Silverfish are pesky home invaders that have hairy legs and long bodies in soft silver color. Though you might find them living in different parts of your home. Before you look at how to get rid of these bugs, make sure you actually have a silverfish problem. There are nine different home invaders and bugs that look like silverfish.
There are many bugs that look like silverfish. Some animals and insects like silverfish include firebrats, woodlice, earwigs, isopods, jumping bristletails, and beetle larvae. Knowing their features will help you identify which is a silverfish. And which just looks like one.
Before you learn about insects like silverfish, make sure you know what a silverfish looks like.
This is a type of bug named for the soft and silver color of its body, which can range in color from light gray to a rich silver. Some of these bugs are also blue. Though they look similar to fish, they run and jump rather than swim.
Silverfish usually live on carbohydrates and other starches along with sugary foods. You may find them living in your pantry and feeding off your dry goods.
Silverfish also commonly live in kitchens and bathrooms. A good way to find out if you have a problem on your hands is with a look in your cabinets. They can live in bedrooms and other rooms that have a lot of paper.
Though they prefer certain foods, they will eat paper if they don’t have any other options. You usually will not see multiple silverfish together.
These bugs are both nocturnal and independent.
Many people learn they have a silverfish infestation when they turn on their kitchen lights in the middle of the night and see one of the bugs racing across the room.
Though silverfish are usually not too dangerous and do not bite, you’ll still want to get rid of any that you find. There is a risk that the insects will contaminate any food around your home.
Silverfish release bacteria as they move and can leave behind trails that you don’t notice of this bacteria. As it touches your hands and food, you risk consuming it and becoming sick.
As there are other insects like silverfish, you need to make sure you have a silverfish problem to find products that will take care of those bugs.
9 Insects Like Silverfish
Firebrats are one of the insects like silverfish. They move just as quickly and are roughly the same size.
Some of these bugs are light to dark gray, which is why people think that they’re silverfish.
As they age, firebrats become dark brown. You should also look closely for any dark spots to set them apart from silverfish.
If you get a good look at firebats, you might notice that their bodies have a carrot shape with a thin head and a wider midsection.
Among the bugs that look like silverfish are jumping bristletails. The two insects are closely related, but it’s fairly easy to tell them apart.
Jumping bristletails have longer and thicker legs that allow them to jump higher and move faster.
They are also much larger and usually darker in color. Another way to tell them apart from silverfish is that they rarely come inside and prefer living outdoors.
It’s common for some to confuse silverfish and woodlice because both have silver or gray bodies.
You should get as close as possible to identify the bug though because their bodies are quite different. While silverfish have long and thin bodies, woodlice usually have short and squat bodies.
Some versions of these bugs are also dark red or brown.
There are tons of horror stories about people finding earwigs burrowing in their ears, which is why many people fear them.
When you see the two bugs next to each other though, you may wonder why people confuse the two of them.
Earwigs are usually dark brown or red and have a large set of pinchers on the end of their legs.
They can survive mostly on plants but also eat some small bugs. You’ll also find that they have two sets of legs and large wings that they use for flying.
It’s easy to see why people confuse centipedes with silverfish when you see the bugs together. Both insects have long and thin bodies that they can curl.
Centipedes are insects like silverfish because their bodies are slightly shiny and they move quickly when they see a predator. You’ll also notice that they run away when you turn on the lights.
One way to tell them apart is with a look at their overall color. While silverfish get their name because they have silver bodies, centipedes usually have bodies that are dark brown.
Carpet Beetle Larvae
Though carpet beetles usually don’t look like silverfish, they can in their larvae stage. During this stage, their bodies look similar to silverfish.
You’ll notice that they have a large head on one end and a thin body that often curves to one side. Though some are quite dark, other versions can be pale gray and close to silver.
They like areas that are damp and moist such as the vents in your home or your basement along with cabinets and closets. You may even find these bugs living with silverfish.
Isopods (Pill Bugs)
If you know what isopods look like, you might wonder how anyone could confuse them with silverfish. Isopods are bugs that include army bugs and pill bugs.
They prefer environments that are moist and dark, which is why you see them living with silverfish.
Isopods are more commonly found outside with many species preferring to live in the dirt. Their bodies shine when light reaches them.
Even without light, the bugs have a pale color that is similar to the color of silverfish. They are usually much smaller though.
Unless you have no experience with bugs, you probably won’t confuse stink bugs with silverfish.
Stink bugs were native to parts of Asia but found their way to Pennsylvania and later spread across the country.
They often come inside when the temperature drops, but you may find a large number of them after a storm.
Stink bugs are dark gray in color and have small bodies with short and squat legs. Unlike silverfish that prefer living in damp and moist areas, stink bugs live prefer warm and dry areas.
You probably remember seeing millipedes at recess in school and running away in fear. No one would blame you because even adults find these insects a little creepy.
Millipedes hide in the same places that silverfish do and often resemble those bugs when they’re young. Both babies and adolescent millipedes are insects like silverfish because they have a silver or pale gray color.
You should not have any problems spotting a millipede though because it has a dark body in a shade of deep brown and two pairs of legs, one on each side of its body.
More Reading: Are Bugs and Insects the Same?
Learn more: Identification Guide to 6 Legged Insects
Firebrats vs Silverfish
At first glance, firebrats look very similar to silverfish.
Both are bristletail insects, but distinct species. The primary difference is their appearance.
- Firebrats are grey or brown, with banding of darker colors.
- Silverfish have shiny silver scales, giving a metallic appearance.
Both firebrats and silverfish eat random household items, including wallpaper, crumbs, dead insects, and even books.
Firebrats prefer a drier habitat, where you’ll often find silverfish in moist environments.
Jumping Bristletail vs Silverfish
As with silverfish and firebrats, jumping bristletails are also bristletails.
How high can a jumping bristle tail jump? They can jump 12 in (30 cm) in height.
Jumping bristletails are an order (Archaeognatha) of insects. There are 33 species of Jumping Bristletails, in 14 genera and 2 families.
More reading: Does Lysol Kill Bed Bugs? 6 Better Ways
Treat Your Bug Problem
It’s never too early to get a look at some of the common bugs you might see running around your house. Though silverfish are common, there are bugs that look like silverfish, too.
Knowing how to identify the type of bugs you find is the best way to find out how to treat your problem.
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and writer at The Buginator. And is working to make it the best resource for taking back the outdoors from biting, stinging pests.
He also blogs about travel at Storyteller.Travel and photography at Click Like This. Bryan is a partner at Storyteller Media, a publishing company he runs with his wife, Dena.