The Silverfish (Lepisma saccharinum) is a small insect in the Lepismatidae family. It is silver, but it is not a fish. It moves a bit like a fish.
The Silverfish is a wingless insect with a metallic silvery-grey body covered in scales. Its body is a squashed oval-shape that tapers (narrows) towards its tail. It has six legs and long thin antennae. It has two long appendages at the end of its tail, called cerci (one is called a cercus). It has two small compound eyes. It can regenerate its cerci and its antennae in 2-4 weeks if they are damaged or drop off.
It moves in a wriggling motion, like a fish. It can run quite fast.
It grows to 1-2 centimetres (up to one inch) long.
The Silverfish is found in Africa, America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and parts of the Pacific. It prefers moist locations. It can be found inside people’s homes in dark spaces, such as attics, cupboards, kitchens, book shelves, and shower cubicles.
It is nocturnal, active at night. It avoids light.
It feeds on sugar and starch. It can digest cellulose, so it feeds on paper, such as book pages and book covers, as well as clothing, cotton, silk, carpets, coffee, hair, glue, paint, photos, wallpaper, and plaster. If water is available, the Silverfish can live for about 12 months without eating.
It does not transmit diseases.
Animals that feed on the Silverfish include earwigs, centipedes, millipedes, and spiders.
The male lays a sperm capsule called a spermatophore. The female picks it up with her ovipositor – a tube at the end of her tail that she uses to lay eggs. When the spermatophore fertilizes her eggs inside her body, she lays about 60 eggs in a dark crevice. The eggs hatch after about 14-60 days. They hatch into young, called nymphs. The nymphs are whitish and look like their parents, but much smaller.
As the nymphs grow, they moult – they shed their scales and grow new ones several times as they grow bigger. It takes 3 months to 3 years to become an adult. They may go through 17-66 moults in their lifetime. The Silverfish is one of the few animals that continue to moult after reaching adulthood.
The Silverfish lives, on average, for up to 3 years.
Location of photographs: Tbilisi, Georgia
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM