People have seen them but may be unsure of what they are. Perhaps a light has been turned on in the middle of the night and something darts across the floor---not a roach, but something quick and small. These are most likely a common household pest referred to as a silverfish. They are generally harmless but can do damage to property, can contaminate food, and are not something that most homeowners welcome into their homes with open arms
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Silverfish, also known as Lepisma sacchrina, are quite small, usually only about half an inch in length. Their name comes from their color, which can be identified as anything from silver to brown. Their entire body is also covered in very small scales. The bodies of silverfish taper from larger at the top to smaller at the bottom. They sit low to the ground and can run very fast.
Silverfish prefer very dark and warm areas, with degrees ranging around 70 to 80 degrees F. They prefer a high rate of humidity and can normally be found in bathrooms, attics, and basements in most homes. No area of the house is off limits, however---if an area of a home is the right temperature and dark enough for a silverfish, they make their home there.
Although silverfish will not cause a human to become ill, they can cause other problems. One is the possible contamination of food. Silverfish enjoy a diet that can include such things as cereal and flour, both common in most kitchens. Their droppings can make these foods unsuitable for human consumption. They can also damage property. Because they like to eat paste, they are well known for chewing their way through wallpaper to get to the paste, leaving tiny holes. They will also eat pages of books. Because they continuously molt throughout their lives, their molted scales can stain cloth. They will also chew through very fine cloths, like linen and cotton, leaving tiny holes. Even the exterior of homes are not immune to these small insects---they have been known to even chew through wood exteriors to get inside.
Silverfish infestations can be controlled and remedied. Making sure that homes are well ventilated and there is no trapped moisture will discourage the pests. Also making sure that all foods are kept in tightly sealed containers and crumbs are swept away daily from any place food is consumed in a home will discourage them, too. Even picking up damp cloths and towels off floors, which trap moisture, is a help.
Although silverfish aren't deadly to humans, they are unsightly pests in the home. If a homeowner fills that their space has been infested, it is important to contact a pest control representative to remedy the problem as soon as possible.