You might have come across this insect at least a handful times in the course of your life. These insects found scurrying about old books are commonly known as silverfish while their scientific name is Lepisma saccharina.
Silverfish have evolved greatly over the passage of time, adapting well to the changes throughout the millennia that they have been on this planet for.
They have many types and kinds with most of them being regarded as pests and bothersome bugs, usually because of how they tend to eat away at clothing and all paper-based products. These insects were once the most notorious and common pests that were regularly found in American homes, often as part of an infestation.
Silverfish have bodies that appear to have a teardrop shape and are completely covered by silver colored scale-like protrusions. These organisms also sport long, slender antennae. Silverfish are well-known for shedding their shell-like exoskeletons as many as 50 to 60 times throughout the span of their lives.
Silverfish have a penchant for dimly lit, warm, and moist habitats, and this is where there are most often found. They also have a special affinity for fabrics and papers and so will colonize an area that has these two factors in abundance. They can mostly be found hiding under beds and in wallboards, in a bookshelf or nibbling the wallpaper off the walls.
Silverfish are identified by six common types that are often very easily recognized and spotted. These types are:
- Bristletail silverfish
- Common silverfish
- Four-lined silverfish
- Gray silverfish
- Firebrat silverfish
- Jumping bristletail silverfish
Table of Contents
Related: All types of insects
The common silverfish is known as Leisma saccharina in scientific terms. This species, too, is a wingless-type of the silverfish that grows to the maximum length of 0.5 to 1 inch.
It is of uniform silver to gray color with a joint body with identical segments throughout. It also has parallel pairs of legs that extend outwards from the segmented body.
Like most insects, the common silverfish prefers to grow in indoor habitats, which are moist, such as, toilets, kitchens, and basements. These insects lead a nocturnal life, being active mostly at night hiding in dark places through the day, avoiding sunlight. A common silverfish has an average lifetime of 7 to 8 years.
The bristletails, scientifically known as the archaeography, are the most common type of silverfish. Even though they belong to the class Microcoryphia, they are still regarded as a sub-type of the insect.
They are wingless and have a fairly cylindrical body. Unlike most other silverfish types, bristletails thrive in grassy and wooded habitats, mostly under tree barks, decaying leaves, stones and rocks or any other damp and dark place.
Evidently, archaeognatha populate a range of different habitats but their most preferred one remains the moist soil, even though there are certain bristletails that also live in shrublands, chaparrals, and even sandy deserts. Bristletails primarily feed on algae, mosses, lichens, and decomposing organic detritus.
For reproduction, the male bristletails spin threads from their lower abdomens and attach the ends of these threads to the substrates after which they string sperm parcels called spermatophores along with them. Following this procedure, the female bristletail silverfish collects these spermatophores and stores them on their ovipositors.
Immediately after this, the females lay various batches of about 30 eggs each in crevices where these eggs can hatch. Eventually, the eggs hatch and young bristletails are released, which are very similar to the adult bristletails.
The growth and development of these young silverfish heavily depend on their species and growth conditions like temperature, availability of food and habitat.
Bristletail silverfish have recorded to have life spans of around three to four years, which is longer than the life span of most insects.
The four-line silverfish, scientifically known as Ctenolepisma quadriseriata, features four dark lines on its lower stomach, which lend themselves to its name i.e. the four-lined silverfish. These insects are relatively a little longer than the other types of silverfish. They prefer flowerbeds, soil and roof shingles for shelter and attics for indoor habitats.
The four-lined silverfish has a penchant for mildly warm areas with high humidity for good growth and maturation. For food, they mostly feed on cellulose that is found in paper and paper-based products.
The Ctenolepisma quadriseriata has a uniformly tanned body with irregular gray casting across it. Size-wise, it is mostly an inch and a half and like most silverfish, and has no wings.
Ctenolepisma longicaudata, informally referred to as the gray silverfish, is an insect with an entirely gray or dark-colored glossy body and is mostly two inches long in length. The even-toned, gray colored bodies lead to its name becoming the gray silverfish.
Usual habitats for gray silverfish include dark and damp places that they can crawl under or into, such as bathroom pipes, attics, drawers, and books.
In order to mature, these silverfish need warm temperatures, humid weather, and cellulose as a food supply.
The firebrats are scientifically called Thermobia domestica. They have elongated, oblong bodies often yellow in color. These insects seek high temperatures (of around 90 degrees) for colonizing, places such as fireplaces and furnaces are their ideal housing spots.
However, this does not limit them and they are often found infesting insulation and bathroom pipes as well as kitchen ovens.
Similarly, in search of suitable feeding grounds, they also swarm places with books to feed on the cellulose bookbindings and paper products.
The firebrats are the darkest colored among all the other silverfish. Their body shades vary from moderately dark to intensely dark gray and sometimes even blacks with characteristic dark patches splattered across them.
Jumping Bristletails is a subtype of the bristletail silverfish. Their scientific name is Pedetontus but they are mostly referred to by their common name of jumping bristletails or the jumping silverfish.
These insects grow to more than half an inch in length and maintain a uniform silver or gray color throughout the lengths of their smooth bodies.
These wingless creatures prefer rubble, stones, rocks and decomposing leaves and barks for shelter and feed on the cellulose found in these decaying foliages.
These are all the types and kinds of silverfish that currently inhabit the planet. The next time you spot one, be sure to observe it really closely and see if you can identify its type? Moreover, if want to make sure your house is not infested by one of the types that can cause damage, you might want to check in those pipes and attic because it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Home Stratosphere is an award-winning home and garden online publication that’s a result of our talented researchers and writers who work directly with hundreds of professional interior designers, furniture designers, landscape designers and architects from around the world to create helpful, informative, entertaining and inspiring articles and design galleries.