Silverfish is about 1/2 inch long, with a uniform silvery color over the upper surface. Their bodies are long and slender, flattened. The bodies are broad at the front, and gradually tapering toward the rear. They can be found almost anywhere, but prefer damp, moderate temperature places such as basements, laundry rooms, and under sinks.
Silverfish are carrot shaped, silvery, and have what look like antennae on both ends. They are fond of living under boxes, boards and furniture. They are the most destructive insect since they eat the starch used to size coated papers, the paste used to bind the book, and the ink off the page. Missing letters and holes in paper are evidence of silverfish. Silverfish control is much like the steps needed if cockroaches are present.
Life Cycle and Habits
Silverfish and firebrats are active at night and hide during the day. When objects are moved where they are hiding, they dart out and seek new hiding places. The silverfish lives and develops in damp, cool places (prefers 75 to 95 percent relative humidity), often in the basement, bathroom and kitchen. Large numbers may be found in new buildings where the walls are still damp from plaster and green lumber.
The firebrat is quick moving and lives in dark places above 90 degrees F such as around ovens, furnaces, boiler rooms and fireplaces or insulation around hot water and heat pipes. These insects follow pipelines from the basement to rooms on lower floors, living in bookcases, around closet shelves, behind baseboards and behind window or door frames. They are hardy and can live without food for many months. Bristletails prefer to eat vegetable matter. Indoors, they will feed on rolled oats, dried beef, flour, starch, paper and paper sizing (which contains starch), gum and cereals. Outdoors, they can be found under rocks, bark and leaf mold, and in ant, termite, bird and animal nests.
Silverfish females may lay over 100 eggs during a lifetime. Eggs are laid singly or two to three at a time in small groups, hatching in three to six weeks. Young silverfish and firebrats resemble adults except being smaller, white and take on the adult color in four to six weeks. Adults may live two to eight years. Firebrats lay about 50 eggs at one time in several batches. Eggs hatch in about two weeks under ideal conditions.
Silverfish and firebrats, depending on the species, may reach maturity in three to twenty-four months. These insects normally hitchhike into the home in food, furniture, old books, papers and old starched clothing. Unlike other insects, they continue to molt after becoming adults. Forty-one molts have been recorded for one firebrat. Populations do not build up fast. A large infestation in the house usually indicates a longtime infestation.