Silverfish Lepisma saccharina

Silverfish Lepisma saccharina

Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Zygentoma (Silverfish)
Family Lepismatidae
Species Lepisma saccharina Linnaeus, 1758

Body length 12-18 mm.
This primitive insect has a silvery-grey scaly appearance, a flattened, tapering body, with long antennae, and three long bristles called cerci at the tail end of the abdomen. It moves from side to side like a fish swimming hence its common name. Silverfish don’t like it when a light is turned on, and they instinctively flee into the shadows. This is called “negative phototaxis”. When handled soft whitish scales rub off them onto the skin.

The scientific name, ‘saccharina’ literally means ‘starch eater’. A nocturnal scavenger, it will feed on glue, book bindings, paper, photos, sugar, coffee, hair, carpet, clothing and dandruff. It can become a pest in libraries and museums for it has a voracious appetitie for starches.

Seen all year round, it is found in houses and outbuildings, especially kitchens, bathrooms and basements. Outdoors they can be discovered under rocks, in leaf-litter, caves, and in ant nests. Common and widespread throughout Britain.

Discovered in house on kitchen worktop, South Staffordshire, July 2020. © Peter Hillman.