Have you noticed those creepy, little silver bugs scurrying around your home lately? While harmless, silverfish can damage your belongings by munching on paper, clothing, and other household items. If you’ve recently switched to energy-efficient LED lighting, you may be wondering if the new lights are attracting these uninvited guests. Read on to get the lowdown on whether LEDs bring in silverfish, and what you can do to keep them out of your home.
What are Silverfish?
Before we dive into LED lights, let’s get familiar with silverfish. These tiny insects have a tapered, fish-like shape and two long antennae. Most are under 1/2 inch long. They earned the name “silverfish” from their silvery gray color and the way they seem to dart and wiggle like fish.
Silverfish are naturally nocturnal, so they hide out in cracks, crevices, or other secluded spots during the day. At night when you’re sleeping, they creep out looking for food. Their diet includes sugars, starches, paper, glue from book bindings, cotton, dandruff, and even other dead insects. Yuck!
How do you know if you have a silverfish problem? Check for small black dots around baseboards, corners, or closets. These dots are silverfish poop. You may also notice yellow stains on fabric, paper, or photos. This damage is from their munching. Silverfish can live up to 8 years, so an infestation can persist if not addressed.
While kind of gross, silverfish don’t spread diseases or directly harm humans. But it’s still wise to control them since they can ruin your stuff through all that incessant nibbling and staining.
Do LED Lights Attract Other Bugs and Insects?
Before zeroing in on silverfish, it helps to know how LEDs impact insects in general. Researchers have found that LED lights do tend to draw in some flying bugs more than traditional incandescent bulbs.
The reason is that LEDs give off higher levels of blue and ultraviolet light. Moths, mosquitos, and other flying insects are able to see light in the UV spectrum through their complex eyes. They find these wavelengths attractive when looking for food sources at night. An estimated 30% of insects are drawn to LED lights compared to incandescents.
So in a roundabout way, LEDs can be insect magnets. But silverfish don’t fly and don’t navigate by light like these winged bugs. Next we’ll explore if LEDs impact silverfish more directly.
Do LED Lights Specifically Attract Silverfish?
There’s no scientific evidence that LED lights uniquely lure in silverfish because of the light itself. Remember, silverfish prefer darkness and are not attracted by light waves like other insects.
However, there are a couple indirect ways LEDs might draw silverfish:
- Other insects flocking to LEDs die near the lights. Silverfish then feed on the dead insects and become accustomed to returning for this food source.
- LEDs are often installed in locations favored by silverfish, like basements, closets, and bathrooms. Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.
But the bottom line is that LED bulbs don’t give off a special wavelength or “silverfish attracting” rays. Their small size and efficiency simply make them a popular choice in areas already prone to silverfish.
What Actually Attracts Silverfish?
Silverfish aren’t picking homes based on your lighting. Instead, these are the main factors that attract them:
Humidity and Dampness: Silverfish lay their eggs and thrive in humid environments. Any area prone to dampness or moisture can draw them in. Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements tend to be problem spots.
Darkness and Seclusion: As nocturnal creatures, silverfish seek out dark, enclosed spaces to hide and sleep during the daytime. Look for them in closets, cabinets, attics, cracks, or crevices.
Access to Food: Silverfish are drawn to food sources like sugary cereals, flour, oats, wheat, starchy pastas, paper products, and dead insects. Pantries, kitchens, and bathrooms provide plenty to eat.
Openings Near Foundations: Silverfish may enter homes through small cracks or openings in the foundation, walls, doors, or windows. They can squeeze into incredibly tight spots.
Potted Plants: Silverfish are sometimes brought inside on potted plants. Carefully inspect any new indoor greenery for signs of hitchhiking pests.
Clutter and Mess: Silverfish prefer messy environments and are less likely to infest clean, uncluttered areas of your home.
Now that you know what really attracts silverfish, you can start strategizing how to make your space less inviting.
Will LED Strips or Under Cabinet Lights Attract Silverfish?
What about popular LED lighting options like under cabinet strips or linear tubes? Can their location attract silverfish even if the light itself doesn’t?
It’s highly unlikely LED strip lights themselves lure silverfish in. But the environment surrounding LED strips may enable infestations if other attracting factors exist. For example:
- Hiding Places: Over time, LED tape can peel off surfaces creating gaps where silverfish hide.
