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Silverfish and Firebrat

The silverfish and firebrat are very common household pests.

What do they look like?


The silverfish and firebrat are closely related insects both belonging to the group of insects known as ‘Bistletails’. They are long, slim, scaly, segmented, wingless insects with a pair of long, fine antennae at the front and three ‘tail-like’ appendages at the rear.

Silverfish can grow up to about 1.2cm in length and firebrat can grow p to 1.4cm, with much longer antennae. The silverfish is silvery and glistening in appearance whilst the firebrat is greyish with dark, irregular markings.

Where do they live?

The silverfish are found in conditions which are usually fairly damp, such as kitchens, larders, bathrooms and basements. They may be found in books, paper, damp cupboards and behind skirting and wallpaper.

The firebrat needs higher temperatures, ideally between 32ºC and 41 ºC and can live in drier conditions. They are often found in bakeries and near ovens and hot pipes.

Both the silverfish and firebrat are nocturnal and they can both move very quickly when disturbed, this will include small disturbances, such as switching on a light.

What do they eat?

Both the firebrat and silverfish feed on carbohydrates with a small amount of protein.

The silverfish feeds mainly on small food particles and starchy paste from the back of old wallpaper that has become detached. It attacks the sizes, gums and glues of book bindings and some types of paper. It also feeds on fragments of dead insects and can damage textiles of vegetable origin, such as cotton, linen and rayon.

The firebrat mainly feeds on food debris.

Pest Status

The silverfish and firebrat are classed as a nuisance pest inside the home and buildings. They can contaminate food, damage paper goods and stain clothing. Neither insect poses a public health risk.


These insects can be controlled by common insecticide sprays or dusts suitable for the control of crawling insects, these should be used in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.

Last Updated: 21/02/2013
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