Silverfish in Books + How to Get Rid of Them

Old books can create a perfect living space for small bugs and insects like silverfish. A silverfish book infestation will leave holes and yellow stains on the pages. Other potential signs are worn-out book bindings, ragged edges, silverfish scales, and egg casings.

Silverfish are attracted to books due to the dark, warm, and high humidity accumulated in them. They can also breed and feed on old books that are soft to tear. To get rid of them, lower the humidity levels on the bookshelf and regularly clean or rearrange the books.

They will feed on the glue that binds the pages and leather cover of the books for nutrients. The books are a perfect habitat for them providing them with a reliable source of food as well as a conducive breeding ground for laying their eggs.

Can silverfish destroy books?

Silverfish can do serious damage to your book collection because they can extract nutrients from papers. The insects consume materials that are high in starch and carbohydrates. In this case, the pages, leather cover, and glue used for binding the book falls under this category. 

They destroy books by constantly poking the pages and a silverfish infestation on the shelves can be disastrous. Eventually, small holes will be left behind causing the pages to miss some words. The pages are eaten with aim of reaching the glue used for binding. The glue contains starch paste which is an essential part of their diet.

Nevertheless, their droppings and scales leave behind light yellow stains on the papers. In due course, the pages will end up with a dull finish. They also actively feed on the book’s leather coating for the carbohydrate content.

Why are there silverfish in my books? Explanation

Books stored for a long time will trap moisture which creates a perfect habitat for silverfish mainly because of the dark, warm, and high humid conditions. Additionally, they can also hide and lay eggs in old books that are not regularly disrupted. Below are reasons why there are silverfish in your books:

1. Books provide a good habitat

Silverfish can enter your home on their own through open windows, doors, and crevices on the building from outside. You can also accidentally invite them to your house while in a container such as cardboard that was initially stored outside in an infested area.

Afterward, they will settle in dark, warm, and high humid areas in your house. Such conditions can be found behind bookshelves where they can easily access the books.

2. There is a source of food from the books

From behind the bookshelf accessing the books stored there wouldn’t be a hard task. They are attracted to books since the book’s entities are food for them. 

The book’s materials contain starch and carbohydrate content present in them. Therefore, they will feed on the book’s pages, glue, and the leather coating on the cover for nutrients.

3. The books have good places for their hatcheries

Since the books in the bookshelves are not regularly cleaned or disrupted, they create a favorable place where their eggs can be laid and hatched safely.

To protect their eggs, the females prefer laying them inside the book’s spine since the area is not easily accessed when cleaning is done. After that, the eggs will hatch within 3 weeks.

4. An infestation in the house

In most cases, silverfish infestation in bathrooms, and bedrooms will push them into finding new habitats. As they move around, they will not spare your books that are piled up or kept in a self. Old books trap a lot of warmth and are easy to feed on.

How to get rid of silverfish in books

Before you even think of using a chemical approach to get rid of silverfish, you might want to use some natural remedies. Using chemicals might corrode your bookshelf or destroy your books. 

Below are some natural methods you can use to get rid of silverfish:

1. Maintain a cleaning bookstore

Silverfish like staying in books and bookshelves because they eat papers and the glue used to bind the books. This can be prevented by regular cleaning of the bookstore and regular rearrangement of the bookshelves. 

Also doing away with old papers and books that are no longer in use will help eradicate them. Until the infestation is gone, you will have to rearrange your bookshelf preferably once a week to disrupt your normal habits. 

Doing this will also help you keep tabs on where they often feed, hide or lay their eggs.

2. Reduce the humidity level on the bookshelf

Silverfish need warm and humid places to mate and lay their eggs. Lowering the humidity will make the environment unfavorable hence they will mate less. This will consequently result in a low reproduction rate.

You can start by keeping your windows open and running fans near the bookstore to ensure that the area is well ventilated and dry. Instead, you can also use dehumidifiers which are more effective.

Nevertheless, if the bookshelf is in a moist place, try to figure out and remove the source of the moisture.

3. Use a simple glass trap with bait  to trap them

A silverfish glass trap can help you deal with low levels of infestation and to keep their population under control. The trap will work best when placed around your bookshelves to distract and trap them before they get to the books. 

