8 Bugs That Look Like Silverfish But Aren’t

If you have once been caught off guard with the sudden jumping of a bug with glistening, silver body and with several, hairy, legs, chances are, you have had your first encounter with a silverfish bug. Because it is not that known, a lot of people would confuse it with other bugs. 

In this post, the silverfish bug is profiled in terms of appearance, nature, and behavior. Most of all, the bugs that look like silverfish are also narrowed down. If you are curious about what these could be, read on. 

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What are silverfish?

A silverfish bug belongs to the order Thysanura with the scientific name Lepisma saccharina. Its common name would be silverfish, fishmoth or bristletail.

Its more popular common name silverfish is attributed to its silver and light grey color (sometimes even bluish) taking on the movement and somewhat the appearance of a fish. Its main diet would be sugar, starches, and carbohydrates. 

Although a bit unheard of especially for most people who are seeing it for the first time, silverfish infestations are quite common.

They love the study room and nibble on paper but their most favorite place of all would be pantries and cupboards where cereals, oats, biscuits, and other sources of starch and carbs are found.

Silverfish bugs are nocturnal, and you would never see them jumping in groups, not even in pairs. Although no serious effects have been reported when it comes to silverfish, they can still contaminate food, leaving trails of bacteria that can cause certain diseases as well as allergies. 

Silverfish facts

Before we rundown the bugs that look like silverfish, it would also be good to know some fun facts about this inconspicuous insect. Hence, here are some silverfish facts that you should know about. 

  • They are considered as one of the most ancient insects on the planet. It is said that they have been around for more than 400 million years. 
  • They have scales like fishes, and they also wiggle like fishes, hence the name. 
  • They do not have wings, but they make up for it with their speed. With this speed, no wonder how prolific they are at night. 
  • Their silver bodies can be found anywhere because they do not stop shedding. This makes them a standout from their insect counterparts who stop shedding at adulthood. 
  • They are usually niching in damp and moist places but since they cannot fly, expect them to have crawled in either the drain, pipes, old belongings in the basement, etc. 
  • Compared to other insects, it has a considerably long lifespan, stretching from 2-8 years. 
  • Female silverfish bugs are prolific egg layers. They lay at least 20 eggs every day. 
  • They perform a peculiar chasing and dancing ritual during the mating season.
  • They can survive without food for one straight year.
  • Silverfish bugs are resistant to most insecticides. It is said that they are one of the hardest insects to get rid of. 

What does a silverfish look like?

Aside from their notable silver and gray color, you can also identify it for being a wingless insect which typically grows at a length of 0.5-1-inch.

They also have abdomens that are taper at the tip, making them resemble the look of a fish. At infancy, silverfish bugs are white in color. As they mature, they develop a metallic gray color. 

Another identifying characteristic of this bug would also be its three hairy cerci at their abdomen’s tips.

Compared to their cousins in the Thysanura order who are eyeless, they have two compound eyes. They also have long antennae, and they wiggle when they move, hence, like a fish. 

Related: What Is The Difference Between a Water Bug and a Cockroach?

Bugs that look like silverfish

Now that we have set everything straight, we are now ready to look into the different bugs that look like silverfish. There are more to this list, but these would be the most akin to silverfish bugs. 

1. Firebrats

It is the first on the list because it resembles silverfish the most. They can be identified for their carrot-shaped bodies and colors which vary from gray to brown, accompanied by dark spots along the body.

They are the same size as silverfish, and they are also as speedy as them. 

Perhaps what sets them apart from silverfish would be their choice of niche. Silverfish loves dark and damp spaces, but firebrats love heat and high humidity.

They get their name for having fire-resistant legs, making them able to walk on boilers, furnaces, and pipes. 

2. Millipedes

This one shares the same color and habitat as that of silverfish bugs. They love moist places, and at youth, they could strike a glistening gray color.

In terms of appearance, they are easy to differentiate. Millipedes have very long, tubular, and segmented bodies. Each segment comes with two pairs of legs. 

When it comes to the environment, they may like the humidity, but they also love heat and humidity. As such, they are highly outdoor species. On the very rare occasions that you catch one inside the home, they are most likely to die. 

3. Jumping bristletails

Technically speaking, silverfish bugs are a subspecies of bristletails so it should not come with wonder if jumping bristletails look the same as silverfish bugs.

As the name suggests, jumping bristletails can jump higher, with more fleshy but agile legs, and are longer and bigger than silverfish bugs. But unlike them, jumping bristletails are more common outdoors compared to their silverfish cousins. 

4. Earwigs

This one is known for having a lot of subspecies, but their most common identifier would be their reddish-brown bodies growing into a maximum of 25mm. They feed on smaller insects and plants.

Their starkest difference to silverfish would be their functional wings and their two appendages instead of three. But in all other aspects, they are quite the same. 

Like silverfish, earwigs thrive in moist, damp, and dark spaces. They enter the home through holes and crevices. They also easily attach themselves to old belongings thanks to their speed. 

5. Centipedes

Physically, the difference between centipedes and silverfish bugs are high, especially when they are seen from afar.

But at a safe distance, they can be confused for silverfish bugs because of their glistening bodies, their wiggling movement, and their speed when disturbed.

But of course, once you see the more than 30 legs of the centipede, you would easily know that it is not a silverfish bug. Fun fact, centipedes are predators to silverfish, ants, and even roaches

6. Carpet beetle larvae

This insect is interesting because it comes with many species, but each would have significant variations when it comes to their color patterns so when it comes to appearance, they do not look anything alike. But when it comes to habit, they share some similarities. 

One, carpet beetle larvae do not have the same speed as silverfish, but they can easily attach themselves to clothes, furry objects, wool, and feathers like silverfish.

When it comes to habitat, they share with silverfish bugs the love for moist and damp places. As such, you would also find them in closets, cupboards, basements and even in vents. 

7. Isopods

The name isopod is a collective term for different bug-like species including roly-polies, pill bugs, snow bugs and army bugs.

From the order alone, they are already different from silverfish bugs because isopods are terrestrial crustaceans. The main similarity between isopods and silverfish bugs would be their habitat and their color. 

Isopods love dark and moist environments. Roly-polies for instance can be found in soils near pipelines and the sewer or niching profusely in basements. They also have a dark gray color, some are in matte texture while others glisten in light. 

8. Woodlice/booklice

The main difference between the two is that woodlice are found outdoors and well, wood while booklice are found in old books and study rooms. They are sometimes mistaken for silverfish bugs (or at least some of their species) because of their gray color. 

However, they have a different shape compared to silverfish, so it is easy to tell which is which. They have a long and ovate body, shelled, with large, hard antennae and more legs compared to silverfish. 

FAQs

Are silverfish harmful to humans? 

The good news about silverfish is that they are not noted to be harmful to humans besides some reported allergic reaction due to molting.

They are also not biters and there are no associated pathogens to silverfish bugs. Perhaps, the only concern about them is that they still carry harmful bacteria which can contaminate food items.

Are silverfish harmful to pets? 

Generally, silverfish bugs are also not harmful to pets because they are very shy insects. However, when they are ingested by pets, they can give cats and dogs severe stomach ache because they carry with them bacteria. 

Why do I have silverfish in my home?

One of the most common reasons would be, your home harbors an open food supply. This means that your cupboard is not closed enough, allowing them entrance and the lid of your food containers have gaps.

Other than that, cleanliness is another factor. And the most important reason of course is that you have a lot of damp, dark, and moist spaces. 

What are silverfish a sign of? 

This is often an underreported fact but the presence of silverfish in your home could be pointing to a larger problem. 

  • Note that silverfish bugs are moisture loving species. Having them around means that there are leakages or holes and crevices around that need sealing. 
  • They are preyed on by other insects. Silverfish bug infestation could be a winning moment for silverfish predators such as millipedes and centipedes. 

Does one silverfish denote an infestation?

As has been mentioned, silverfish bugs can live independently and scavenge on their own.

They do not find food in groups and are least likely to be seen in pairs even at their most active hours. With this, sighting one silverfish may or may not denote an infestation. If you are unsure, best consult with a pest control professional. 

