Conquering Silverfish: Pest Maintenance You Can Do

Silverfish are a common pest that feast on things like wallpaper glue, bookbinding, plaster, paper, drywall, carpet and other materials so although your home is unlikely to suffer extensive structural damage, common household items can be destroyed if these critters are left unchecked.

Salt & SpicesEnvironments they prefer: They’re attracted to dark, humid locations (such as basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, drains) and are nocturnal so you’ll find them out and about mainly at night.

Are they dangerous? They aren’t interested in feasting off humans (and don’t transmit disease or poison anyone), though they are pests that can destroy books, garments, paper goods and other household items.

Pantry items they are attracted to: Quick cooking oats, cornstarch, sugar, high starch foods and can survive without eating for up to a year.

I’ve listed a few tips below for getting rid of and repelling silverfish but keep in mind any eggs that have been laid may take up to two months to hatch, so you’ll likely find new populations to deal with over several weeks.

First here are a few cleaning tips:

  • Vacuum frequently to get rid of eggs (especially well around floor boards and crevices). Empty vacuum cleaner contents into a plastic bag, tie securely and dispose of immediately.
  • Wash all surfaces regularly with a peppermint or eucalyptus cleaner to help repel them.
  • Keep foods in sealed plastic containers or glass jars.
  • Infested books & garments: Freeze for a few days to kill any eggs.

Homemade Poisoned Baits

*Keep out of reach of children and pets

  • Jar Trap: An old-timer’s trick is to wrap tall glass jars with masking tape or twine around the outside (to make a rough surface for the bugs to crawl on) and then fill about 1/2″ of quicks oats inside the jar. Place near a bookshelf, stacks of newspapers and magazines or where you suspect their hotspots are. They will be attracted by the oats and get inside the jar but won’t be able to crawl out since the smooth glass surface inside the jar prevents that. Empty and refill jar regularly.
  • Borax Traps: A 50/50 mix of Borax and flour, or Borax and powdered sugar, or Borax and quick oats in cupcake holders placed around the house will draw them.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: Sprinkle around floor boards and areas you believe the silverfish are traveling. This is a non-toxic pesticide that is picked up by the insect as it crawls through it, scratches through its protective shell or layers and then absorbed. The result is rapid water loss and the bugs eventually dry up and die.
  • Molasses & Borax: Mix molasses and Borax then spread on heavy paper or cardboard and leave around the house.
  • Mashed Potato Balls: Mix mashed potatoes with alum powder, shape into balls and lay on squares of newspaper or cardboard around the house.

The items below are commonly referenced and believed to be silverfish repellents. Sprinkle them around floor boards, in cupboards and drawers or areas you know they traveling and gathering. You can also make sachets or fill cupcake wrappers and place around the home.

  • Bay leaves
  • Eucalyptus
  • Epsom salts
  • Whole cloves
  • Cinnamon
  • Cucumber peels
  • Sachet Mix #1: 1 teaspoon each dried lavender buds, cinnamon stick pieces, whole cloves and black peppercorns.
  • Sachet Mix #2: Rosemary, lavender, whole cloves.

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What Readers Are Saying: 9 Comments
  1. andrew gibson says:

    red lily bugs: Chinese reds are oblongy rotund little critters that seem to appear out of nowhere and treat red lily foliage like shotgun blasts . Picking them off carefully is a chore [ make sure one holds your free hand under the leaf before removing them off] then stomp them or if so inclined ship them back to beijing . hard to control— local nurseries are at a loss as to controll them good luck Andrew in Ct

    • Brenda J. M says:

      I was thrilled to find these eating all my Lily bulbs, the red refers to the colour of the beetle…and nope – they dont die easy and go down into the earth to sleep, lay beginnings of future Lily eaters.
      I have used a spray of warm water 1L. with either 500mls vinegar or a cpl drops of bleach and sprayed it right on them. I had to do this weekly, throughout the early spring, summer and into early autumn, for the past few years, to rid my front garden of these.
      Birds wont eat them.
      They have moved into Canada from the USA. I had originally found them only through a USA University web-site, that was trying to gather data on how far these insects had moved away from the US, about 5 years ago.
      I am only now relatively Red Backed Lily Eater Beetle free in my garden but still spray the lily bulb areas each week all season. This year was my first to notice new bulb growth on my lilies. YEAH!

  2. JANE SMITH says:

    do you have a recipe for the weevils that get in flour,meal,etc.?

    • Jen says:

      When I lived in Africa, we kept all the dry stuff ~ Flour / Pasta / Rice and also the dried fruit ~ like sultanas etc in the deep freezer. The dry stuff just gets chilled and not frozen at all, and ready to use direct from the freezer, and the dried fruit as well, just add to the baking as you normally do, no need to de-frost.

    • Gwen White says:

      An old woman in NY told me to put a nail in my dry goods such as flour sugar oatmeal dry cereal, I have been doing this for more than 20 yrs and IT WORKS. I always put a note outside of the box with the nail that just says”NAIL” to remind me not to eat it .

  3. Anne Harrison says:

    I don’t have a recipe, but I live in south Texas where it’s hot and humid. I learned many years ago when I moved here to use Bay leaves. I put a couple bay leaves in every canister or plastic zip lock in which I keep stuff I don’t want the bugs to get into (flour, dried pasta, dogg’s Milk bone cookies, etc.. Works very well. I spread a few on the shelves of my pantry too. Some of the bugs I think are already infested in whatever flour etc., we buy, but the leaves seem to keep everything in check as long as I am religious about spreading about the leaves and into zippered plastic bags with newly acquired items. I don’t change out the leaves unless they appear to be dehydrating so much they are crumbling. Anne in South TX.

  4. Terry Mitchell says:

    I have an indoor Meyers Lemon tree that we place outside for the summer. Unfortunately we now have MANY pill bugs (some call them potato bugs) in the soil. The lemons are brown and the leaves don’t look healthy. Is there a way to get rid of them and save my tree?

    • Lessye says:

      There are lots of natural remedies promoted to defeat pill bugs, the most common of which is to put out the shell of your morning grapefruit half at night, then in the morning go pick it up early. It will be filled with pillbugs, which you can knock into a metal can and leave out in the heat of the day to kill them. A similar remedy involving banana peels is also promoted.

      When I was a natural gardener, I found these remedies to be useless. In fact, after religiously putting out 2-3 grapefruits per day for weeks, I decided that they were actually thriving on the added nutrition. I decided that this was one circumstance in which the judicious use of commercial bait was reasonable. It was either that or no garden at all, since they cut my new seedlings off as fast as they sprouted. One application of bait solved the problem for the entire season.

  5. Monica says:

    I bought a deep freezer from a friend who didn’t know it was infested with these. What type of cinnamon do you recommend? I’ve always got ground & whole on hand, I’m an ammature baker. I’m going to do a few of the suggestions you have. However, I did take the vent cover off, vacuumed & sprayed a bug spray around & it didn’t seem to work. Thank you for posting your information to share with others!

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