Thysanura Introduction

Silverfish are 6-18 mm long and wingless. They are slender, dorsoventrally flattened, and tapered posteriorly, and they have three tail-like appendages at the end of the abdomen. Their body is usually covered with shiny, fish-like scales, which is the origin of their common name. Antennae are long and slender; the eyes are small and widely separated, and sometimes absent. Mouthparts are mandibulate, and considered to be chewing. Development progresses through distinct stages. At the third or fourth molt, the young develop scales that color their body. Thysanurans are long-lived insects that continue to molt after becoming sexually mature. They are mostly nocturnal and omnivorous scavengers. Natural populations occur in leaflitter or under bark, in caves, in the burrows ofcertain mammals, or in association with ant and termite nests.

Mating behaviors of Lepisma saccharina and Thermobia domestica have been documented. Courtship involves mutual contact with the antennae (antennation) and the male and female walking in tandem, usually in contact with a perpendicular wall. The male produces a number of silken threads that extend at an angle from the wall to the substrate, and, associated with the angular threads, there is a horizontal mat of silken threads. The male deposits a pear-shaped or oval spermatophore on the silk substrate. In L. saccharina, the female moves along the wall and her legs contact threads on the ground, which stimulates her to raise her cerci. When the cerci contact silk threads that are attached to the wall, the female stops and begins to search for the spermatophore with her ovipositor. In T. domestica the male indicates the presence of the spermatophore to the female by contacting her with his antennae. The silk threads on the substrate excite the female, delimiting the mating area.

Eggs are about 1 mm long, elliptical, and white to pale yellow when laid, but they turn brown before hatching. Females usually lay about i00 eggs in cracks and crevices; they are laid singly or in groups of about 45. Hatching occurs in 2 weeks to 2 months, depending on environmental conditions. Young closely resemble adults, except for size. Adults live for several years, and continue to molt every 2-3 weeks. These insects are primarily nocturnal and feed on plant and animal material, including insect cast skins and other insects.

Pest status is based on their presence indoors, but is limited to a few species. The majority of species live in moist wooded habitats, such as under bark of trees and logs, in mammal burrows; several species occur in ant and termite nests. Indoors, silverfish infest food and fabric storage sites where they feed on a starchy material, including old book binding, starched clothing, and starch-based wallpaper glue. They often occur in large numbers in attics ofhouses with wood-shingle roofs. Silverfish are trapped in sinks and bathtubs because they usually cannot climb smooth surfaces. Damage to fabric by silverfish is characterized by the presence of irregular feeding marks on individual fibers, small amounts of feces, and in the case of linen there may be pale yellow stains. Firebrats will attack either knitted or plain-weave fabric. The firebrat midgut has enzymes that digest starch, fat, and protein. The four-lined silverfish, Ctenolepisma lineata, has the enzyme cel-lulase that assists in the digestion of cellulose-material, and the crop has cellulose-digesting bacteria, and small amounts offungal hyphae.

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