101 (Bristletails: Silverfish and Firebrats)
By: Robert (Bob) Batman
ENTOMOLOGICAL CLASSIFICATION Phylum Arthropoda Class Hexapoda
or Insecta Order Thysanura Family Lepismatidae Genus/species Various
Without metamorphosis (change in form):
newly hatched are the same shape (form) as adults, just smaller.
THAN ONE SPECIES: Bristletails existed over 400 million years
ago! Now that's adaptability. Most customers don't know the differences
between silverfish and firebrats, but a PCO should! Pest control
operators are usually concerned with only the following four genera
and species: 1) Lepisma saccharina (Linnaeus), the common silverfish,
2) Ctenolepisma longicaudata (Escherich), the gray silverfish,
3) Ctenolepisma lineata (Fabricius), the four-lined silverfish,
and 4) Thermobia domestica (Packard), the common firebrat.
FEW FACTS ABOUT EACH: 1) The common silverfish prefers temperatures
between 70 and 80 degrees F and dies when temperatures remain
above 95 degrees F. for a period of time. Don't look for these
in your attic in the summer. 2) The gray silverfish prefers California
and New England. 3) Of the above species, only the four-lined
silverfish is commonly found indoors and outdoors in our part
of the country: check out your mulch and/or gravel beds and wood
shingle siding and roofing! This silverfish isn't picky regarding
whether it is dry or moist: they can tolerate both environments
just fine! 4) Firebrats prefer temperatures in access of 90 degrees
F and like the wood shingle roofing materials. Silverfish cannot
tolerate the hot attic temperatures during warm weather months,
but the firebrats love it! No self-respecting firebrat would be
caught dead inside an air-conditioned house (temp: 69-80) when
he/she can be in the hot attic! Rule of thumb, silverfish prefer
temperatures below 90 degrees F while firebrats prefer temperatures
above 90 degrees F. Both silverfish and firebrats have a life
span of several years.
TIME TO EAT! WHERE'S THE FOOD? These animals feed on a variety
of things which include either proteins of carbohydrates, or both,
including but not limited to 1) Starches, glues, gums, casein,
and dextrin (binders found in cloth and adhesives), 2) paper which
has had sizing, paste, or glue application (book bindings, labeling
materials, wallpaper, cellophane, art cloth, and boxes), 3) wheat
flours and starches and products made from same, 4) fabrics (starched
clothing, rayon, linen, artificial silk, and cotton), 5) dried
beef and beef extracts used in adhesive products, and 6) some
NEEDS FOOD? These animals can withstand very long periods without
food or water: Lindsay (1940) observed one adult survive 307 days
without food. She also noted 1) that Ctenolepisma longicaudata
(Escherich) had a cellulose-digesting bacteria and fungus hyphae
in it's crop and, 2) it, C. Longicaudata (Esch.), does not actually
drink liquids: it gets its moisture from the moisture content
of its food.
SWEET HOME, WHERE'S HOME? Silverfish and firebrats generally live
and breed in the inaccessible parts of a building (within walls,
within the voids between floor levels, within the cracks and crevices
of wood shingling, under carpeting, and under and behind insulation).
Most building infestations include more than one species of silverfish
and, of course, firebrats. They are initially brought into buildings
in constructions materials, boxes containing various items, or
gain access from landscaping materials which are placed adjacent
STORY NUMBER 1: A longtime commercial account (a restaurant) which
was presently undergoing remodeling phoned our office for a special
service: "We have miniature, prehistoric-looking monsters all
over the restrooms! Help!" To make an otherwise longer story short,
they had common silverfish, Lepisma saccharina (Linnaeus), infesting
all the boxes of ceramic tile. Boxes of tile had been delivered
and placed in each of the restrooms during remodeling of same.
Our service technician performed appropriate service and the problem
was resolved before it could spread.
STORY NUMBER 2: A residential customer was building a new house
and had prearranged for certain pest control measures to be performed
during construction. One of the control measures was a thorough
pesticide application to the attic areas prior to placement of
insulation and another immediately following placement of insulation.
In mid summer, our service technician treated the attic areas
with liquid residual pesticide followed by fogging, as scheduled,
five (5) days before the insulation crew arrived. No silverfish
were observed at the time of the first attic service by our technician
or the customer (who was present). The customer had scheduled
for the attic to be treated (liquid residual followed by fogging)
three (3) days after the insulation crew finished their work.