How to prevent silverfish bugs

As have been mentioned, silverfish are quite common and can be found in pantries and cupboards. And if you want to have an insect or pest-free home, there are still steps that you can employ to prevent silver bugs from niching in your home. 

  • Limit food sources. Only use airtight containers for dry goods and other food items. 
  • Sweep and vacuum the floor and furniture to limit the trail of food crumbs. 
  • Silverfish bugs are attracted to moisture. Have dehumidifiers around to reduce moisture and dampness. 
  • Consider plastic sheeting in crawl spaces or in unfinished basements to lessen moisture. 
  • Make sure that ridge vents are properly installed. Also, clean your gutters regularly.
  • Seal all holes and crevices around the home. 

If you suspect an infestation, it would be good to consult pest control professionals. It would also be a good move to prohibit the infestation of silverfish bugs at all. 

Does vinegar kill silverfish right away? 

We see you home remedy junkies but in the case of silverfish, no amount of vinegar, detergent solution, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves could repel them instantly.

Remember, they are one of the hardest insects to control so there is no one way to keep them off the home. So, no, vinegar would not help in killing silverfish bugs immediately. 

What natural remedies could be done to repel silverfish?

As has been said, these insects are not easily repelled. Fortunately, there are some natural home remedies that you can carry out if you want to gradually get rid of them in their indoor nests. 

  • Use citrus scented or lavender essential oils. Add a few drops of an all-purpose cleaner and spray the solution under the sink, the bathroom in general, the kitchen, pantry, and cupboards. 
  • Consider using lots of spicy sachets. While we said that they cannot get rid of them immediately, the use of loads of spicy sachets in one space could overwhelm almost any insect as well as rodents. So, leave at least five of them in the cupboard or pantry and watch them do their trick. 
  • Dehumidifiers in the basement are very essential in keeping it from insects and other pesky critters like rodents. The use of essential oils is yet again a proven tip to be used along with dehumidifiers especially in study rooms and basements. 

Can mothballs kill silverfish?

While the scent would clearly repel them, mothballs do not kill silverfish so when the smell is tolerable enough in the basement or somewhere they could thrive, expect to see them again in the same places at home. 

Will silverfish bugs drown in water?

Interestingly, yes. These wingless insects are not good swimmers. In fact, they do not know how to swim at all.

This is quite interesting as they are known for their wiggly movement and being named after fishes. So take this as a fine step in killing off silverfish bugs: submerge them in water. 

How do I spot silverfish nests at home?

Like all other indoor insects which tend to niche in the dark spaces in the home, you can spot silverfish nests when you see one of the following: 

  • Tiny and uneven holes in books, papers, fabrics, and plastic food containers. 
  • Silver gray molting in crawl spaces, basements, and other dark spaces. 
  • Tiny black drooping in the carpet and where they niche. 
  • Yellow stains in carpet and furniture. 
  • Find nests in wood and other construction materials during hot weather. 

What time of the year do silverfish bugs come out? 

It depends on where you live but generally, once the climate has become damp and the air reaches its balanced humidity, expect to spot one or two silverfish bugs at home.

In temperate climates such as Southern California, Florida, and South Carolina, among others, silverfish bugs can be a problem year-round. 

At what temperature do silverfish thrive?

Silverfish bugs are very adaptive insects. When it comes to their thriving temperature, you would be surprised to know that they can withstand freezing temperatures and up to 100F.

They are really challenging to get rid of so pest control experts might be a better solution if there is already an infestation in your home. 

Do silverfish glow in the dark?

This is a valid question since they have metallic gray bodies but the answer to this is that they somewhat glow in the dark.

These are nocturnal objects whose bodies emit a soft glow at night. However, even if you can spot them for this soft glow, they are very speedy, and it is rare to be able to catch one single handedly. 

Conclusion

Silverfish bugs might be inconspicuous at first or shocking because of their wiggly movements but they could do the same damage as mites to wood and other insects to your belongings especially books and clothes.

It is quite vital to know how similar or the same some insects are for you to know which pest control is most applicable. With all of these, you should be prepared the next time you see a silverfish bug in your home.

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