Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada
Clickable Guide
Moths Butterflies Flies Caterpillars Flies Dragonflies Flies Mantids Cockroaches Bees and Wasps Walkingsticks Earwigs Ants Termites Hoppers and Kin Hoppers and Kin Beetles True Bugs Fleas Grasshoppers and Kin Ticks Spiders Scorpions Centipedes Millipedes


Order Zygentoma - Silverfish

Fire*brat? (We always called them silverfish.) - Ctenolepisma longicaudata ῇ Silverfish - Ctenolepisma lineata - female which sliverfish Lepismatidae? Silverfish? - Thermobia domestica Unknown Bug insect
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Zygentoma (Silverfish)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Thysanura, in whole or in part [see Remarks section below]
Apterata, sensu Shipley, 1904. Zoologischer Anzeiger 27:260

The extant genus Tricholepidion was transferred from family Lepidotrichidae to the newly created family Tricholepidiidae by Engel in 2006; Lepidotrichidae now contains only the extinct genus Lepidothrix found in Baltic amber (see Engel, 2006)
ca. 120 spp. worldwide; 18 spp. in 14 genera of 3 families in NA(1)
length to 15 mm; common species usually 8-10 mm
wingless; body flattened, silvery or gray or brownish with or without markings; tip of abdomen with 1 long medial filament and 2 lateral cerci often as long as the medial one, and projecting at right-angles to the body; long thread-like antennae with many segments; eyes small (or absent) and do not touch; mandibles articulate at two points; can run quickly but cannot jump

The families are separated as follows(2):
Lepismatidae: compound eyes only; body covered with scales
Tricholepiidae: ocelli only; body not covered with scales
Nicoletiidae: no eyes; body may or may not be covered with scales
Lepismatidae occur throughout much of NA and include, among others, two cosmopolitan spp.: the Common Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) and the Firebrat (Thermobia domestica)
Tricholepidiidae is represented by a single species, the Forest Silverfish (Tricholepidion gertschi), which lives in carpenter ant nests in forests of n. California and perhaps Oregon.
Nicoletiidae (Subterranean or Naked Silverfish) occur in Texas and the se. US, are blind, often pure white, and live underground in caves, under rocks, or in termite nests.
often found indoors in damp environments; the Common Silverfish is frequently seen in bathrooms and kitchens, whereas the Firebrat is usually found in basements around furnaces and in insulation around hot water and heating pipes; these and other species also occur outdoors under bark, in leaf litter, caves, ant nests, deserts, etc.
all year indoors; active at night, hide during the day, and avoid direct light
omnivorous: starchy foods, cereals, moist wheat flour, glue on book bindings and wallpaper, starch in clothing made of cotton or rayon fabric; free-living spp. eat lichens
Life Cycle
young look like adults, develop slowly, live several years
The name Thysanura (previously spelled Thysanoura; originally, Thysanoures) has been variously applied and originally included springtails, diplurans, bristletails, and silverfish, then used to refer to various combinations thereof. To avoid confusion, recent authors have chosen to discontinue using that name. (See Thysanura & Thysanoura, by N. Kluge, 2000; St. Petersburg State U., Russia)
See Also
Bristletails (order Microcoryphia), unlike the Silverfish, can jump, are not normally found indoors, have large eyes that meet in the middle, a cylindrical body, an arched thorax, and mandibles articulated at a single point
Internet References
live adult image of Firebrat plus description and references (David Maddison, Tree of Life)
taxonomic position and history plus synonyms, authors, and dates (N. Kluge, St. Petersburg State U., Russia)
family descriptions of the 3 North American families plus illustrations, and a photo of Lepisma saccharina (Alan Kazlev)
classification plus common name and taxonomic references (G.B. Smith, Dept. of Environment and Heritage, Australia)
description, habits, and control of silverfish and firebrats (Barb Ogg, U. of Nebraska)
Works Cited
1.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
2.Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects
Norman F. Johnson, Charles A. Triplehorn. 2004. Brooks Cole.