When the service technician performed the second attic treatment,
as scheduled, he and the customer (who was present) claim silverfish
and firebrats were falling from the rafters and number one cedar
shingles like rain drops! The customer said he couldn't believe
what he was seeing, and to never tell his wife about it. The insulation
material was obviously infested with silverfish and firebrats
before it was brought to the construction sight!
SILVERFISH BATMAN!" A customer will sometimes hold up an article
of clothing and say, "look what the silverfish did!" The customer
points to a hole in the garment you could drive an Ohio class
submarine through and wants the attic treated, again! There are
several critters that can make such holes in clothing, but none
of them are silverfish or firebrats!
AND FIREBRAT PROBLEMS REQUIRE APPROPRIATE TREATMENT: In our area
of the country, contractors build a variety of houses: some are
built on slabs, some over crawl spaces, some have basements, some
have a combination of the afore- listed, some have partly inaccessible
crawl and/or attic areas, and some have crawl areas and/or attic
areas which are totally inaccessible! Various types of insulation
and roofing material is used, sometimes on the same house. A wide
variety of landscaping material is available, and used. We have
old houses (many over a hundred years old), many not so old, and
thousands of newer and new homes. The same can be said for commercial
construction: lots of variety!
problems require serious solutions. Silverfish and firebrat problems
need to be addressed at an adequate level (extent of service)
and frequency to successfully combat the existing situation(s).
Some situations may need a regularly scheduled service (monthly,
every other month, or quarterly) following the initial service,
and some situations may require less service. A professional pest
control service technician is trained to give recommendations
based on existing situation(s). As with any pest, the pest situation
can change, and sometimes additional control measures are needed.
The customer must be willing to authorize the extent and frequency
of service needed, when needed, otherwise the problem may magnify.
Silverfish and firebrat problems are usually good candidates for
a monthly or quarterly service program.
HOMEOWNERS NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT A QUARTERLY SERVICE PROGRAM:
A quarterly service program is not a clean-out all the pest problems
type of service. It (a quarterly service program) is designed
to provide an economical approach (low cost service) which aids
in the control of certain pests, but such a program is not a cure-all
and cannot prevent certain problems from arising between visits.
First of all, a quarterly service program is a low cost, minimum
service program. Secondly, all houses have obstructions and conditions
which prevent placement of pesticides and/or utilization of other
control methods where the pests live and breed. A service technician's
effort is limited: 1) as to where pesticides can be placed and/or,
2) where other control measures can be performed and, as a result
of such limitations as well as other factors, pest situations
change, and sometimes additional service (service in addition
to the regular quarterly service) is needed. A customer who is
reluctant to authorize what is recommended or needed, when it
is recommended or needed, may suffer the consequences. This is
never more true than when discussing attic treatments for silverfish
and firebrats. There are different types of attic treatments:
some are inexpensive and some are not. Some situations need the
more expensive treatments: some do not. Depending on the attic
situation, it can be fogged, dusted, baited, treated with liquid
residual, or a combination of the afore-listed. There are various
fogging agents, dusting agents, baits, and liquid residuals: some
are inexpensive and some are not. The options line up like a restaurant
menu: each listed along with its price. Which one do you need?
you phone a PCO for service and you tell the PCO you have 2,000
square feet of living space plus a full basement, a two car garage,
and a10,000 cubic foot attic. You tell the PCO you have a silverfish
problem and want your house and attic treated. The PCO explains
and prices the service as follows: X number of dollars plus any
appropriate tax (some states have a service tax) to treat the
accessible areas of the house (living quarters, basement and garage)
plus an additional amount for the attic treatment. The PCO explains
the price options for attic treatment ranging from $10.00 per
attic entry to $120.00 per attic entry, plus any tax. Which level
of service does your attic need? Which level of service do you
think is going to give the best results?
the service technician arrives at your house to perform the requested
service, he/she may recommend either a more extensive or a less
extensive attic service than the one you have requested. Some
technicians, when they believe a situation justifies it, make
an on-the- spot recommendation based on their experience: nothing
wrong with that. It's just a recommendation regarding the level
of service needed from an experienced professional, you don't
have to take his/her advise. The technician should cheerfully
perform whatever extent of service you are willing to pay for.
But, remember the old saying, you get what you pay for.
If you live the Greater Kansas City Metro area, give Best a call: (816)
765-8844 or (913) 671-8844.