Lepisma saccharinasilverfish

Geographic Range

Lepisma saccharina, commonly known as silverfish, are found worldwide, most frequently found in North America, Europe, China, Japan, and the Hawaiian Islands. They have been found worldwide for so long that their place of origin is unknown, but they are believed to have originated in a tropical region. (Phillips and Gillett-Kaufman, 2018; "Silverfish", 2023a)


In their natural habitat, silverfish inhabit dark, moist habitats; often living under rocks, dead leaves, or tree bark. They require high humidity environments, usually 70-95% humidity. Silverfish frequent manmade structures, having been associated with the indoor biomes of humans for a long time. They are often found in basements, bathrooms, attics, kitchens, offices, libraries, and museums. They often inhabit cracks and crevices, either outdoors or in between floors, walls, and shingles. (Querner, et al., 2022; "Silverfish", 2023b)

Physical Description

Silverfish are small, primitive, wingless insects. They are usually 10-12 mm in length, but have been found up to 25 mm long. They have a distinct teardrop or carrot shaped body, wide at the head and tapered at the end. They have a long, flat, slender body with silver, fish-like scales that cover their entire body. Their abdomen is split into eleven segments, and they have six legs. There are three posterior filaments that make up the tail and contain bristles. Coming off of their body are multiple multisegmented antennas. Although they are often silver in color, they can also be brown or tan. They have mandibles they use to eat and two small compound eyes that can distinguish between light and dark. ("Silverfish and Firebrat", 2023; "Thysanura", 2023)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    7 to 25 mm
    0.28 to 0.98 in


At birth, juvenile silverfish look similar to small versions of adults. They do not undergo metamorphosis- which is unique for insects and only found in primitive insects from Earth’s early ages. But, silverfish will molt until sexual maturity, sometimes continuing after maturity. They will acquire their shiny appearance within 40 days of birth, usually during their third molt. A silverfish may molt up to 40 times in its life. ("Silverfish", 2023b; "Thysanura", 2023)


Silverfish have a complex mating ritual. When a male and female mate, they start off by touching their antennae together and retreating back and forth, vibrating their antennas, abdomens, and tails. This courtship dance can last up to half an hour. They then separate and the male spins a silk structure which contains his sperm. The female detects the silk and takes it up into her ovipositor (a tubular organ where female insects deposit their eggs). This species does not have a specific breeding season, able to reproduce year round. They are also polygynandrous. (Phillips and Gillett-Kaufman, 2018; "Silverfish", 2023b; Wedell, 2019)

After fertilization, females will lay clutches of eggs. A clutch usually contains 2 to 20 eggs, they cannot lay more than 30 at a time. Females can lay multiple clutches of eggs within a day. Eggs will be laid in cracks and crevices. When initially laid they will be soft and white but will harden and turn yellow within a few hours. They measure around 1 mm in length and are elliptical in shape. In warm conditions, eggs will hatch within 20 days, but if conditions are under 50 degrees fahrenheit eggs can lay dormant until warmer conditions occur, taking up to 60 days to hatch. Once hatched, in favorable temperatures they can reach sexual maturity in a matter of weeks. If conditions are cold or drier they can take up to two years to reach maturity. ("How Much Do You Know About The Silverfish Eggs In Your Home?", 2023; "Silverfish", 2023b; "Silverfish Life Cycle", 2022)

  • Breeding interval
    Individuals are able to breed frequently. Females are capable of producing hundreds of offspring in their lives.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs year round
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 30
  • Range gestation period
    19 to 60 days
  • Average time to independence
    0 minutes
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 24 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 24 months

After laying their eggs, females will abandon the clutch. But, females make sure to lay their eggs in hidden areas, such as cracks and crevices. If a female finds a clutch area that she likes, she will then send out aggregation pheromones that signal for other silverfish to lay their eggs at that location as well. Having multiple silverfish lay their clutches together helps maintain healthy conditions of humidity, which makes the eggs hatch faster and healthier. ("How Much Do You Know About The Silverfish Eggs In Your Home?", 2023)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Silverfish usually live between 2 to 8 years depending on conditions. They are most successful in warm, humid environments. (Sloderback, 2004)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 8 years


