While cleaning the much neglected bookshelf after a whole year, you come across damaged books with holes and patches. As you remove the books one by one, some tiny creatures come out and try to hide desperately. Don't panic. They are nothing other than silverfish, that are commonly seen in moist environment with dull light conditions. A silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) is a fast-moving, wingless insect with a silvery gray body. They resemble fish in movements, and hence the name. Silverfish are mainly considered as nuisance pests, as they feed on wallpaper, paper products, books, and clothing.
Otherwise known as fish moths, carpet sharks, or paramites; silverfish feed on starchy foods that are rich in carbohydrates and protein. They are nocturnal insects with long, flattened bodies, that can vary in length between 10 to 25 millimeters. Silverfish insects have two compound eyes, three long cerci (long, hairlike sensory organs) at the posterior end of their bodies, and long antennas. These insects have a lifespan of about two to eight years. It has been observed that, they can live without food for a period of up to one year.
The diet of silverfish comprises books, paper products, clothing, dead insects, mold and mildew, etc. They can travel from one building to another in search of food; and once they find a source of food, they make their nest nearby. They are found in kitchens, closet shelves, behind wallpaper and baseboards, sinks, bathtubs, and basement. Silverfish may leave holes on papers, clothes and wallpaper. In case of clothing, a yellowish staining may also appear, as a result of silverfish infestation of the wardrobe.
Do Silverfish Bite Humans?
Even though, silverfish are known to cause damage to paper, clothing, etc., they do not bite humans. It is a common misconception that they carry diseases and can inflict bites. The mandibles of silverfish are not strong enough to bite humans. Even if they try to, they can only remove some of the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. All they can do is cause indirect harm to humans by damaging household items, like wallpaper, clothing, books, etc. Extensive damage can be caused, if the house is infested with large groups of silverfish.
If you notice silverfish infestation, remove their source of food, like cardboard, books, and papers; etc and disinfect the house at the earliest. You may also use pesticides meant for these insects. If the moisture level inside the house is very high, use a dehumidifier regularly. This prevents mold and mildew, that are eaten by silverfish. Apart from that, keep all the groceries and other food items in air-tight containers. Vacuum the house regularly; especially, the cracks and crevices that accommodate silverfish. You may also hire a pest control professional, who can eliminate silverfish safely and effectively.
To conclude, silverfish do not bite humans. Even if they bite, there is no need to panic, as they are not venomous and they do not carry diseases. Like bees, these insects do not have stingers too. However, some people can be allergic to silverfish that can shed their scales and skin. If you find any sign of silverfish infestation, get rid of these insects at the earliest, so that your precious books and other such household items can be saved from damage.