- Secluded Spaces: Linear LED fixtures with open ends provide long, narrow channels silverfish love.
- Warmth: The gentle heat from LED strips while on can attract pests looking to nest.
- Mostly Dark: LEDs are only on a fraction of the time, leaving plenty of darkness.
The main takeaway is that LED strip lights or under cabinet lighting alone won’t draw in silverfish. But if used in an already infested area like a moist kitchen with open food, it certainly won’t help matters.
How Can You Prevent Silverfish Infestations?
Now that you know LED lights themselves don’t attract silverfish, here are some tips to make your home less hospitable to them:
- Seal up cracks and openings on the interior and exterior of your home. This keeps silverfish from sneaking their slender bodies inside. Pay special attention around foundations, pipes, windows, doors, and attic vents.
- Fix any holes in screens and make sure weatherstripping around doors and windows is in good shape. This helps block entry points.
- Inspect plants carefully before bringing them indoors. Silverfish eggs can hitch rides in potted plant soil. Quarantine new plants before introducing them to living spaces.
- Avoid cardboard as food storage since it’s a silverfish delicacy. Use plastic, glass, or metal containers instead.
- Clean frequently through vacuuming, mopping, and dusting. Pay extra attention to baseboards, corners, closets and don’t forget under appliances.
- Ensure bathrooms and laundry rooms have adequate ventilation to reduce humidity silverfish adore. Consider installing exhaust fans or opening windows.
- Use dehumidifiers in problem areas like basements or crawlspaces. Measure humidity levels and aim for less than 50%.
- Store food in airtight containers to remove access to sugars, grains, and starches silverfish feed on.
- Keep bed linens, towels, and clothing dry by promptly moving them from washers to dryers. Leftover moisture invites silverfish.
Natural Remedies to Kick Silverfish Out
If silverfish have already infiltrated, try these natural methods to send them packing:
- Diatomaceous earth – This powder made from crushed fossils dehydrates silverfish upon contact. Sprinkle it along baseboards, windowsills, and other hotspots.
- Boric acid – Mix boric acid with flour and sugar to create a paste irresistible to silverfish. They eat it and die. Focus on areas like cabinets, closets, and hidden spaces.
- Sticky traps – Lure silverfish in with tasty bait like bread, cereals, or paper then trap them on sticky boards. Check frequently to dispose of captured pests.
- Drowning traps – Soak newspaper in water and wring it out slightly. Silverfish attracted to the moisture will crawl in and drown.
- Essential oils – Strong smells from oils like cedar, lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree deter silverfish. Place a few drops on cotton balls near problem areas.
- Natural predators – Consider unleashing earwigs or house spiders to feed on silverfish. But this risks trading one pest for another, so weigh options carefully!
- Silica gel packets – Throw these moisture-absorbing packets in with stored clothing, linens, or books to prevent silverfish infestations.
Keeping Silverfish Away from LED Lights
To specifically discourage silverfish from congregating near LED lights:
- Maintain cleanliness around all lights by promptly removing other dead insects. This eliminates a food source drawing silverfish in.
- Seal off LED light sources behind opaque diffusers. This keeps the area around LEDs cleaner and less hospitable.
- Address any other insect infestations first. Silverfish are less likely to be drawn to LEDs if other bugs aren’t flocking there.
What Repels Silverfish?
- Light – Remember, they prefer darkness as nocturnal creatures. Keep areas well-lit.
- Cedar, lavender, citrus smells – Use essential oils, sachets, or candles with these strong scents.
- Borax powder – This natural mineral irritates and dehydrates silverfish. Sprinkle it in hiding spots.
- Pesticide sprays or baits – Look for products specifically labeled for silverfish control. Use strictly according to directions.
- Sticky traps – These traps immobilize silverfish when they crawl across.
- A lack of food sources – Eliminate access to sugars, starches, paper, and dead insects.
Do Silverfish Bite People?
Silverfish don’t intentionally bite humans. They don’t view us as food sources or intentionally attack. However, you may feel an accidental pinch if one gets trapped against your skin. Overall, silverfish pose no direct health risk to people.
The Bottom Line
LED lights themselves don’t attract silverfish, but opportune living conditions do. While a nuisance, these creepy crawlers won’t bite or harm you directly. By following prevention tips and using natural remedies, you can give silverfish the boot for good. Then you can enjoy energy-saving LED lights without unexpected roommates crashing your pad!