Silverfish are nocturnal and skittish. They are rarely seen, avoiding light and hiding in crevices, only coming out at night to search for food.If they are disturbed they will quickly run away. They are a solitary species in that they do not have a social heierarchy nor are they social, but they will congregate and form populations in areas of plentiful food sources. So, if you are to see one in your house, there are probably more hiding within your house as well. (Hippisley-Cox, 2017)

Home Range

Silverfish have a small home range, inhibiting small microhabitats, staying close to their food source and requiring a specific climate of high humidity. (Hippisley-Cox, 2017; Woodbury and Gries, 2007)

Communication and Perception

Silverfish can communicate through pheromones. They are also known to communicate and perceive through touch and vibration when mating. They will contact each other through their antennae when in groups. Aggregations of the species can be caused by pheromones released by one individual when a good food source or mating site has been found. Female’s require physical contact with the pheromone to be able to respond to it. These pheromones can help communicate potential shelters, climate conditions, protection from predators, access to food and water, and potential mates. Pheromones can be produced by males, females, and juveniles. They are deaf but can sense light from dark with their compound eyes. They have approximately six kinds of sense receptors in their antennae that tell them about the size and shape of the spaces they moves through. Just the slightest change in the air current will set off sensory hairs on the silverfishes body. (Woodbury and Gries, 2007)

Food Habits

Silverfish seek out foods high in starches or protein as their primary food source. This includes papers, wood, sugars, cellulose, linens, silk, cotton, vegetables, dried cereals and meats, dead insects, and other silverfish. They also eat glue or pastings, including the glue used to hold up wallpaper, curtains, carpets, book bindings, and furniture coverings. If food is scarce, they can withstand long periods of starvation. Specimens have been recorded to go 307 days without food. (Phillips and Gillett-Kaufman, 2018; Sloderback, 2004)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Silverfish have known natural predators such as centipedes, spiders, and earwigs. Their fish-like scales can easily detach so that if they get caught by a predator or are stuck in a web they can escape. They have also evolved to be a nocturnal organism, avoiding many predators that may be out during the day, such as humans. ("Thysanura", 2023; "Silverfish (Family Tricholepidiidae)", 2009)

  • Known Predators
    • Earwig (Dermaptera), Centipede (Chilopoda), Spiders (Araneae)

Ecosystem Roles

Silverfish have symbiotic relationships with other insects. They can be found in ant and termite nests, demonstrating a commensalism symbiosis. This relationship has been named 'nest commensalism' by biologists. Silverfish also act as prey for their predators, like spiders. They also are important decomposers, able to break down organic material like dead leaves and wood. (MOLERO-BALTANÁS, et al., 2017; "Thysanura", 2023)

Species Used as Host
  • Termites, ants

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As silverfish are considered pests, they bring in economic revenue and create jobs for people working for insecticide companies/ pest management businesses. (Querner, et al., 2022)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Silverfish have become a common pest in human biomes. Because they require a high starch/cellulose diet, they will eat valuable papers, photographs, books, and wallpapers. This can occur in households, offices, libraries, and museums. Due to the destruction they can cause, their extermination is sought out in areas of human development. (Querner, et al., 2022)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

This species is not in any danger of becoming an endangered species. In fact, humans try to control their populations through insecticide and other pest management strategies.


Claire Labuda (author), Colorado State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

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

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

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

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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.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.


an animal that mainly eats meat


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


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


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


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


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

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


active during the night

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


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

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reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


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.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


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


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


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).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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.


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.


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


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2023. "How Much Do You Know About The Silverfish Eggs In Your Home?" (On-line). Terminix. Accessed July 02, 2023 at https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/how-much-do-you-know-about-the-silverfish-eggs-in-your-home/.

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. 2009. "Silverfish (Family Tricholepidiidae)" (On-line). University of Wisconsin Milwaukee College of Letters and Science Field Station. Accessed July 05, 2023 at https://uwm.edu/field-station/silverfish/.

2022. "Silverfish Life Cycle" (On-line). Pest-Help.com. Accessed July 02, 2023 at https://www.pest-help.com/pests/silverfish/silverfish-life-cycle/.

