Silver bugs & water

Written by pamela grundy
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Silver bugs & water
Silverfish eat damp paper and cloth (old books image by Photosani from

Silver bugs, silverfish, and firebrats are small silver-coloured insect pests that like to eat damp paper and cloth. They are drawn to water and wet areas like basements, water pipes and bathrooms, and are often found wherever books and papers are stored.


Silver bugs are also called silverfish or firebrats. They live in dark damp places like basements and leaky attics, and eat book bindings, old cloth and old paper. Silverfish are one quarter to one-half inch long and shaped like a segmented carrot with long antennae. They move quickly and hide from light.


Silver bugs are common household pests in humid or damp climates, especially in homes that are not well-ventilated. They can often be found where water condenses on pipes or glass, around window wells or plumbing or in dark basements full of cardboard boxes. Silverfish are more common near lakes and rivers than in desert areas or cold climates.


Silverfish are a nuisance, but they are not dangerous. They do not spread disease but they do damage books and other stored items made of cloth or paper. They multiply rapidly once established and prefer warm conditions. Silverfish cannot survive at temperatures that consistently dip below 21.1 degrees C.


To rid a home of silverfish, minimise the storage of paper and cloth, especially in basements and damp areas. Invest in an air conditioner and a dehumidifier to keep the home as dry and cool as possible. Pyrethrin and pyrethroid insecticides will kill silver bugs, but if conditions in the home are not improved they usually return.


Silverfish are less dangerous than many commercially-available insecticides. Silver bug infestations are most effectively controlled by eliminating dampness and standing water in a home, and by keeping the basement free of cardboard and stored paper.

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