When dealing with insects, it’s always important to know exactly what type of problem you have on your hands. Solutions and products that work on one type of insect are often ineffective on others, even if they are a part of the same overall family group.
Additionally, lookalike insects can often have drastically different (or no) effects on your home, property, and health. The same goes for silverfish and insects that look like silverfish as well.
Silverfish grow without changing their body structure (i.e. without metamorphosing). They reproduce relatively slowly and live longer than most other insects. While they have a relatively unique body structure, they can still be mistaken for some other insects. That’s why, in this article, we’ll cover exactly what silverfish look like and go over some of the insects that look similar to silverfish.
What do silverfish look like?
They have two long antennae on their heads as well as three slender bristles that trail out behind them. Their tapered, carrot-like bodies are covered with shiny, silvery scales. It’s this coloring, in combination with their scales, that has earned them their common name: silverfish.
Silverfish are wingless but quite fast-footed. Adult silverfish can range from 0.4 in. (1 cm) up to 0.75 in. (2 cm) in length. Young silverfish nymphs are small, pale, fat, and lack scales. They’ll go through several molt stages to reach adulthood, continuing to molt regularly throughout their lives. After the fourth molting (about 12 days after they hatch), they’ll grow scales and start to look more like adults. Silverfish eggs themselves are about 0.04 in. (0.1 cm) long.
Silverfish prefer warm, shady, and moist environments with bountiful food nearby. They will travel long distances for food if need be, though. They are also strictly nocturnal, which is why we rarely see them even when they’ve already settled in our homes.
Silverfish Lookalikes: The Most Common Insects Mistaken for Silverfish
As unique as silverfish are, there are still silverfish lookalikes out there. These are often mistaken for their silver-colored cousins. The most common bugs that look like silverfish are firebrats, bristletails, earwigs, centipedes, and woodlice. So, if you want to be certain of what you’re dealing with, here’s a quick breakdown of all the common bugs that resemble silverfish.
Firebrats, or Thermobia domestica, are members of the same insect order as silverfish: Zygentoma. As a result, they’re quite similar to silverfish. They are also flattened, wingless insects that are fast on their feet. Firebrats share similar mating and feeding habits and are also nocturnal.
In terms of their appearance, firebrats are darker in color than silverfish and are brown rather than silver. You will find them in drier habitats. They prefer warmer temperatures than their cousins, so they are often found near furnaces or boilers.
Bristletail is the common name for insects of the order Archaeognatha (or Microcoryphia). Zygentoma, which contains both silverfish and firebrats, is the sister order to Archaeognatha. One of the most common silverfish lookalikes in this order is the jumping bristletail.
Like silverfish, jumping bristletails lack wings and have scales, thin bristles, and long antennae. They are round (rather than flat), gray (rather than silver), and vary in size (from 0.2–0.8 in./5–20 mm). Most bristletails, including the jumping bristletails, are outdoor insects. This means that they will rarely come close to your home or property as there’s nothing of interest for them there.
Unlike silverfish, bristletails can jump as far as 4 in. (10 cm) when disturbed. So, if you scare a bug that you think might be a silverfish and it jumps instead of scurrying away, it’s probably a bristletail.
Even though it is a bit less silverfish-like, an earwig can also be mistaken for a silverfish by the untrained eye. It’s a very different insect, though. Instead of three distinctive bristles trailing behind them, earwigs have two menacing-looking pincers. They’re also primarily dark brown with reddish heads and pale legs. Their most significant commonality with silverfish is that they are both about 0.5 in. (1.2 cm) long.
Earwigs are mostly found outdoors but sometimes venture inside. Even though they may look unpleasant, they’re harmless to humans. You may have heard someone say that earwigs crawl into people’s ears while they sleep, but this is simply not true.
Earwigs feed on live and dead plants in your garden and may sometimes feed on live or dead insects. They will sometimes enter homes in the summer months.
Like the earwig, centipedes have a lot of physical differences when compared to silverfish. You’ll also usually see them from far away. At a greater distance, it’s easier to mistake them for silverfish. One complicating factor is that both silverfish and a lot of centipedes are rather quick on their feet and hide when you try to approach them.
Still, from up close, centipedes are quite easy to tell from silverfish since they have at least 30 legs, if not more. It’s also worth mentioning that centipedes actually like to eat pests such as silverfish, roaches, and ants.
A woodlouse (sometimes booklice), can be mistaken for silverfish thanks to the same grey coloring that some species have. They do have a different body shape, so when compared side by side, you can clearly tell which is which.
