Are Silverfish Dangerous?

Are silverfish poisonous or harmful to your health?

Silverfish have been around for millennia, but science still does not know everything about their habits. These insects, which can be between one-half of an inch to three-quarters of an inch long as adults, are often found inside homes. Silverfish are often found in closets, garages and bookshelves, as well as locations where dry foods, clothing or books are available.

A nuisance, not a danger

You may find yourself wondering, “can silverfish hurt you?” The answer is no. These arthropods, which are sometimes called the most primitive living insect, are not known to carry or spread disease.

Silverfish do, however, damage cellulose-containing items, including wallpaper, books and bookbindings, and dry goods and cereals. They also eat dust, dead insects, starches and discarded human hair. One of the most easily recognizable signs of a silverfish problem is seeing yellowing on wallpaper or bookbindings, or noticing erratic tears or holes in the pages of books or other paper media.

Silverfish are not poisonous

Another common worry is whether or not silverfish are poisonous. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that they are poisonous. However, some people may be allergic to the dust created by discarded silverfish skin (which they lose in a process called “molting”). Silverfish are the only insect to molt throughout adulthood, and studies have found evidence of silverfish in the dust of homes that do not appear to have a problem with these pests. Additionally, they are found in both home and workplaces, and there is evidence to support that their presence is a risk factor for those suffering from asthma. According to the National Library of Medicine, more testing is required to determine exactly how dust containing silverfish particles affects people.

Now that you know the answers to questions like “are silverfish dangerous” and ‟are silverfish poisonous” – they aren’t – you can determine how best to remove these pests from your home. There are methods of control that do not require the use of insecticides and these should be tried first. However, if you’ve already tried things like dehumidifying, cleaning areas prone to infestation and using sticky traps, it may be time to call in a pest management professional. There are a number of products that say they can do the job, but not all claims are accurate. Pest management professionals know what products to use, and where to apply them so that they do the most damage to silverfish populations.