Most common insects that look like and are mistaken for silverfish

A pest infestation is not a fun thing, especially if you don’t know what your home is infested with. You might have silverfish but the problem could be earwigs or firebrats, as well. In order to have the proper treatment and take all the necessary preventive measures, you need to identify the pest, first.

In this article, we will share with you all the most important physical and behavioural characteristics of silverfish and all the bugs that you can mistake them for.

What does a silverfish look like?

silverfish in the houseSilverfish are carrot-shaped, metallic silver-coloured, wingless runners that hate warm weather and love eating your wallpapers. They don’t have wings and their size varies from 13 to 25 mm. You can recognise them by the three bristles that come out from the abdomen. Silverfish do not carry any diseases, they rarely bite people and pets or cause allergic reactions.

In regards to living habits, silverfish search for dark, humid places where they can live away from predators and procreate. When they are running, the moves slightly resemble those of a fish swimming in the water, which is where they get the name from. Silverfish tend to avoid confrontations and prefer to hide in the gloomy corners of your house, leaving them only to find food. They mainly feed on things that contain either starch or sugar, such as flour, sugar, oats, adhesives, paper, dried-out beef and sometimes, even on other dead insects. They do not hibernate during the winter, so your property can get infested any time of the year. You can often find them in laundry rooms, basements, under sinks, in kitchen cupboards and basically every dark, humid place you have in your house. See what else attracts silverfish in your home.

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Bugs that look like silverfish


Firebats are the species that is the most similar to silverfish. Their colour varies from grey to brown, with dark spots on the back, while the shape of the body resembles the one of a carrot. They are the same size as silverfish, their small antennae look very similar and they are just as speedy when it comes to running away from something or someone.

However, they do have their differences when it comes to their preferred living space. Silverfish like it cold, humid and dark, whereas firebrats enjoy the heat and even thrive in it. Their feet are fire-resistant, giving them the ability to walk on furnaces, boilers and hot water pipes.

So, if you see a bug that looks like a silverfish but is not hiding away from the sizzling sun, then you got yourself a firebrat.

Image by: Michel Rathwell / License: CC BY 2.0


Earwigs have many subspecies but their common characteristics are the brownish-red colour of the body, their size varying from 5 to 25mm, and that they love munching on plants and other smaller insects. However, some of them have wings, unlike silverfish. They sneak through cracks in building walls, but they can also attach themselves to furniture, boxes and newspaper that you bring inside. They also dislike hot, dry weather and will search for a dark and humid place to live and procreate.

The main physical difference is that silverfish have three appendages starting from their abdomen while earwigs have only two.

Image by: Brian Gratwicke / License: CC BY 2.0


Technically speaking, silverfish are actually a subspecies of Bristletails and they are from the same family. There is a specific type of silverfish that invades people’s homes, try to nest indoors and is often seen by people, while other kinds of bristletails are rarely seen inside and are usually bigger than silverfish, as well.

Image by: Katja Schulz / License: CC BY 2.0




Various subspecies of lice are often mistaken for silverfish due to their grey colour and similar body size. However, this is as close as they go. Booklice and woodlice, for example, aren’t nearly as fast as silverfish and they have different shapes.

Image by: Wikipedia / License: CC BY-SA 3.0





  • The best way to know which pest species keep you company at night is to call a professional pest control technician. They will be able to determine whether you have silverfish or something else by looking at multiple factors and using their years of experience. Read more about our silverfish control service.
  • The behaviour of the insect can be just as useful as the physical characteristics in the process of figuring out the exact species.
  • Never directly touch an insect and always put on protective wear.
  • Some characteristics can only be seen up close.

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Consider that we give information about the difference between the silverfish and firebrats, earwigs, bristletails and booklice, as well as what damages they can cause.

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