The great silverfish massacre

I live in an old, stone house. I live by the sea. I live in one of the rainiest counties in the UK, apparently, which I was not aware of when I moved. What I’m trying to say is I live a charming coastal life with all of the ingredients of a mild damp problem. And a few house guests.

My flat was full of insects when I moved in. Up until April this year, I had seen a sum total of one silverfish in my life. It was when I was little and I didn’t know what it was so I looked it up in a book, and then went on with my life, little realising that I’d just armed myself with knowledge I would need to use twenty years later when they started showing up uninvited in every room of my flat.

I saw my first Cornish silverfish the first night I moved in. I didn’t have any belongings, just a copy of Grazia and an air mattress, so I watched it slither along the floor for a little while before I eventually squished it. A tiny flame of ‘oh god, is this going to be a thing now?’ lit in the back of my mind but I tried to dampen it with Dominos and a third read of Grazia. It really doesn’t cope well with that level of scrutiny, just FYI.

Silverfish became a regular feature of the flat, and any time I saw them I would chase them around with a bit of paper towel until I’d squashed them, but they’re fast and my failure rate was high. I’m also very squeamish around any kind of wiggly insect so at times it was unclear who was chasing who. It wasn’t until I found five in one evening – spread across every section of the flat – that I declared enough was enough.

It may come as a surprise to learn that I’m not a professional pest controller (although I did have a triumph in a ‘teenage girl vs. mouse’ competition during my uni years), so I immediately took to the internet to find some cures:

  1. Bay leaves

    Apparently silverfish don’t like them. I stopped at the Co-op to buy all the boxes they had, and I stuffed them in every nook and cranny of the flat when I got home. The whole place smelled like Chilli for a week. The bugs didn’t give a shit.

  2. Citrus spray

    Add citrus peel to water in a spray bottle, leave it for a while, and then spray it around the place. After a couple of days it’s a delightful-if-slightly-damp air freshener. After a couple of weeks it will definitely make you gag if you don’t keep making new batches. It did seem to put the bugs off for a while, but some of us are too wild to be tied down by such an intensive citrus spray production schedule.

  3. Cedar

    I spent literally days googling where to get cedar as if it’s some kind of illicit substance that doesn’t occur all over the place in nature. I only gave up when one too many pest control articles required me to look at photos of silverfish before I could scroll down to advice about making them die. I KNOW WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE, THEY ARE IN MY HOUSE.

  4. Turning the bedroom light on hours before going to bed

    Not so much something I found on the internet, but just something I began doing so I could get ready for bed without fear. The arseholes are nocturnal, so they’d only come out once I was in bed with the lights off. As would my paranoia about silverfish crawling all over my unconscious face.

  5. Giving the spiders pep talks

    I don’t mind a house spider. They allegedly like to eat silverfish. What they do not like is their landlady trying to tell them how to do their job.

  6. Sticky traps

    These guys were a turning point. You put them anywhere you’ve seen pretty much any kind of creepy crawly and then you wait. Probably with wine to steady your nerves. After a few days (having spent all of that time drinking wine like a pro) you might find something in there. Horrifying numbers were getting caught in my traps so they weren’t going to be enough.

After that, I was left with the nuclear option. I bought a pro-level pack of poison. I set aside an entire day. I put on my old clothes and my big girl pants and I moved the furniture. I hoovered every nook and cranny of every room, and then sprayed the edges of each floor with specifically designated silverfish killer. I went to town. I imagine for the bugs themselves it was something akin to the opening twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan.

And then they were gone.

For the next few days my floors were littered with bodies. It was carnage. But it was, like, satisfying carnage. It was the kind of carnage where you can sleep easier at night because you’re no longer scared things are climbing your bedposts.

I feel so alone now. It’s fantastic.



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