Morning silverfish

My morning name two days ago was silverfish (yesterday’s was toe jam, and I’ve posted on that). A perfect example of a morning name, since I had no idea why the little insect should have popped into my mind. This morning there were two, but they were entirely explicable: howler monkey (I read about them in the NYT yesterday, fascinating story) and dermestid beetle (prominently mentioned in a CSI: NY episode I watched yesterday). Brief words about them, and then on to the silverfish.

Male howler monkeys. There are several howler monkey species, and in each one, according to research reported in the Times, males have either deep voices or big testicles (two characteristics that females find attractive, for different reasons), but not both; both characteristics are big drains on the energy budgets of the monkeys. Some species go one way, some the other.

Dermestid beetles. Disgusting but sometimes useful creatures. From Wikipedia:

Dermestidae are a family of Coleoptera that are commonly referred to as skin beetles.

… These beetles are significant in forensic entomology. Some species are known to be associated with decaying carcasses, which helps with criminal investigations. Some species are pests … and can cause extensive damage to natural fibers in homes and businesses.

They are used in taxidermy and by natural history museums to clean animal skeletons. Some dermestid species, commonly called “bow bugs”, infest violin cases, feeding on the bow hair.

Silverfish. From Wikipedia:

Lepisma saccharina, commonly known as a silverfish or fishmoth, is a small, wingless insect in the order Thysanura. Its common name derives from the animal’s silvery light grey and blue colour, combined with the fish-like appearance of its movements, while the scientific name (L. saccharina) indicates the silverfish’s diet consists of carbohydrates such as sugar or starches.

Silverfish are nocturnal insects typically 13–25 mm (0.5–1 in) long. Their abdomens taper at the end, giving them a fish-like appearance. The newly hatched are whitish, but develop a greyish hue and metallic shine as they get older.

… Like other species in Apterygota, silverfish are completely wingless. They have long antennae, and move in a wiggling motion that resembles the movement of a fish. This, coupled with their appearance and silvery scales, influences their common name. Silverfish typically live for two to eight years.

… Silverfish are a cosmopolitan species, found in Africa, the Americas, Australia, Eurasia, and other parts of the Pacific. They inhabit moist areas, requiring a relative humidity between 75% and 95%. In urban areas, they can be found in attics, basements, bathtubs, sinks, kitchens, and showers.


Silverfish consume matter that contains polysaccharides, such as starches and dextrin in adhesives. These include book bindings, carpet, clothing, coffee, dandruff, glue, hair, some paints, paper, photos, plaster, and sugar. Silverfish can also cause damage to tapestries. Other substances they may eat include cotton, dead insects, linen, silk, or even its own exuvia (moulted exoskeleton). During famine, a silverfish may even attack leatherware and synthetic fabrics. Silverfish can live for a year or more without eating.

Silverfish are considered household pests, due to their consumption and destruction of property. However, although they are responsible for the contamination of food and other types of damage, they do not transmit disease.

Silverfish damage:


They also do not bite humans, though venomous centipedes, which people sometimes confuse with silverfish, do. Mostly silverfish just flee into a dark place.

However, it seems that some people have allergic reactions to the shed scales of silverwish.

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