (or inside termite mounds), there may not be much hope of them being eaten.

If you are having problems with either of these insects, it’s a good idea to call pest control in.

You probably won’t find silverfish are too much of a problem, but if they get out of hand, either set some traps for them with some wet newspaper or a glass jar, or alternatively call in the experts.

You should always get experts to deal with termites because these can be so destructive that not doing so could result in major damage to your home.


Silverfish and termites do not have a lot in common, except that they can both be destructive insects to have in your home. You should keep an eye out for either species.

If you notice termites, it’s important to take quick action, but silverfish may not pose much of an issue for you. However, if they become a problem, get some experts in to help out.

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

What Is The Largest Insect Swarm?

Extreme Cases of Silverfish Damage
Silverfish vs Cockroach – Everything You Need To Know

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

Recent Posts