What are Silverfish?

mother and daughter hugging outside of their pest free home

What is this crazy bug I found? Are there more of them? What is it doing? These are some questions we get from perplexed clients who see one, grab it, and bring it in a plastic bag to the office to find out what it is. 

What do Silverfish look like?

Silverfish are named for their silver/grayish color, and it's fish-like shape and movement. They literally wiggle like fish. Silverfish are wingless and small, measuring less than 1-inch head to tail. But, they can run crazy fast, outrunning most of their predators, until they hit a wall. They don't have any additional appendages, so they can't run vertically.

What are the habits of Silverfish?

Silverfish feed on carbs and sugars (hence the scientific name Lepisma saccharina), and they are nocturnal. They are a cosmopolitan species, meaning they can be found all over the world in appropriate habitats, which tend to be very moist. In fact, they require a relative humidity of 75%-95% to thrive, this is why we usually see them in attics, basements, showers, tubs, and sinks.

How do Silverfish mate?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about silverfish is how they mate. They do a crazy mating ritual that can last up to an hour! We have found a few different descriptions of this dance, but beware, this can get graphic!

  • "The male and female will start the mating facing each other.  The male will then start a series of movements, where he will move away and towards the female.  The female will chase him away and allow him to come back to her throughout the process.  After this has taken place, they will stop right next to each other and massage each other's antennae.  This will cause the male to release his spermaphore into the female, thus fertilizing her eggs." from Kriska & Linner. 
  • "In the first phase, the male and female stand face to face, their trembling antennae touching, then repeatedly back off and return to this position. In the second phase, the male runs away, and the female chases him. In the third phase the male and female stand side by side and head-to-tail, with the male vibrating his tail against the female."

Silverfish can be quite the pest, and with such quick (and fun) reproduction, they can be everywhere! So how do you get rid of them? There are a few DIY tips out there, like using a dehumidifier and eliminating moisture, but as always, if you need help, contact your local pest control company.

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