Simply drop a piece of bread into a glass jar wrapped with masking tape which will help them climb up the glass. They will happily fall into the glass to eat the bread but they will have trouble getting out.

Escaping will be hard since they can’t climb on vertical surfaces. Afterward, you can spread the boric acid powder in the glass to kill them. This can also be used to get rid of silverfish in or under the bed that keeps spreading to your shelves.

4. Trap them

Using a paper trap for silverfish as they move around the shelves is one of the easiest ways to get rid of them. In fact, this method can be successful even when there is a full infestation in a bookstore. Here is how to do it:

  1. Take an A3 newspaper and put it in a large container.
  2. Then spread water on the paper just enough to make it dump
  3. Leave the bucket and its contents near the shelves.
  4. After 48 hours, silverfish will raid it. Some will move to the bottom of the container where there is warmth and you will find them. 
  5. Move the container out, add some kerosene into it and light up the entire paper.

4. Repel them using essential oils

Here is what you will need:

  1. ½ tablespoon essential oil
  2. ½ teaspoon liquid dish soap
  3. 2 liters of water
  4. Spray bottle

    Steps on how to use it:

  1. Mix the essential oil with water.
  2. Then add liquid dish soap to the water.
  3.  Place the mixture in the spray bottle 
  4. Spray onto silverfish when you see them or around your bookshelf.

The scent of the essential oil will repel the silverfish away.

5. Keep your books on a cedar-made shelf

Cedarwood produces a scent that irritates silverfish making them not come closer. This enhances the protection your books will have from the silverfish. 

Alternatively, if your bookshelf is not made with cedar wood, you can use a few leaves of cedar plants. The leaves release even a stronger scent hence repealing the silverfish away.

6. Make and use citrus peel insecticide

This is one of the most effective methods used when it comes to repelling silverfish from books. They hate the smell of citrus hence used as a repellent.

To make a citrus spray insecticide, here is what you will need:

  1. 4 lemons
  2. 2 cups of ethanol
  3. A pot
  4. Spray bottle

Steps on how to use it

  1. Roughly chop the peel of four lemons.
  2. Put them in a pot containing two cups of ethanol.
  3. Boil the mixture for about 10 minutes
  4. Then let the mixture soak for about 12 hours for ethanol to extract limonene from the peels.
  5. Then place the mixture in a spray bottle.
  6. Spray onto silverfish when you see them or onto the areas around your bookshelves.

Where do silverfish hide in books?

Mostly silverfish’s main aim is to stay in the books while eating them up. They have to pass through the book’s cover, through the sides so as to squeeze between the pages. Below are potential hiding spots of silverfish in books:

Within the pages: they poke irregular holes in the pages so as to create pathways that lead to hiding spots.

In the book’s spine: here they are not disturbed easily since the area is not easily accessed when cleaning. Also, this is the perfect place where they lay their eggs.

Covers: Depending on the type used, they can hide and lay eggs on the book’s covers from the inside. Since they are always looking for starch, a cover made of thick leather material or fluffy stuff can make a good hiding spot.

How to get rid of silverfish eggs in books

A silverfish female lays about twenty eggs approximately two to three times every day. The egg is 1 millimeter in length and can be defined as elliptical in terms of shape. When first laid, they are white and soft but after a few hours of oxygen exposure, they toughen up and turn yellow. 

The female lays their eggs in hidden places in books to protect them from damage and also from pest control sprays. To protect their eggs, the females prefer laying them inside the book’s spine since the area is not easily disrupted. After that, the eggs will hatch within 3 weeks.

Getting rid of silverfish eggs in books isn’t a hard task. You will only need boric acid to get the work done. Simply sprinkle the acid inside their hatcheries in the book’s spine. 

The acid will not only get rid of their eggs but also kill silverfish themselves. This will help prevent further infestation by breaking the life cycle.

Nevertheless, the eggs require a humid condition in order to hatch. Therefore if you notice their eggs in your books, you might try airing the books out in the sun to destroy the eggs.

Silverfish infestation in your books can seriously damage your collection. Therefore to protect them, you will have to ensure there is enough aeration in storage areas.
In conclusion, if you have an overwhelming silverfish infestation, the best approach is to contact pest control experts before they do adverse damage to your books.