Silverfish are famous for eating wallpaper paste.

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The paste is made of starch mixed with water. Wikipedia says silverfish love starch

They consume matter that contains polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives.[4] These include book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar.

But all of these are artificial substances. I wonder what do they eat in the wild?

I suspected they eat wood but a cursory search suggests they do not. Or maybe the articles I found are talking about them not eating wooden furniture. Perhaps they prefer to eat damp wood such as rotting logs in the wild.

Most of the obvious info on Silverfish is about what they do inside your house, rather than in the wild. Does anyone know what they eat in the wild?


2 Answers 2


Silverfish are shredders. Shredders are...

...responsible for processing coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM). CPOM is greater than 1 mm in size and typically derived from allochthonous sources, such as woody debris, leaves, and other vegetation [..].

Their diet includes sources of starch and protein, including grains, vegetables, fibers, sugars and fabrics. Silverfish can actually digest cellulose, a feat not shared by many animals. They are able to do so thanks to cellulase activity in microorganisms that live in their gut (Lasker & Giese, 1957).

- Lasker & Giese, J Exp Biol (1957) 33(3): 54–553

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Good info's, nearly all animals that bore into wood or use wood to build a nest can digest cellulose, some beetles, termites, moths, barnacles, grasshoppers, leaf cutter ants, worms, wood mollusks, sea cucumbers, wood crabs, leafhoppers, gnats, weevils, aquatic insects, something like 15% of invertebrates can. $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2023 at 3:15

The answer to this is in their habitat some points to note are:

They inhabit moist areas, requiring a relative humidity between 75% and 95%

It avoids light

Silverfish are a cosmopolitan species

Silverfish can live for a year or more without eating if water is available

They are agile runners


(1) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverfish

(2) https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lepisma_saccharina/

This concludes that they dwell (in wild) on the lowest strata of forest (i.e forest floor - especially if its wet and humid) and it is rich in detritus (eg:fallen leaves specially) also since they are cosmopolitan they can infest a rotting tree trunk (for loose parts since they can not bore into it like termites) which will provide a suitable shelter and food for them, also they are pretty tough since they can live for almost a year without food barely surviving on water. They are also agile/quick thus got large area at their dispense to explore for food. They aren't so voracious feeders hence can survive in bare minimum availability which is abundant on the floor itself. Personally i feel they should prefer locations like next to a cave entrance which is damp and dark and near the food.

  • $\begingroup$ But what do they eat? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Aug 23, 2022 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ They can infest the log if there is something for them to eat in there. If they can eat rotting wood then of course the log is made of food. But can they eat rotting wood? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Aug 23, 2022 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ They should eat loose parts rotting wood bark since they themselves can't bore into the hard wood which is water resistant, but once it is primarily infested with termites and degraded to a certain level they can infest deeper $\endgroup$
    – daemon
    Aug 23, 2022 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ Mostly they get sufficient amount from fallen leaves, they aren't as hungry as termites are for wood otherwise you would have seen libraries getting eaten in some really worse manner and it would have been so hard to get rid of them. Which concludes they are not voracious feeders $\endgroup$
    – daemon
    Aug 23, 2022 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ Where does it say in the references that they eat fallen leaves? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Aug 24, 2022 at 13:01

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