W. J. Rayment / -- A Silverfish sounds like a sea-going creature, but it is actually an insect, 1/2 to one inch long, that likes to live under rocks out of doors, but sometimes may be found in homes or buildings. Silverfish get their name from their silver scales and the speed with which they can move, seeming to slip away as quick as a fish in the hand.
The Latin name for the silverfish is Lespisma saccharina. Saccharina may be a reference to the eating habits of the insect. It eats primarily starchy substances and especially enjoys dining on book bindings, cereals, cardboard and the starch in clothes, but in extremity will eat almost anything organic including meat, crumbs, toe-nails, et cetera.
These are an ancient insect that have seemingly refused to evolve, perhaps because they have already achieved perfection - at least silverfish-perfection. They have two long antennae protruding from their head, six legs grow from their abdomen (they are insects, after all) and they also have three long feelers extending from their thorax. Even though they are scaled, they have a fairly soft body.
Silverfish thrive in moist environments, they like to hang about water pipes. They are deathly afraid of light. They run at the first hint of it. This fact, and their speed mean that most homeowners remain unaware of their presence. Yet they do not reproduce quickly as some other insects will do. The females take several years to mature and must mate at very specific times in order to lay eggs. The number of eggs laid varies from just a few, up to 50 in ideal conditions. Yet the average female will generally lay no more than 100 in the course of her lifespan which generally lasts 2 to 10 years.
Controlling infestations of silverfish can be a tricky matter. Because of their habits they can be hard to kill manually. People have experimented with leaving out a wet newspaper overnight to attract the silverfish. The next day they trying to scoop the paper up before the silverfish run away, then dump paper, insects, and all into a plastic bag. This may get a few, but it is not thoroughly effective. Other home remedies include putting mothballs about to repel the silverfish and lighting dark places. Yet, silverfish are known to survive up to a year without food, so they can often outwait the homeowner when such tactics are tried.
There are many insecticides labelled for control of silverfish. Some are available at your local gardening center. These must be thoroughly applied especially to dark and damp corners, and in cases where the silverfish have infested walls the application will have to be made through drilled holes.
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