HomePestsSilverfish in Books + How to Get Rid of Them

Silverfish in Books + How to Get Rid of Them

Old books provide silverfish plus other small bugs with a perfect living space. 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.

Books on dark shelves in warm areas attract silverfish because they accumulate high humidity. To get rid of silverfish in books, clean the shelves regularly, and rearrange the books for aeration to lower humidity levels.

Silverish feed on the glue that binds pages and leather book covers. The books are a perfect habitat for them, providing them with a reliable food source and a conducive breeding ground for laying their eggs.

Silverfish in Books
Silverfish in Books

Can silverfish destroy books?

Silverfish can damage books by making holes while extracting nutrients from the papers or pages. In this case, the pages, leather cover, and glue used for binding give them enough starch and carbohydrates. The glue contains starch paste which is an essential part of their diet.

They destroy books by constantly poking the pages. Therefore, a silverfish infestation on the shelves can be disastrous. If they multiply, several holes left on the pages can render the books difficult to read.

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 to extract carbohydrates.

Causes of silverfish in books

Books stored for a long time will trap moisture, creating a perfect habitat for silverfish mainly because of the dark, warm, and humid conditions. Silverfish can also hide and lay eggs in old books that are never moved.

Below are reasons why there are silverfish in your books:

1. Books provide a good habitat

Silverfish can enter your home independently through open windows, doors, and crevices on the building from outside. They can also stick on outdoor items like flower pots. If such are brought indoors, then they will infest the house.

Afterward, they settle in dark, warm, and highly humid areas within the house. Such conditions can be found in drains, sinks, bathrooms, and behind bookshelves, where they can easily access shelved books.

2. Source of food

Silverfish cause serious damage to paper products, eat holes in wallpaper, or eat the paste from under it. Other potential food sources include the starch in book bindings, papers such as onionskin, and cleansing tissues. Newsprint, cardboard, and brown wrapping paper are seldom attacked. 

University of Maryland Extension

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. Breeding space

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. They will not spare your books piled up or kept in a self as they move around. 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 solutions. Using chemicals might corrode your bookshelf or destroy books. 

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Below are some natural methods you can use to get rid of them;

1. Maintain a clean 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 regularly cleaning the bookstore and rearranging them. 

Also, avoiding old papers and books 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 book storage to ensure that the area is well-ventilated and dry. You can also use more effective dehumidifiers.

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

3. Use glass traps

A silverfish glass trap can help you deal with low infestation levels and keep their population under control. The trap will work best when placed around 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 to 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 eliminate silverfish in or under the bed that keeps spreading to your shelves.

4. Set paper traps

Using a paper trap for silverfish moving around the shelves is one of the easiest ways to get rid of them. 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, 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. 

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Alternatively, if your bookshelf is not made with cedar wood, you can use a few leaves of cedar plants. The leaves release an even 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 and hence use it 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.

Eliminate their eggs

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 get rid of their eggs and kill the silverfish. This will help prevent further infestation by breaking the life cycle.

Nevertheless, the eggs require humid conditions 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 enough aeration in storage areas.

Where do silverfish hide in books?

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

  • Within the pages: They poke irregular holes in the pages to create pathways that lead to hiding spots.
  • In the book’s spine: 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 always look for a starch, a thick leather or fluffy stuff cover can make a good hiding spot.

Points to note

A silverfish female lays about twenty eggs approximately two to three times daily. 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 books to protect them from damage and 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.

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