Pique ’n your interest 

A fish tale

Page 2 of 3

Predictably, the explanation is a good news-bad news scenario.

Good: Although sink-and-bathtub-sightings are a worldwide phenomenon, most involve a single ubiquitous species: Lepisma saccharina , a small, wingless insect of the order Thysanura. Called silverfish, fishmoth, carpet shark, or paramite depending where you live, Lepisma have primitive mouthparts, don't bite and don't spread disease. Best of all, in the light they're defenseless and easy to squish.

Bad: "Silverfish" (in use since about 1855) comes from the animal's silvery blue colour combined with the piscine movements of its well-jointed body, while the scientific moniker (traceable to 1758 and the father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus, no less) refers to its diet of simple polysaccharide carbohydrates-sugars and starches found not just in the food stores it happily infests, but in glue and adhesives, book bindings and paper; in carpet, clothing and linens of cotton, silk, leather and even synthetics; even in body exuvia like hair and dandruff. In short, 21 st century humanity offers silverfish an unparalleled smorgasbord: They'll eat your pancake mix, leave holes in your clothes, destroy your books.

Good: It's not just you. Like fleas, silverfish have accompanied human habitation since it began-wild Lepisma favour caves and other dank areas with a humidity between 75 and 95 per cent. You find them in sinks and bathtubs not because they live there, but because their Carboniferous-crafted appendages don't do well on the modern world's smooth surfaces; they've simply become trapped in these vessels, attracted by the moisture and food prospects rising from your drains (de facto encouragement to keep these clean).

Bad: Unsquished, silverfish will live out of sight in your home-quite unlike the ephemerality of other insect pests-for two to eight years. They can go a year without food.

Good: Their reproductive rate is low; a single female will lay less than 100 eggs over her lifetime. They take weeks or months to hatch and if they dry out they're done.

Bad: Known predators of the silverfish are also cave-happy things that you usually aren't psyched about seeing around the house: spiders, earwigs and those über-creepy, long-legged house centipedes known as scutigers.

The latter are also frequently found stuck in sinks and bathtubs. And now I know why: they're hunting silverfish. Which might make me think twice before I squish them . Sometimes a little knowledge is a terrible thing.

Readers also liked…

Interactive Map

Today's COVID-19 cases in Canada

Click each province to see the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths, recovered patients, and tests administered...more.

Latest in Whistler

More by Leslie Anthony

© 1994-2020 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation