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Overview

Brief Summary

Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are ancient and primitive wingless insects. They have a silvery, scaled flat body which tapers back to three characteristic tail-like appendages, two of which (cerci) point to the sides, while the center one points straight back. On the head end, they have two long antennae. When mature, L. saccharina individuals are typically about 1-2 centimeters long, and move quickly with a fish-like, wiggling motion. Silverfish are long-lived, frequently surviving longer than three years, even up to six years, and the adults molt for their entire lives. Lepisma saccharina produce few young. They are mostly nocturnal. In their natural habitat they stay hidden among leaf litter, frequenting crevices in logs, bark and under rocks. Lepisma saccharina is a common household pest, found world-wide. Its carbohydrate heavy diet leads it to eat paper and paper products that contain glue, starch, dextrin, and casein, so it is also a common pest in libraries, where it eats through book bindings and pages. They also can infest cereal foodstuffs, fabrics, and wallpaper in buildings. Sometimes confused with the closely related firebrat, silverfish differ in that they prefer cool, damp environments (70-80oF) while the firebrat (Thermobia domestica) seeks out warmer areas (100oF).

(Barnes 2005; Houseman 2007; Klass 1981)

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Distribution

Silverfish are found commonly as human commensals worldwide. They are thought to be endemic to the Palearctic.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Introduced , Native ); oriental (Introduced ); ethiopian (Introduced ); neotropical (Introduced ); australian (Introduced )

Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan

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Physical Description

Morphology

Silverfish are wingless insects that have a carrot-shaped, flat body with silver and grey scales. They are 0.8 - 1.9 cm long. They also have three tail-like appendages and two antennae on their head. Each of the tail-like appendages are almost as long their body. Two point to the sides, while the other one is in the middle, pointing backwards.

Range length: 0.8 to 1.9 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Caron, M., 1997. "Silverfish and Firebrats" (On-line). Accessed October 29, 2000 at http://bluehen.ags.udel.edu/deces/hyg/hyg-11.htm.
  • Houge, L., 1993. Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. Los Angeles, CA: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
  • McGavin, C., 2000. Insects: Spiders and other Terrestrial Arthropods. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley.
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Ecology

Habitat

Natural habitat is hidden in leaf litter, under rocks and logs, and in other natural crevices. When silverfish live indoors, they are most commonly found behind furniture, in books, near sinks or in basements. They prefer temperatures that are 70 to 80 degrees.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

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occurence

it lives in europe,north america and new zealand.

  • wikipedia
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Trophic Strategy

Common silverfish prefer to eat materials that come from plants because of the carbohydrates and protein. They eat foods such as glue, wallpaper paste, bookbindings, paper, photographs, starch in clothing, cotton, linen, and rayon fabric. They also eat damp textiles and organic material. Although they prefer organic material, they also eat non-organic material. This species also likes dried foods and human foods such as sugar, flour, and breakfast cereal. (The Bug Clinic 2000, Sanders 1999).

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Associations

Animal / predator
nymph of Reduvius personatus is predator of Lepisma saccharina

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

When silverfish mate, the male silverfish puts his sperm on a silk thread on the ground and then the female silverfish picks it up. The fertilized eggs are then laid in cracks and crevices. At a temperature of 22 - 27 degrees C, female silverfish can lay approximately 100 eggs in their lifetime. They lay one to three eggs at a time in small groups and may lay several eggs over a period of weeks. The eggs hatch in three to six weeks; the length of time depends on the temperature. Rate of growth also depends on temperature. Females do not have a certain season when they lay their eggs. They usually lay eggs in secluded places like behind books or closet shelves. After hatching, all the life stages are similar in appearance, except for their size. (Caron 1997, Washington State University 1997, Sanders 1999)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Lepisma saccharina is considered a pest by many and there are many insecticide treatments to get rid of them (The Bug Clinic 2000, Caron 1997).

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Silverfish are generally considered nuisance pests. They have no effect on human health. They usually do relatively little damage, but will feed on paper, book bindings, wallpaper, rayon drapes, starched cotton, linen, and silk (Washington State University 1997).

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unknown

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