Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)
Do you have silverfish? Have you ever visited the toilet late at night and put the light on to find small, elongated silver insects zooming out of sight? These are the subject of this page and among the most primitive of all insects found on earth today.
Fossils of these insects go back before cockroaches and reveal that very little has changed in the appearance of this insect pest in millions of years.
The one feature of this insect with its modern and past self is its astounding association with humans and our symbiotic, yet distant relationship with silverfish.
Silverfish get their name from the distinctive silver, tiled scales that cover its body. These scales efficiently reflect light, making them very hard to miss.
Are Silverfish or Firebrats Harmful?
Silverfish are not dangerous and don’t bite. However, in large numbers, they can cause losses of books and other paper products by stripping away cellulose and starch. These insects are a nuisance pest and not a biting danger to humans.
Silverfish & Respiratory Allergies
Research carried out by scientists in Spain (2008) found that children with respiratory allergies were sensitive to Silverfish. Hygiene is one issue to be considered, but silverfish are clearly bad news for anyone with asthma or rhinitis.
Key Differences Between Firebrats and Silverfish
The key differences between the two insects are usually quite easy to spot. The antennae of silverfish are shorter than the whole body length, while the antennae of the firebrat are longer than the whole body length.
Silverfish are a solid silver colour while firebrats are mottled or brown in colour.
Firebrats love to inhabit hot and humid environments like boiler rooms, furnace rooms and heating ducts, while silverfish prefer environments that are both warm and humid.
What Do Silverfish Feed On?
These insects are swift and secretive. The only time you tend to see them is when you turn on a light in a dark place and see them scurry away into the darkness of the nearest hiding place.
The Latin name of these insects hints at the diet these pests enjoy. Their diet is primarily composed of carbohydrates. These include simple sugars, flour and other nutrient substances found in things like dandruff and hair.
Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are anthropophilic, meaning they live in close association with humans. For this reason, they are a common sight, especially in older properties.
Silverfish belong to a wingless class of insects called zygentoma, that number around 400 species. This breaks down further into five families of which silverfish belong to the family Lepismatidae, consisting around 200 species.
A key feature of these insects is three very obvious caudal filaments projecting from the end of their abdomens.
These silver scavengers range in size ranging from 15 – 25mm in size, and as its common name suggests, it is silver and fish-like in the way that it moves across a surface.
Causes of Silverfish
The places you are most likely to see them are in drying rooms, bathrooms (especially under baths) and other areas where they like a mixture of warmth, high humidity, and low light.
What Are These Insects A Sign Of?
Silverfish might be seen as a nuisance pest, but we have come to appreciate over many years that they are often a valuable signal that all is not well with your property.
In fact, destructive pests of economic and medical importance are in your home without you even realising it.
We see silverfish most commonly at infestation levels in buildings with balconies where birds are roosting. Pigeons and gulls are the most common. As bird droppings or guano builds up, the insects step in to clear it up.
observing this helped us discover that tiny gaps around balcony windows or doors are easily exploited by silverfish. They might feed outside, but they spend most of their lives inside.
They need to feed, and you need to begin looking at what that source of food is.
Always get an expert pest inspection for your property, not just to control the Silverfish, but to establish what they are feeding on.
During the daytime, most will be tucked away out of sight. What’s needed is a residual insecticide.
Residual insecticides are designed to be waiting for insects not present at the time of treatment. The next essential ingredient is an insect growth regulator or IGR. IGR’s prevent juvenile insects from maturing into adults capable of reproduction. These chemicals are usually applied as a spray.
You will need to be out of the treated area for at least two hours following treatment. You will not be able to walk on treated surfaces without footwear until surfaces are completely dry. Drying times take approximately 4 – 6 hours.