What Are Silverfish?

I first heard of silverfish when I was reading a particularly outlandish children’s book called ‘Dakota of the White Flats’ by Philip Ridley. There was a little illustration of some alien creature that looked like a teardrop with scales and antennae. I had assumed from the nature of the book that this was a completely fictional animal. I’d never seen a silverfish before and I was 10 by now so I’d seen everything and I knew everything, obviously.

This all changed about a two years later when I ‘fixed’ the shower. For the first few years of my life I had always had baths, we always had a shower but it had never worked. After that inevitable phase of ‘shower envy’ – I can only assume other kids without a shower went through the same phase of jealousy of their friends showers – I decided I’d fix the shower myself. So, one day I went into the bathroom and got my imaginary repair girl tool-belt on. I used all my force to twist that rusty shower knob and it worked… Forget about the imaginary tool-belt, I had miracle hands! I couldn’t wait to tell my parents what a fantastic job I’d done but before I got all that praise I decided to reward myself for all my hard work repairing. I treated myself to my first home-bound shower and this is when it became apparent that I had not actually fixed the shower.

As it turned out my parents had not fully described the shower issue and getting the water flowing was not actually so much of a problem as the whole ‘leaking through the floorboards and flooding the kitchen below’ thing. Just a minor detail that I had missed but a major bump in my growing ego, understandably, I’d just found out I didn’t have either miracle hands or a talent for repairs.

Anyway, I digress, after my miracle mishap we started to get a little bit of damp in the house (a lot) which was a magnet for creepy crawlies and bugs. However, you’ll be pleased to know that the shower was eventually fixed along with my issue of shower envy. After many weeks of neglecting the bath for the shower I decided to have a bath instead, just to mix things up a bit. I noticed a new grey splodge in the bath but on closer inspection the splodge had little legs, scales and antennae. A silverfish! They were real! Fiction had come to life! Sadly enough this moment was probably one of the most profound moments of my life…

After a bit of research I found that silverfish are attracted to damp. They’re basically insects from the same family as woodlice but they’re shinier which makes them immediately more likeable, doesn’t it? They’re pests that hang out in damp places but don’t particularly cause much damage. They eat things like fabric and dead skin but they don’t have much of an appetite so they can last without for a few years. So in conclusion, silverfish are friendly pests that are slightly more attractive than less shiny bugs…

For most people those facts probably won’t make these creatures particularly likeable but for me they are the things of fiction, of imagination, of dreams! Well not dreams, but they’re nicer than spiders. Also, I must stress that they’re shiny and when they run they look like a fish swimming (ergo the name silverfish) which is marginally cool. More importantly they are real! I can but hope that I’ve given these creatures of my childhood a little bit of good press and that you might not stamp on one next time you see them. Just remember, when you think of stamping on a small unknown creature you may be ruining a child’s discovery of possibly fictional insect.



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