What are silverfish? Tiny insects that could mean your home has an expensive problem

Experts are warning that homes could become infested with tiny silverfish this winter as temperatures plummet.

The little bugs, wingless insects with two antennae and six legs, thrive in damp environments like bathrooms and attics.

Nocturnal mites are fast moving and like to burrow in dark places, they tend to come out at night and can even get into paper, soap, debris and dust. They can chew through belongings and cause allergies, entering a new home through boxes, books and cardboard.

Silverfish are generally harmless, but they can contaminate your food with their droppings – so experts advise throwing away any spoiled food.

There are many simple methods, including basic cleaning, that Britons can follow to ensure their home is free of unwanted pests.

Silverfish thermobia near the binding of an old book. Insect feeding on paper

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What are silverfish?

Silverfish are tiny scaly insects with flat, oval-shaped bodies that are silver in color, they like to burrow in dark areas and come out at night.

Adults are three-quarters of an inch long and have two antennae, three tails, and six legs. Younger silverfish look the same, just smaller and whiter.

Female silverfish lay eggs continuously in crevices around the house, which hatch after three weeks and mature within four to six weeks.

The pests can live up to eight years and can survive for up to a year if they are in damp and wet areas.

They often live in basements, sinks, bathrooms, closets, bookcases, behind windows and door frames, according to WebMD.

Are they harmful?

Despite being annoying, silverfish generally cannot harm humans and do not bite. However, vermin can defecate your food and spoil it.

They eat a varied diet of flour, oats, dried meat, flour, paper, cardboard, paper, books, glue, vegetables, grains and even dead insects.

Critters can get into kitchen cupboards and like to eat dried oats and cereal

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Experts advise throwing away any items you find bugs in, along with any spoiled food.

Their droppings can stain the home and can damage furniture and other items through constant chewing. Their scales and droppings can cause allergies in humans.

How to get rid of them?

Signs of a silverfish infestation are feeding marks – small holes or gouges, yellow spots or scales, and droppings that look like tiny black pellets.

Since critters thrive in wet environments, experts advise fixing your bathroom vents to ensure maximum efficiency to prevent water condensation in the bathroom.

The critters thrive in the humidity of the bathroom, especially during the warmer months

((Carla Capdevila/Houzz/PA))

Maintaining cleanliness is also effective in preventing an infection. It is recommended that you clean your bathroom and kitchen sinks with bleach, as well as wash them with boiling water, as the critters are prone to crawling into the pipes.

Other tips include cleaning frequently so you can look out for warning signs of contamination and regularly cleaning hiding places like dark corners and behind radiators where wet towels dry out. People should hang up their bath mats to air them out, as leaving them on the floor for too long leads to moisture build-up, experts say.

Investing in a dehumidifier is also an effective way to remove moisture from the air in your home that can prevent a potential outbreak.

Silverfish are said to hate lavender oil, so dabbing the oil into the shower drain, sink and even the toilet is a good way to cover the house.

If none of these methods work, it is vital that you call a professional pest control service that will be able to deal with the problem.