Do Silverfish Eat Paper and Books? How to Keep Them From Eating Your Books and Documents.

We went looking for some documents and books in a box in our home and found them destroyed with a lot of Silverfish in around the box as well as on a shelf nearby. So we started wondering if silverfish eat paper. So we did some research and here is what we found out.

So, do silverfish eat paper? Yes, they eat paper and can be found scurrying around items made of paper in your home because paper and books are a great food source for them to grow. Silverfish feed on carbohydrates and starches which are key components of most paper-based items in your home. They will consume items like documents, books, photos, money, and wallpaper.

Despite this, they can do a lot of damage to your home and possessions if not understood properly. But how can you protect any valuable documents and paper to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you as it did us?

So below we have outlined some more information on why silverfish eat paper and books, what are the signs of silverfish, how to protect your possessions and how to get rid of them when found.

Why Do Silverfish Eat Paper and Books?

So why do silverfish eat paper? Silverfish thrive on a diet based on starch and carbohydrates. They require these sources of nutrition to grow in your home and aren’t fully able to develop and mature to there reproductive and egg-laying form without it.

Most paper-based products are made from the wood of trees, which contain cellulose and when recycled contain the same component, cellulose.

During the manufacturing process of paper production, it goes through a chemical process that breaks down cellulose into starch and combined with pulp to ensure the paper is constructed into the form we see in our books, magazines, photographs, and documents

Starch is a key element of the production of paper and used in a number of ways to enhance the paper’s strength and to promote the binding of pigment particles, like ink and the coating layer of the paper.

So why is this important to silverfish? Well, Silverfish thrive on a diet based on starch and carbohydrates which are a critical ingredient in all the paper you see in your home and books. So silverfish will be attracted to these items to feed on this to grow and survive.

Despite their love of paper and books, the Silverfish diet is quite diverse and they snack on a wide range of foods. Silverfish may move long distances to find food, but if a good source is encountered they tend to remain in the vicinity of it. They can also last long periods without food.

What Are the Signs of Silverfish Damage to Paper and Books?

By now, you have realized that no paper-based item in your home is safe from Silverfish. Given any chance, they will snack on these items but it is important to remember, Silverfish aren’t the only insects that thrive on paper and books. So it is important to know the signs of silverfish damage to paper and books so you can take the appropriate measure.

So, what are the signs of Silverfish damage to paper and books? The damage that Silverfish will do to these items is easily distinguished from other insects as they will leave a telltale bite marking that is similar to how a bug will feed on a plant leaf.

The Signs of Silverfish Damage to Paper and Books include:

  • pages and papers with ragged edges
  • yellow stains on pages
  • Silverfish droppings and skin
  • abrasions on paper and photos
  • Scratch-like markings on wallpaper
  • Scratch-like on money
  • holes in paper
  • dead or alive silverfish near paper, bookshelves, books or between pages

If your still unsure about what damage to paper and books will look like, silverfish damage will also be very recognizable by the scratch like markings and it will seem as if the paper has been ripped away from the edges or bind as they chew away at the paper over time.

Silverfish, don’t stop there as they also eat glue and wallpaper paste as it contains the starch that they need to grow. Finding damage to your wallpaper is a sign of a silverfish infestation and again will leave the same bite marking that is similar to how a bug eats a plant leaf.

Sometimes if you see these telltale signs and don’t see any silverfish you may assume that there is no silverfish around anymore because they haven’t seen silverfish around these paper-based items. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they are not there. They are good at hiding, although you will eventually see a few if they are hanging around your books or valued papers.

So just be vigilant and know the signs for silverfish damage to paper-based Items that incur silverfish damage like books, manuscripts, valued papers, money, and photographs.

How to Protect Paper and Books from Silverfish

To help protect your paper and books from silverfish Infestations it is important to take precautionary measures. These steps include knowing the signs of a silverfish infestation, maintaining an environment in your home that deters silverfish, storing your items properly, establishing a regular inspection routine and taking preventive measures to catch the early signs of damage and an infestation.

Below are our top tips on how to prevent silverfish from entering and damaging your home.

1. Know the signs of silverfish and the damage they cause to books and paper

The number one signs of silverfish damage to your paper or books are markings like how a bug would chew a leaf. If you see this on any paper or books, quarantine it, search the area and start getting rid of any silverfish you may find. Other signs include pages and papers with ragged edges and yellow stains.

As we have already discussed these in detail you may want to know other non-paper related signs of a silverfish infestation. If so, check out our complete guide to getting rid of silverfish here.

2. Check paper-based items before they come into your home

Avoid bringing boxes made out of paper or cardboard that have been stored in your loft, attic, garage or basement. If you have to bring them into your home or areas that may be great habitats for silverfish to thrive, inspect them properly to ensure they are not hitching a ride.