Michigan State University. 2023. "Silverfish and Firebrat" (On-line). Michigan State University Plant and Pest Diagnostics. Accessed June 30, 2023 at https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/silverfish-and-firebrat.

2023. "Silverfish" (On-line). Orkin Canada. Accessed June 29, 2023 at https://www.orkincanada.ca/pests/other/silverfish/#:~:text=Silverfish%20prefer%20dark%2C%20moist%20environments,bathrooms%2C%20kitchens%2C%20and%20attics..

2023. "Silverfish" (On-line). Veseris Pest Web. Accessed June 29, 2023 at https://pestweb.com/pests/576/silverfish#:~:text=Origin%3A,their%20origin%20is%20now%20unknown..

University of Michigan. 2023. "Thysanura" (On-line). BioKids University of Michigan. Accessed June 30, 2023 at https://www.discoverlife.org/mp/20q?search=Thysanura&mobile=close&flags=glean:.

Hippisley-Cox, C. 2017. "Silverfish: if they're not fish, they're not really silver, and they look like aliens, what on earth are they?" (On-line). University of Huddersfield Repository. Accessed July 02, 2023 at https://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/32006/1/pp%2026-7%20June%202017.pdf.

MOLERO-BALTANÁS, R., C. BACH DE ROCA, A. TINAUT. 2017. "Symbiotic relationships between silverfish (Zygentoma: Lepismatidae, Nicoletiidae) and ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the Western Palaearctic. A quantitative analysis of data from Spain" (On-line pdf). Accessed July 05, 2023 at https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/78147957/molero-baltanas-et-al-2017-libre.pdf?1641412082=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DSymbiotic_relationships_between_silverfi.pdf&Expires=1688594512&Signature=RFlM8boSWnekSHvZn0RLqFV9QVzNNsp~BohFclCuJbdnZONxfXtBrmilqW0YGbWG4oXD1RqEN87AAeOMBfjjaRHU1dnGVciNVmp3fCQmwU5xg-N23X6skEKROx5wYN0U7shwL3JRjxGZeC4zCmRklRdB-XM2ojgjTRIxamhFE1jujOgBMZtBCmliCoxrRv1UkHCQ3QO1GgvYj-7X2j1jrku1PeRZ9m-wyoKwLgrnahYptj3ztkAR0yavnt3aB-DQoo7zAqkA9ifLs7ZAppXZwuNE5gjznrYeREl6opLe895nEVgYYFxxMK6rP6X7GWeh8JlL2Cx9FzaPo0eN20bURA__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA.

Phillips, E., J. Gillett-Kaufman. 2018. "silverfish-Lepisma saccharineina" (On-line). University of Florida. Accessed June 29, 2023 at https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/URBAN/silverfish.HTM#:~:text=Lepisma%20saccharina%20is%20found%20worldwide,Hawaiian%20Islands%20(Morita%201926)..

Querner, P., N. Szucsich, B. Landsberger. 2022. Identification and Spread of the Ghost Silverfish (Ctenolepisma calvum) among Museums and Homes in Europe. Insects, Vol 13, Issue 9: 1-20. Accessed June 29, 2023 at https://www.proquest.com/docview/2716553125/fulltextPDF/71092FDB25884441PQ/1?accountid=10223.

Sloderback, P. 2004. "Silverfish and Firebrats" (On-line). Kansas State University. Accessed July 02, 2023 at https://krex.k-state.edu/bitstream/handle/2097/21693/KSUL0009KSREEPPUBSEP123a.pdf?sequence=1.

Wedell, N. 2019. Ejaculate Evolution. Pp. x in J Choe, ed. Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, Vol. Volume 4, Second Edition Edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Academic Press. Accessed July 01, 2023 at https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/thermobia-domestica.

Woodbury, N., G. Gries. 2007. Pheromone-based Arrestment Behavior in the Common Silverfish, Lepisma saccharina, and Giant Silverfish, Ctenolepisma longicaudata. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 33: pages 1351–1358. Accessed July 03, 2023 at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10886-007-9303-4#citeas.