How To Tell The Difference Between Silverfish, Firebrats & Earwigs

Silverfish, firebrats and earwigs.. oh my! These three pests are commonly mistaken for each other because of their uncanny similarities, but there are also quite a few differences. Follow our quick guide below to easily distinguish between these common pests: silverfish, firebrats, and earwigs.

Silverfish, firebrats, and earwigs share similar characteristics, such as their preference for moisture, being mostly nocturnal, and having relatively quick movements. These three pests belong to the insect class, but silverfish and firebrats are in the order Thysanura, while earwigs are in the order Dermaptera. The difference is earwigs have two appendages protruding from their abdomen, while silverfish and firebrats have three. This gives silverfish and firebrats their common nickname “bristletails”.

What’s The Difference?

Identifysilverfish | Lookout Pest Controlfirebrat | any pest inc.earwig | Lookout Pest Control
AppearanceFrom 1 to 2.5 cm; light shimmery gray to blue color; long, slender, flattened bodyFrom 1 to 1.5 cm; grayish-brown & speckled; carrot-shapedFrom 5 to 25mm; brownish-red color; can be winged or wingless
EnvironmentDamp, moderate temperature/ often found in kitchen cupboards, basements, attics, bathrooms, under sinks, in laundry roomsHot, moist areas; often found in high moisture areas, like bathtubs, dryers, hot water heaters, ovens, and atticsDark, moist areas; often found in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, under stacks of newspapers or magazines, under potted plants
DietGlue, clothing, paper, wallpaper, photos, dry goods— like flour, sugar, oats, & any other items that are high in starch or sugarAnything high in protein, sugar, or starch, such as dog food, flour, wallpaper, book bindingsPlants & other insects

These three pests can be extreme nuisances, but they are not poisonous or associated with the spread of any disease. However, keep in mind these three pests are extremely resistant to starvation and can live without feeding for long periods of time. Let’s get technical. Here is a brief overview of these three types of pests:

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The silverfish is a small insect with a long, slender, flattened body. They have three long bristles coming off of their hind end. Silverfish measure from ½ to 1 inch in length. They are a light shimmery gray to blue color, and they move across surfaces in a fish-like way, which is how they received their name. They have no wings but can run very quickly. They are nocturnal and require very high humidity levels in order to survive. Silverfish do not hibernate and are active year-round.

Yes, silverfish can damage property by feeding on different items throughout your home. They will feed on glue, clothing, paper, wallpaper and photos, along with dry goods, like flour, sugar, oats, and any other items that are high in starch or sugar.

No, although they are a bit creepy looking, silverfish do not bite or carry diseases. They are considered to be nuisance pests, but can contaminate your food sources as they feed on them.

Silverfish are drawn to warm, dark areas with high humidity. They are often found in kitchen cupboards, basement, attics, in bathrooms, under sinks, and in laundry rooms. They are drawn to paper and can be destructive to items stored in cardboard boxes.


Firebrats are grayish-brown and speckled with darker spots on their back. Their body is tapered from front to back and is somewhat carrot-shaped. Two of their most distinguishing characteristics are the presence of a long pair of antennae and 3 long, slender, hair-like structures that extend from the last segment of their body –giving them the common name, bristletails. Firebrats do not have wings, but move around by running rapidly.


Earwigs are a long, thin insect that have a distinctive pincher-like pair of appendages or “cerci” at the base of their abdomen. The appendages are where they get their nickname “pincher bug” from. Adults range in size from 5-25mm in length, depending on the species. Common earwig adults are about 5/8th of an inch in length. They are a brownish-red color and can be either winged or wingless. Their diet consists of both plants and other insects. You may recognize the earwig from the common myth that they are associated with. The myth states that they enter into human ears, burrow into the brain, and then lay their eggs- luckily that is just a myth and completely false.

Earwigs can get into homes on outdoors items like packages, newspapers, boxes, and furniture that are brought indoors. However, earwigs most often wander into homes and other buildings accidentally through cracks in foundations, and gaps around exterior windows and doors. They are attracted to light and will sometimes flock to deck and porch areas in the evenings. Earwigs typically infest homes and businesses when the weather becomes too hot or dry for them. They will move indoors to find dark, moist places to hide in. When infesting homes they can be found in basements, bathrooms, kitchens, under stacks of newspapers or magazines, and under potted plants. They may also move indoors to search for food.

Getting rid of earwigs from your home can be a frustrating task. Reducing the moisture levels in your home can help, but professional pest control is the best solution. Professionals can find all the areas of your home that the earwigs are hiding in and eliminate them. Pest experts will then be able to help you find the areas of your home that are allowing them inside and fix them.

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If you would like help dealing with silverfish, firebrats, or earwigs, contact the pest control professionals at Lookout Pest Control today. We have been servicing the metro-Atlanta area for over three decades, specializing in pest control and we would be happy to assist! Contact us today for a free consultation!

How To Tell The Difference Between Silverfish, Firebrats & Earwigs in Kennesaw, GA and beyond!

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