This also is important for any other second-hand items or books you may buy and bring home with you. Again, check them thoroughly for any signs of damage and don’t risk it if you have to think twice

3. Create an environment around paper and books that deters silverfish

Creating an environment that deters silverfish is a crucial factor in preventing them from coming in or multiplying in numbers in your home. Here are a few key steps to take to do just that:

  • Reduce humidity levels in your home: Silverfish are not able to thrive and reproduce in homes with low humidity. Silverfish grow best at 72-81°F (22°C- 27°C) and 75-97% humidity. So keep these levels below this optimum range. Reduce humidity in your home by running air conditioners, humidifiers and bathroom fans.
  • Reduce potential food sources for silverfish: Place old books, papers, cardboard boxes, and starched lines in sealed plastic containers or just clean your house regularly if you don’t want to hide away your stuff. Also, be sure to store other possible food sources that they may find in your pantry in tight containers.
  • Clean your house often: Regularly vacuum cracks and crevices around the home since silverfish hide and lay their eggs in cracks and crevices (throw the vacuum cleaner bag away). Keep basements, laundry rooms, and bathrooms clean and dry. Vacuum baseboards, especially in storage rooms, closets, and laundry rooms.
  • Keep your house in good order: Seal cracks and crevices to keep silverfish from entering the home. Remove leaf debris around the exterior of your home and gutters. Make sure any roof and plumbing leaks are repaired as this will add to the humidity in your home.

4. Establish a regular inspection program around paper and books

Establish a regular inspection program of all susceptible bookshelves and places where you may be storing paper. Take all items of bookshelves and check-in and around them.

Check for silverfish in crevices and notches in books and shelves or drawers where any paper-based items are kept.

Be sure to leave some silverfish traps around to make sure you can easily check for them once you start your inspection.

If you’re wondering what traps are best to use – Check out our guide to the best silverfish traps here.

How to Get Rid of Silverfish in Paper and Books

So know you’ve learned how to spot the signs of silverfish eating your books, documents, and photographs as well as prevent silverfish but what if you find them – how can you go about getting rid of them.

To help get rid of silverfish in paper and books we’ve outlined how you can do just that when you find them in books and paper as well as the best ways to get rid of them when you find them in your bookshelves and drawers.

Below are our top tips on how to get rid of silverfish in paper and books:

  • Quarantine any documents, photographs or books straight away. It’s best to use plastic tubs with lids to ensure that you can vet all the books where silverfish may be.
  • Before you put a book or document in a plastic tub, place infested books in a plastic bag so you don’t contaminate any others and put them in your freezer for up to 24 hours. This will kill off any eggs and silverfish that might still be hidden away.
  • If your books or documents are damp or have mold on them wipe it away with a slightly moist cloth with damp from a solution of one part vinegar to eight parts of water.
  • Dry books and paper by in direct sunlight for no more than half an hour (they will get damaged by the sun after that) and then place in a dry and ventilated container.
  • Once dry remove any dust from old books by using a soft paintbrush.
  • Now check the seems and every page for any signs of silverfish or their eggs.

Now that you have got rid of all the silverfish and their eggs in your books and paper it is now time to turn your attention to the location you found them in.

  • Don’t be afraid to use chemical-based control methods to kill of any remaining silverfish or eggs in and around your bookshelves, drawers, and rooms you found the silverfish within.This is one of the most effective ways to remove silverfish and silverfish eggs is to use silverfish insecticide sprays. Just make sure you don’t apply them to your documents or books.However, not every insecticide spray is fit for all silverfish eradication purposes, which is why you should no which spray is best for your specific situation. That is why we have created a guide on the best sprays for getting rid of silverfish here.
  • Once you have used an insecticide spray or powder to get rid of any silverfish, place a number of traps in and around the bookshelves and corners of the rooms to trap any remaining silverfish and to establish whether you have gotten rid of the silverfish from your DIY extermination methods.
  • If you can’t get a handle on it and these pesky insects keep appearing, you may feel you need professional help from a pest exterminator. If this is the case, be sure to check out our complete guide on how to choose a pest exterminator and make sure you are hiring the right professionals. Well there you have it, lots of food for thought on why silverfish eat paper and books and what you can do about it today to prevent any problems and stop this from happening in your home and making sure your most prised paper-based possessions don’t get destroyed. If you’d like to understand how silverfish in a little more detail and how you can make sure they aren’t a problem for you at any point make sure you check out our complete guide here on how to get rid of silverfish in your home for more tips and suggestions.

Related Questions

Do Silverfish Live in Books? Yes, silverfish take shelter in books and are attracted to them for a number of reasons. Books are a great source of food for them as they contain starch in the form of paper and glue, which silverfish feed on. Books also provide a great habitat of silverfish to lay there eggs in and hide as it is a dark environment.

How Long Do Silverfish Live? Silverfish can live for up to 8 years. Typically they have a life span of anywhere between 3-8 years as long as the conditions remain favorable. Silverfish eggs can lay dormant for a number of months until there are favorable conditions for them to grow.

Do Silverfish Lay Eggs in Books?Yes, if Silverfish have been found in a book, there is a chance they could have laid some eggs. A book is a perfect environment for a silverfish to lay eggs as it is a good food source as well as a dark and protected habitat.

Check out some of our other articles

What Are Silverfish? Everything you need to know about them

How Long Do Moths Live?

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