The Life Cycle of Silverfish

Silverfish are ancient and unique creatures compared to most other modern-day insects. As a result of that, these fascinating arthropods have a much different lifespan and life cycle than other insects. So, whether you’re dealing with a silverfish infestation and you need to know more about the silverfish life cycle and the silverfish lifespan, or you are just curious – we’ve covered the basics below.

How do silverfish breed?

The breeding process of silverfish involves a mating ritual that’s very rarely seen among other insects. It can take up to 30 minutes or sometimes even an hour, and it involves three stages:

  1. The male and female silverfish stand face to face and touch their antennae into one another.
  2. The male silverfish starts running and the female chases him.
  3. Once the female catches up to the male, he deposits his genetic material through a contact of their tails. After that, the female is ready to lay her fertilized eggs.

What are the silverfish stages of development?

Silverfish develop through a process called “ametabolous metamorphosis”. As Encyclopaedia Britannica explains, this process means that a silverfish will go through no metamorphosis or transformation as it ages – a baby silverfish or a nymph is almost identical physically to an adult silverfish, only smaller. There are no silverfish larvae and the nymphs are what hatches out of the silverfish eggs.

As for the eggs themselves, female silverfish don’t really lay too many eggs throughout their lifetime. A female will typically lay up to 100 eggs in her entire life. Females usually lay 1 – 3 eggs at a time, either individually or on communal clumps of up to 50 – 60. As for where do silverfish lay eggs, they do it in cracks and crevices where they are harder to find.

In ideal conditions (22° – 32° Celsius, high moisture, abundant food sources) a female might be able to lay more eggs at once. Once they are laid, the eggs need anywhere between 2 weeks and 2 months to hatch (again, depending on the outside conditions).

The silverfish nymphs that hatch out of the eggs are about 1mm long and paler in color than their adult counterparts. Silverfish nymphs will molt their external shell 6 – 7 times before they reach sexual maturity which can take anywhere from several months up to three years. Silverfish continue to molt even after they become adults which is also a rather unique thing about them.

How big can silverfish get?

Adult silverfish can reach up to an inch in length (2 – 2.5 cm). This makes them easy to spot with the naked eye which is why they are nocturnal. An adult silverfish will typically lay hidden throughout the day and go looking for food in the small hours of the night. This doesn’t stop them from traveling impressive distances each night, however.

Nevertheless, if you’re not in the habit of staying up late at night, you can have silverfish in your home and not noticed them for a long time. Instead, most homeowners start noticing the damage they’ve caused to your books, documents or dried foods.

Do silverfish infestations spread rapidly?

Because of the small number of eggs they lay, as well as their slow maturing process, silverfish don’t really spread quickly. If you have a truly severe silverfish infestation in your home or property, you can be sure that the little insects have been there for years, slowly building up in numbers. Their ancient and outdated (from the perspective of newer insect species) maturing process is what causes this but it hasn’t stopped silverfish from remaining a worldwide-spread pest. Their nocturnal lifestyle and their ability to hide are what helps them continue on.

Keep in mind, however, that their slow spread is not a good reason to ignore silverfish presence. Even just a few silverfish can deal damage to your property or contaminate your food storage so if you spot a silverfish on your property, the sooner you act, the better.

How long do silverfish live?

Contrasting their slow development process is the long silverfish lifespan. It’s acknowledged by many scientific and governmental sources that silverfish are an unusually long-lived species. Where most other insects have an average lifespan of about a year, most silverfish can live up to 8 years in ideal conditions and at least 2 -3 years in harsh climates.

Such harsh climates can significantly hinder the development and spread of silverfish as most adult silverfish will often die after laying just one batch of eggs. In better conditions, however, silverfish can live long lives and go through many reproductive cycles. Also unlike most other insects, silverfish can reproduce at any time during the year, although they usually do it right after molting.


Even though they are pests, silverfish do fascinate a lot of people with their unique features. The prehistoric arthropods are unlike many other modern-day insects in several different ways. The key conclusions of these differences are simply that silverfish live longer, reproduce more slowly, and rely on survivability rather than numbers. This means that you’ll have a comfortable amount of time to deal with an existing silverfish presence, which is a good thing. But their high survivability also means that you’ll have to put in a lot of effort to eliminate them all from your property.

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