Lepisma saccharina (commonly called the fishmoth, urban silverfish or just the silverfish) is a small, wingless insect. Typically it is between half an inch and one inch (12–25 mm). Its common name comes from the animal's silvery blue color, combined with the fish-like appearance of its movements. The scientific name indicates the silverfish's diet of carbohydrates such as sugar or starches. It belongs to the basal insect order Thysanura, and the species is estimated to have existed for over 300 million years, originating in the Paleozoic Era. Often misidentified as a silverfish is the house centipede, another house-dwelling arthropod that exhibits rapid, fluid movement.
Silverfish consume matter that contains polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives. These include book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar. They will damage wallpaper in order to consume the paste. Silverfish can also cause damage to tapestries. Other substances they may eat include cotton, dead insects, linen, silk, leftover crumbs, or even their own exuvia (moulted exoskeleton). During famine, a silverfish may even consume leatherware and synthetic fabrics. Silverfish can live for a year or more without eating if water is available.
Silverfish are considered household pests, due to their consumption and destruction of property. However, although they are responsible for the contamination of food and other types of damage, they do not transmit disease. Earwigs, house centipedes, and spiders are known to be predators of silverfish.
Silverfish Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.