Silverfish at the bottoms of my recipe books
July 19, 2013 12:27 PM   Subscribe

I have silverfish in all sorts of places in my flat (the toilet/bathroom when I don't clean it more than once a week, various cupboards in the kitchen at various different times). But this is the worst. They're collecting at the bottoms of my recipe books. Like, four a book.

Normally I clean the offending cupboard space thoroughly and then I don't see them again at this particular place. But this time...I threw out the infested books, bought new ones, cleaned out the shelf they were on. And now they're back. It's gross. In my favourite books, one of which is full of handwritten recipes I just painstakingly copied out again. I want to cry.
WHY are they there? And what on earth do I do?
posted by Omnomnom to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps set them on a wire shelf, to keep the space between book and shelf from being dark and cozy.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:29 PM on July 19, 2013

Silverfish eat starch and polysaccharides. And they prefer the dark. Books are PERFECT for them - plenty of paper and binding glue to chow down on. They really like wallpaper paste, too.

They need water like everything else, so if the humidity is high or you have a leaky faucet or pipe they'll get worse. I usually just vacuum them up when I see them, but I've never been overrun with them.

If they're bad enough, I'd call an exterminator.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:41 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

WHY are they there?

Silverfish eat book-binding glue as well as paper.
posted by wondermouse at 12:41 PM on July 19, 2013

You can kill the silverfish by sticking your books in the freezer (wrap it tightly in plastic or a ziplock bag first, squeeze out as much air as you can). To keep your eye on future infestations you can put out sticky traps near your books (I use butterworts but you can DIY your own traps with flour and glass jars) to monitor your silverfish population.

They are there to eat the paper. That's what silverfish do.
posted by jamaro at 12:42 PM on July 19, 2013

Silverfish are so notorious for devouring books that my library school newspaper was called The Silverfish.

At the very least, put your books in Ziploc bags. The freezer might not be a bad idea either.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:45 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I put borax along all my baseboards and left it for 3 days. The silverfish stopped showing up.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:46 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have tried sticky traps before but maybe the wrong ones? They just seemed to consist of sticky paper folded into tents and I never caught a single silverfish in them.

What I don't understand is, we have shelves and shelves and shelves full of books. But I don't find them there, up to now I've only seen them on the bathroom floor, underneath the cat litter box, in my wedding flatware (!), behind some shelves on the floor...

I will try freezing them in ziploc bags, thanks.
Where and in what form can I buy borax?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:48 PM on July 19, 2013

Call an exterminator. This is not something I'd mess around with.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:59 PM on July 19, 2013

It sounds like you are in the UK, and I am in the US, so my advice may or may not be applicable. In the US, borax is sold in the aisle with laundry soap. It's usually on the bottom shelf, with starch for ironing and rust removers and the like.

You can also sometimes get it at the hardware store, with other insect killing stuff.

Here's an image for a US product:

and one I got when I googled UK borax:

Good luck. I'd want to cry, too.
posted by RogueTech at 1:01 PM on July 19, 2013

Get these silverfish killer packets. Put them in all the dark corners - under books on the shelves, etc.

Silverfish problem resolved.
posted by 26.2 at 1:02 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can find borax at your local Target or Walmart, in the laundry aisle. I recommend the 20 Mule brand.

It'll be powdered.

Be careful if you have pets because if they eat it it will make them sick.
posted by spunweb at 2:02 PM on July 19, 2013

The silverfish killer packets work quite well.

The reason they're in the bathroom is that in addition to loving to eat books, they also love hair. As a lady who constantly sheds and reads a lot....I have a lot of experience with silverfish.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2013

If you can't find Borax you could try boric acid. In France it's available at the pharmacy. My wife just had me buy some to get rid of silverfish.
posted by pandabearjohnson at 10:29 AM on July 20, 2013

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