name = "Lepisma saccharina

image_width = 200px
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Arthropoda
classis = Insecta
ordo = Thysanura
familia = Lepismatidae
genus = Lepisma
species = "L. saccharina"
binomial = "Lepisma saccharina"
binomial_authority = Linnaeus, 1758

"Lepisma saccharina" (commonly called the fishmoth, urban silverfish or just the silverfish) is a small, wingless insect typically measuring from a half to one inch (12–25 mm). Its common name derives from the animal's silvery blue colour, combined with the fish-like appearance of its movements, while 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. [ [ University of Arkansas: Arthropod Museum Notes 2005] ] Often misidentified as a silverfish is the house centipede, another house-dwelling arthropod that exhibits rapid, fluid movement.

An eyeless species of silverfish, or a close relative, was discovered in January 2006 in caves in Sequoia National Park, California.


The favorite food of silverfish is any matter that contains starch or polysaccharides, such as dextrin in adhesives. These include glue, book bindings, paper, photos, sugar, hair, and dandruff. Silverfish can also cause damage to books, tapestries, and textiles. Silverfish will commonly graze in and around showers, baths, and sinks on the cellulose present in many shampoos, shaving foams and so on. Apart from these cases, the damage caused by silverfish is negligible and they have no direct effect on human health beyond psychological distress to those who are frightened or disgusted by their appearance. Other substances that may be eaten include cotton, linen, silk and synthetic fibers, and dead insects or even its own exuvia (moulted exoskeleton). During famine, a silverfish may even attack leatherware and synthetic fabrics. In extreme cases, silverfish may live for a year without eating.cite web|url=|title=Silverfish|accessdate=2008-08-27|last=Day|first=Eric|year=1996|month=August|work=Virginia Cooperative Extension|publisher=Virginia State University] Silverfish can be found anywhere in homes including, but not limited to, garages, closets, underneath beds, couches, electrical appliances such as keyboards and generally preferring dark areas.

Reproduction and growth

The reproduction of silverfish is preceded by a "love dance", involving three phases, which may last over half an hour. In the first phase, the male and female stand face to face, their trembling antennae touching, then repeatedly back off and return to this position. In the second phase the male runs away and the female chases him. In the third phase the male and female stand side by side and head-to-tail, with the male vibrating his tail against the female. [Von H. Sturm (1965) Die Paarung beim Silberfischen, "Lepisma saccharina". In "Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie", Band 13, Heft 1.] Finally the male lays a spermatophore, a sperm capsule covered in gossamer, which the female takes into her body via her ovipositor to fertilize the eggs she will lay later on.

Juvenile silverfish are white in color.

Under laboratory conditions, silverfish may go through between 17 and 66 molts, much more than usual for an insect. Silverfish are one of the rare insects that continues to molt after mating. [Sue Hubbell (1993) "Broadsides from the Other Orders," ISBN 0-679-40062-1.]


Earwigs, house centipedes, and in rare cases spiders are known to be predatory upon silverfish.


External links

* [ Silverfish factsheet] at Virginia Tech, Department of Entomology
* [ Frequently Asked Questions about Silverfish] at [ Cornell Cooperative Extension, Insect Diagnostics Laboratory]
* [ Magnified pictures of Silverfish]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • silverfish — [sil′vərfish΄] n. 1. pl. silverfish or silverfishes (see FISH) any of various fishes of a silvery color, as the tarpon or silverside 2. silverfish any of various families of primitive, wingless thysanuran insects with silvery scales, long feelers …   English World dictionary

  • Silverfish — Sil ver*fish , n. 1. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) The tarpum. (b) A white variety of the goldfish. [1913 Webster] 2. one of a variety of insects of the order {Thysanura}, especially {Lepisma saccharina}, which may infest houses, and eats starched clothing and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • silverfish — (n.) 1703, in reference to various types of silver colored fish (Cf. Ger. Silberfisch, Du. zilvervisch); from SILVER (Cf. silver) + FISH (Cf. fish) (n.). In reference to a type of insect (also known as springtail), it is attested from 1855 …   Etymology dictionary

  • silverfish — ► NOUN ▪ a small silvery wingless insect that lives in buildings …   English terms dictionary

  • silverfish — /sil veuhr fish /, n., pl. (esp. collectively) silverfish, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) silverfishes. 1. a white or silvery goldfish, Carassius auratus. 2. any of various other silvery fishes, as the tarpon, silversides, or… …   Universalium

  • silverfish — UK [ˈsɪlvə(r)ˌfɪʃ] / US [ˈsɪlvərˌfɪʃ] noun [countable] Word forms silverfish : singular silverfish plural silverfish or silverfishes an insect with a grey or silver body that often causes damage to paper products or clothing …   English dictionary

  • silverfish — Lepisma Le*pis ma (l[ e]*p[i^]z m[.a]), n. [NL., fr. Gr. le pisma peel, fr. lepi s i dos, a scale.] (Zo[ o]l.) A genus of wingless thysanurous insects having an elongated flattened body, covered with shining scales and terminated by seven unequal …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • silverfish — Tarpum Tar pum, n. (Zo[ o]l.) A very large marine fish ({Megapolis Atlanticus}) of the Southern United States and the West Indies. It often becomes six or more feet in length, and has large silvery scales. The scales are a staple article of trade …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • silverfish — sil|ver|fish [ˈsılvəfıʃ US ər ] n plural silverfish or silverfishes a small silver coloured insect that cannot fly and is found in houses …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • silverfish — noun plural silverfish or silverfishes (C) a small silver coloured insect that is found in houses and sometimes damages paper or cloth …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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