Unlike most of the world's other insects, silverfish don't seem to have a lot of redeeming qualities. "They do not serve any beneficial purpose to man that I am aware of," Webb says. So you shouldn't fret about getting rid of them.
Silverfish aren't exactly begging to be found, as they prefer areas that people rarely enter. "They can be found in any part of the home, but seem to prefer dark undisturbed places," Hodges explains, noting that dark, high-humidity spots such as crawl spaces, unfinished basements and attics are prime silverfish real estate. "These areas are suitable environments for them and are also where homeowners keep stored items that provide them harborage and food." They tend to enter homes to avoid weather extremes and wind up staying because the atmosphere is just so hospitable.
These nocturnal creatures generally take quite a long time to reproduce enough to reach infestation status. If you don't yet have a silverfish problem, keep it that way by minimizing your junk. "The key to control is to limit or eliminate harborage," Hodges says. "Large infestations are often linked to stored items and clutter."
If you do happen upon some silverfish it's not a disgusting cleanup. "Often, vacuuming them is the fastest and easiest way to get rid of them," emails Frank Meek, technical services manager with pest control company Orkin.
He also suggests inspecting your home once per year at minimum to identify any spots where pests can enter. "If you store items in your basement or attic, make sure they are in hard plastic containers, not cardboard boxes. When moving storage items, inspect them first and make sure you aren't transporting insects into a new space," he says.
Webb's team at Terminix generally identifies any food sources that silverfish find irresistible, like starch residue on the floor of a utility room or food spillage from items like grains, pasta and cereal. "It is also important to reduce humidity in higher humidity areas within the home by circulating the air with fans, using dehumidifiers or other moisture reduction methods."
If silverfish have already gotten out of control, Meek says to seek professional help. "If you see a sign of a silverfish infestation, contact your local pest control professional who will assess the situation within your home and determine the most effective methods of extermination for your specific problem."