Silverfish and firebrats are two of the most bizarre looking insect pests of homes, and those who encounter these pests may not even recognize them as insects. Silverfish and firebrats are closely related, and their appearance has changed little since they first emerged more than 400 million years ago. This makes silverfish and firebrats the oldest known insects still living today, and it explains why they look more like marine animals than insects. Silverfish are aptly named for their silver or grey body color, while firebrats are darker with silver markings, but both of these insects grow to be between a ½ inch to 1 inch in length.
While silverfish and firebrats are both considered nuisance pests within homes, they are well known for damaging a variety of valued materials as well. This is largely due to their habit of eating just about anything that their mouthparts can handle, such as fabrics, human foods, and even books. To be more specific, silverfish and firebrats will readily eat meats, cereals, sugars, starchy foods, paper, glue in bookbinding, cotton, linen, rayon and silk. Silverfish and firebrats both inhabit moist conditions, but the former favors temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees, while the latter favors temperatures exceeding 90 degrees. Because of this difference in temperature preference, firebrats congregate near furnaces, boilers, and beneath appliances, while silverfish are often found in bathrooms, basements and attics.
Due to their ability to reproduce indoors, their feeding habits, and their indoor foraging behaviors, silverfish and firebrats are similar to cockroaches in terms of pest activity. In fact, many of the methods typically employed to control domestic cockroaches will also work to control silverfish and firebrats. Keeping indoor environments free of clutter, sealing cracks, crevices and other potential entry points on the exterior walls of homes, and keeping foods stored in tightly sealed containers will make homes less hospitable to silverfish, firebrats, German cockroaches and brown-banded cockroaches. Silverfish and firebrats are nocturnal, and like roaches, they hide during the day and emerge at night to forage. They also deposit up to 50 eggs at a time in cracks and crevices in walls and flooring, and they typically hatch within a month to two months. Desiccant insecticides should be applied to cracks, around pipes, within moist wall voids, and wherever silverfish and firebrats are most frequently found. Keeping indoor moisture under control is, perhaps, the most important aspect of silverfish and firebrat control, and simply eliminating high moisture conditions may suffice to end infestations.
Have you ever encountered silverfish or firebrats within your home?