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Gray Silverfish (Ctenolepisma longicaudata)

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

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Image Credit: Nathaniel from NC
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Often solitary, Gray Silverfish are usually spotted indoors, scurrying around floors and up walls, looking for a warm place to rest.

Updated: 04/30/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Gray Silverfish is a fast insect usually found around dark, warm places inside a home (ovens, furnaces, fireplaces, bathroom vents, clothes dryer, etc.). It has a very flat body and can run under baseboards and into other tight spaces to hide. It has three thread-like tails found at tip of its abdomen that almost match the length of their antennae. Silverfish bodies are covered in flexible and slippery gray scales that help prevent the insect from capture by bigger things like centipedes and spiders.

All Silverfish are attracted to dry, starchy substances, which comprise their food. It is not unusual to find them wandering around in pantries or cupboards where bags of flour, sacks of potatoes, and other starchy delights are stored. The crusty glue that binds old book pages together is also source of food to Gray Silverfish so it is common to find them in libraries, both public and at home. It is also not unusual to even find them between the pages of old books. Gray Silverfish can live for months without eating. They are harmless to humans, though many people consider them a nuisance. This type of insect requires a long time to mature. Some Silverfish need 2 years to become fully-grown adults, and other species take even longer.©InsectIdentification.org

Known Diet of the Gray-Silverfish

paper and textile products
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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Fast insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Thysanura
        Family: Lepismatidae
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          Genus: Ctenolepisma
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            Species: longicaudata

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Ctenolepisma longicaudata
Other Name(s): Silverfish
Category: Bristletail
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 20mm (0.39" to 0.78")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: gray; black; silver
Descriptors: fast; tail; three; flat; silver; pantry; bathroom

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 20mm (0.8in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 15mm
Hi: 20mm

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 Gray Silverfish 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 Gray Silverfish. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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