Learn about Utah Silverfish
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Silverfish are small, wingless insects. They have flat bodies, long antennae, and three tail-like appendages that extend from the rear of their bodies. They measure from 1/2 to 3/4-inch long. Silverfish are covered with scales that give them a metallic luster. Their coloring varies from silvery gray to brown.
The most distinctive features of the silverfish are the two long, thin antennae on the front of the head and three long, thin ‘bristles’ at the rear of the body. Other insect-like pests have either three long filaments at the end (such as firebrats) or a single filament (such as bristletails), but never two (or four).
Silverfish prefer dark, moist areas and are most active at night(nocturnal). They thrive in warm, humid environments and can be found worldwide. Although they are commonly found in damp basements, bathrooms, and attics, they can also be found in other house areas such as kitchens, living rooms, and closets.
Silverfish eat a wide variety of foods. They prefer starches and carbohydrates, but they eat sugar, glue, paper, fabrics, and even the dead skin flakes we shed daily. Protein, starch, or sugar will provide enough nutrition to sustain them. Silverfish can go months without eating, so they do not actively seek food. Instead, they eat whatever they stumble upon in their travels. But if a silverfish finds an abundant food source in your home, it may reproduce and infest the area with its progeny.
Life Cycle & Reproduction
Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) have a 3-stage life cycle, consisting of the egg, nymph, and adult stages. A single female is capable of laying over 100 eggs in her lifetime. This life cycle can vary from 2 months to 2 years, depending on climate and food supply.
The silverfish egg is small (1/32″), white to cream in color, and oval. The egg is soft and sticky but soon hardens to a sturdy shell. The female may lay her eggs in cracks or crevices or drop them directly onto the floor. Eggs are generally laid singly but may also be laid in groups of 2 or 3. After being laid, the egg requires six weeks to 10 months to hatch, depending on temperature, humidity, and food availability.
Nymphs hatch from eggs at 1/8″ long and molt (shed their exoskeleton) 6 to 10 times before becoming mature adults. Newly hatched nymphs are pale yellow-gray with three tail projections at the hind end of their body but soon develop a silvery sheen as their body scales. As they grow, nymphs resemble adults, except they are smaller and have less developed reproductive organs.
Silverfish are a nuisance pest. They’re annoying and won’t harm you, but they’re unpleasant to have around the house. They usually hang out in damp and dark spaces like basements and bathrooms, so it can be hard to spot them and get rid of them.
Silverfish are nocturnal, so you probably won’t see them during the day. They might leave behind evidence in the form of yellow stains on paper or fabric. Or you might find droppings that look like tiny black pepper flakes. They’re also attracted to sugars, starches, and mold. So if you spot one in your kitchen, it’s likely because there’s a spill or food residue nearby.
Silverfish can live for over a year with no food at all! But once they locate a food source, they will return for more if there’s something to eat or drink. If you have silverfish in your house, they will probably come back every few weeks unless you take steps to remove them permanently.