Local Silverfish

2017 April 5

Silverfish are so rare around Houghton that I had actually come to think that they didn’t live in this area at all. Until Sam came home from school on October 25, 2016 with this specimen in a jar:


It seems that she’d been seeing it in her locker for some days, and had finally caught it when it was trying to devour her science book.


Before bringing it home, she showed it to her science teacher and to the other kids. There was actually quite a bit of interest in it, because Minecraft is pretty popular at her school, and one of the creatures in Minecraft is called a “silverfish”. Although, as the other kids noted, the Minecraft silverfish doesn’t look much like the real thing.


This is almost certainly Lepisma saccharina, the common silverfish, which inhabit moist parts of buildings worldwide. The last silverfish I posted was this one that I photographed in Tasmania back in June 2013, which was a bit scruffier looking and had much longer abdomen filaments. I thought at the time that the Tasmanian specimen was also the common silverfish, but now that I have the real thing to compare it to, I’m not so sure.


While they commonly infest books (like, say, schoolbooks in a locker), they evidently are more interested in the starchy glues and coatings on the paper. They are reported to have some ability to digest cellulose, but not to the extent that, say, termites do. Still, it does look like a lot of the wear-and-tear on books at school may be due to silverfish eating them, and not just to the routine abuse by kids in middle school.

I expect that the reason that they are in the school, and not at home, is that the school probably has a higher humidity than our house does. So the silverfish in school don’t dry up and die during the winter. And, of course, the fact that hundreds of kids shuttle back and forth from home to school every day means that if anybody in town has silverfish at home, they will most likely end up in the school fairly quickly.

4 Responses
  1. Anne Bingham permalink
    April 5, 2017

    Or, if the homes don’t have silverfish, the kids will import them with their homework…

  2. Carole permalink
    April 5, 2017

    Non uncommon in Florida

  3. April 6, 2017

    Yes, schools are marvelous for spreading all sorts of things. Flu, colds, Noravirus, head lice, silverfish . . . I kind of wonder how many of these things would become vanishingly uncommon or even extinct if everyone just did online classes from home?

  4. April 14, 2017

    San Diego has lots of them, despite being a coastal desert.

    Around Christmas, whenever I see them I break out into that classic carol, “Silverfish, Silverfish, It’s Christmastime in the city!”

    I know it’s corny, but it’s true.

    Why yes, my wife *is* being considered for sainthood. Why do you ask?

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