FAMILIES OF THYSANURA OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
R. A. Cannings and G. G. E. Scudder
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Family Lepismatidae (common bristletails)
Two alien species, Lepisma saccharina Linnaeus, the Common Silverfish and Thermobia domestica (Packard), the Firebrat, commonly occur indoors in British Columbia. Both are household pests all around the world, although it is not clear where they first lived before humans transported them far and wide. Bristletails are mostly active at night or in dark enclosed places during the day. They go through many moults as they grow, maturing in 3 to 24 months, depending on temperature and food supply. Unlike winged insects they moult even after adulthood is reached, and may live 3 to 4 years. They are agile and fast running creatures; their backwardly directed scales allow them to slip through tiny cracks and crevices and make it difficult for predators to grasp them.
Silverfish and firebrats are tolerant of the dry conditions usually found in houses; they absorb water from the atmosphere and conserve it efficiently. They thrive on starchy carbohydrates – paper (especially glossy types) and glue, flour and sizing, natural and synthetic fabrics. They digest cellulose, that most difficult food, with their own powerful enzymes, not with the help of bacteria or other symbiotic microorganisms used by termites and other animals. Firebrats are mottled grey and brown, and prefer the warm or hot places near furnaces, heating pipes, and radiators. Silverfish are silvery grey and live in dry or damp places; they do not require the elevated temperatures favoured by firebrats.