A lot of insects can be mistaken for silverfish from afar. But, these ancient insects do have many distinctive characteristics that make them stand out when viewed up close. Only firebrats and jumping bristletails can really be mistaken for silverfish. But, if you examine them carefully, the common types of indoor silverfish are easy to identify.
I have these flat little bugs that look like splinters that you get in your hand from wood what are they
Not exactly sure, given the amount of information provided. Is it possible for those to be fleas? Either way, try this BugFinder, perhaps it will help you sort this out.
Hi, my wallpaper has started coming away from the gable end wall. I have pulled it away and there were a lot of long insects which scurried away and I don’t know where they have gone. At the top of the wall in the corner there is a lot of what looks like brown debris, I’m wondering if that is where they have come from and I’m also wondering if you would know what they are. Thank you
You’d have to be more specific describing the insect, for us to possibly be able to help you out identifying it. You can try using this BugFinder to figure out what creatures are bugging you (pun intended). As for the debris, you should inspect it closely to understand what it is since that might be either their nest or perhaps there might be a hole under the debris which insects might be using to enter your room.
I have a few bugs that look like silverfish, torpedo shape, in my bathroom on the floor…but they are shiny black and can scoot across the floor really quickly.. about 3/4 inch long..usually just the odd one at a time, never seen more than two at a time.. What are they, how do I get rid ?
Any chance you could be dealing with earwigs? You can try using neem oil or Diatomaceous Earth at places where they might be crawling.
I see these also. I don’t see that their legs protrude from their body. They are jet black, and some are even partially grey, they are very fast. Since I see no antenna they don’t seem to be earwigs, or silverfish?
I’ve had those for like 2 years and idk what they are but they scare the hell out of me
I have a hidiscus plant and I found some tiny, tiny bugs in the soil. The bug is similar to a centipede, very, very small in size (a grain of rice is huge compared to this bug). Do centipedes live in plant soil, if so how can I get rid of them without killing my plant?
Yes, both centipedes and millipedes can be found in soil. If you really need to get rid of them, you can look into some hibiscus-friendly insecticides. However, since they usually pose no danger to plants, we suggest leaving them be, if possible. Obviously, that isn’t always an option.
Hi, I just discovered in my bathroom this morning the same thing Randy described on June 22, 2020. However, I noticed no direct reply to his inquiry as yet. Needless to say, I’m extremely interested in learning what this little thing could be too, thank you!
Not sure what the bug is, but you can try looking it up on BugFinder. If you happen to figure it out, we’ll be happy if you share it with us!
I just found what looked like a house centipede (long thin body, many many long thin legs, about 1.5 inches) on the wall in my living room. It was up high so I had to spray it with some bug spray and it looked like it jumped towards me. Do centipedes jump? I couldn’t find it after that (it’s going to get revenge on me while I sleep).
Also, should I have let it live so it could kill other bugs, or could it multiply and then I’d have a centipede problem?
Yes, they sometimes use jumping while hunting something. Though, house centipedes are usually harmless to people, so you probably shouldn’t worry too much. As for them multiplying, yes, they tend to reproduce rather rapidly. Still, the fact that you’re seeing them means you should really think about the reason why, as they will usually hang out in places with some decent food sources. Them being on your property might be due to you having a severe infestation with something yet unknown. As for what it is, it’s hard to say, as centipedes will feed on a rather variety of other pests.
The best way to get rid of them would be eliminating their food sources, as well as hiding spots (clutter, etc). Obviously, you can also try killing them with insecticides but we would suggest dealing with the reason they’re there, to begin with.
I just found another bug in my bed and its the same one as last time. It looked like either a centipede or earning but didn’t have and pincers and was a dark brown/black. When I saw it it tried to run back to under my bed. I haven’t found anything online about what it could be and im concerned since its the second one I saw.
A millipede, perhaps?
Insect about an inch long. Brown/orange with markings like tree bark. 6 feelers. Footed end. Large head and tapered body. Found on outside window sill.
Based on your description, it sounds like you might be dealing with cockroaches. Most likely, American roaches. In case you run into some problems with them, you should check this article for tips on dealing with the issue.
Are there things that look like silverfish that could infest my house? I saw a silverfish looking thing in my room and am a bit concerned…
If you don’t think those are silverfish, you can try using BugFinder to identify bugs.
Found this bug With centipede type legs one long Antenna that only is in the back of it a little bit of light brown with dark brown strips i put it in a i thought an air tight container but months later it is still alive and has shed its skin what is this thing i thought it was bed bugs or something i found it in a folded up bedspread in my bedroom YIKES CALL ME PARANOID but i dont like sleeping with creeps or crawly things never creepy crawly things help