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Firebrat (Thermobia domestica)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Firebrat

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Image Credit: Ryan Hodnett, taken in Kitchener, ON (PUBLIC DOMAIN: CC by S-A)
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The Firebrat is a heat-loving type of Silverfish that loves a good book.

Updated: 07/18/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Firebrats are part of the same order as Silverfish. They have a long and flat silvery body with spike-like hairs protruding from yellowish scale-type plates. They have 3 long, thread-like tails that split from the tip of the abdomen. They can move quickly, but do not have wings. Despite their feisty name, Firebrats do not bite, sting, or hurt people. Their presence is a nuisance more than anything, and they rarely form infestations indoors.

Firebrats are common throughout all of North America and prefer the warmth of the indoors, especially near heat sources. Individuals are sometimes found inside homes and buildings near warm vents, furnaces and stoves. They feed off of starchy kitchen products like flour and potatoes, making them a potential pest in bakeries. They may also eat an occasional synthetic human-made product, like the glue that binds books, making them a likely visitor to the local library. Fabrics made from plants, like cotton and linen, are also edible to Firebrats. They hide in crevices and cracks, out of sight and often overlooked.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Firebrat

starchy materials; synthetic products and plants
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Hairy insect icon
Segmented insect icon
Spiny / Spiky insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Thysanura
        Family: Lepismatidae
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          Genus: Thermobia
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            Species: domestica

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Thermobia domestica
Other Name(s): Silverfish
Category: Bristletail
Size (Adult; Length): 13mm to 14mm (0.51" to 0.55")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white; yellow; gray; brown; black
Descriptors: speckled; segmented; tails; spiky; hairy; kitchen

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 13mm (0.5in) and 14mm (0.6in)
Lo: 13mm
Md: 13.5mm
Hi: 14mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Firebrat may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Firebrat. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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