Silverfish are able to digest cellulose by themselves, thanks to the cellulase that is produced by their midgut. They consume matter that contains polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives. These include book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar. They will damage wallpaper in order to consume the paste. Silverfish can also cause damage to tapestries. Other substances they may eat include cotton, dead insects, linen, silk, leftover crumbs, or even their own exuviae (moulted exoskeleton). During famine, a silverfish may even consume leather and synthetic fabrics. Silverfish can live for a year or more without eating if water is available.
Silverfish are considered household pests, due to their consumption and destruction of property. However, although they are responsible for the contamination of food and other types of damage, they do not transmit disease. Earwigs, house centipedes, and spiders such as the spitting spider Scytodes thoracica are known to be predators of silverfish.
The essential oil of the Japanese cedar Cryptomeria japonica has been investigated as a repellent and insecticide against L. saccharinum, with promising results: filter paper impregnated with a concentration of 0.01 mg/cm3 of essential oil repelled 80% of silverfish, and an exposure to vapours of 0.16 mg/cm3 for 10 hours caused a 100% mortality rate.
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