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Busy Little Silverfish

Updated on January 12, 2017

It's funny how many things are given the wrong names. The rock lily, for instance, is an orchid that prefers to live on trees, the sea anemone is not a flower but an animal, the white ant is not an ant, and the silverfish is certainly not a fish. But perhaps, if you half-close your eyes, he may look like one- a very tiny one.

Have you got silverfish in your home? If so, you will know all about it, because your wallpaper will start to look chewed, and your pictures and book-covers, and even some of your clothing, especially if it has been starched-for silverfish are particularly fond of starch. When they nibble at wallpaper and so on, they're not so much interested in the paper, as in the paste sticking it to the wall, because this is made of starch. So, if you paste pictures in scrap-books, be sure that the silverfish don't know about it, otherwise they'll most likely make a meal of your pretty cut-outs.

They also eat the dead bodies of other insects, as well as their own skins when they cast them off for bigger ones. Worst of all, they sometimes even eat one another. So what is another name for them? Cannibals.

Perhaps you have already noticed that silverfish have no wings - and it's very few insects that haven't, at some stage in their life histories.

But then, as far as we know, silverfish are the most primitive of the insects. Probably they existed on Earth before any of the others did. And perhaps that has something to do with their winglessness.

They are different from other insects in another way, too. When they come out of their eggs, they are already tiny silverfish as we know them. They are not grubs or caterpillars, and they don't change their colors and markings the way bugs do. The only way they change, as time goes on, is that they grow bigger. And they take several years to become fully grown, while most of the other insects take only weeks or months.

Then, they never go to sleep as pupae, the way many other insects do. They're on the move for the whole of their lives, resting in the day and running around eating at night.

Have you ever wondered about their shining silver coats? These are made up of the tiniest scales, ever so delicate, and beautifully formed. Here, then, is another of those countless tiny things in which we see Nature's genius for lovely design, and for making every detail perfect. Yet the silverfish is one of our humblest and most despised insects.


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