Lepisma saccharinasilverfish

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Geographic Range

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

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. ("The Bug Clinic", 2000; Sanders, P., 1999)

Physical Description

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. (Caron, M., 1997; Houge, L., 1993; McGavin, C., 2000)

  • Range length
    0.8 to 1.9 cm
    0.31 to 0.75 in

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)

Behavior

Silverfish are active at night and hide during the day. They make quick movements and stop at short intervals then move on again. They avoid direct sunlight. If a silverfish is hiding under an object that gets moved, the insect moves rapidly to hide in another place where there is no sunlight (Sanders 1999).

Food Habits

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).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

unknown

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

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).

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).

Other Comments

Silverfish are primitive insects that were on earth before the cockroaches (Bochnak 1999).

Contributors

Mirsha Lopez (author), University of California, Irvine, Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California, Irvine.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

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Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

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Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

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Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

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agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

cosmopolitan

having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

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rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

urban

living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.

References

1997-2000. "Silverfish (insect)" (On-line). Accessed Microsoft Coporation. All right reserved.October 31, 2000 at http://encarta.msn.com.

2000. "The Bug Clinic" (On-line). Accessed October 28, 2000 at http://www.bugclinic.com/Silverfish_firebrat.htm.

Bochnak, P. 1999. "Environmental Health and Safety" (On-line). Accessed October 30, 2000 at http://www.uos.harvard.edu/ehs/hot_topics/pom_silverfish.html.

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.

Sanders, P., 1999. "Silverfish and Firebrats" (On-line). Accessed October 30, 2000 at http://www.muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/agguides/pests/g07376.htm.