Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Silverfish: Definitively Creepy

I’m really glad I had a chance to read and write about silverfish for a few reasons. First, silverfish are probably my only truly hated animal. As I was writing about how great it was for me to find spiders in my house I was feeling a little conflicted because of my feelings of dread at finding silverfish anywhere. And I was intrigued by the question “Why do they have to be so creepy?” Why is it that we think certain things are creepy? Probably a lot of land-dwelling arthropods (insects, spiders, millipedes, centipedes) are icky seeming because of our tendency to have associated maggots and other critters that like to live in rotten stuff with spoiled food. I feel confident saying that this has a lot to do with the fact that we sometimes become genuinely nauseous when confronted by a bunch of squirming “bugs.”

I also found a great new resource which is an entomology field guide on the Texas A&M website. It’s specific to Texas but it has a lot of really great information. You can read that here. It was there that I found some answers to why they like to live in your bathtub and perhaps why they “have to be so creepy.” (Man, they’re creepy…)

The silverfish (about 450 species described) are members of the order Thysanura, the only order under the subclass of insects Zygentoma. They share a common ancestor with winged insects which are pretty much every insect we’re really familiar with. Dragonflies, ants, butterflies, cockroaches, mantises, etc. etc. are all in this major group. This is the really huge family of animals we’re generally accustomed to thinking of as “insects.” The Zygentoma are a primitive, wingless kind of insect (which is weird, and by weird I simply mean unusual and not something we’re used to seeing) that moves quickly (also fairly weird). I might also argue that their flat bodies which in the wild they would be using to plough under the leaf litter freak us out (‘cause, yikes, where can’t that thing go? It could be anywhere in a few seconds. Creepy.)

According to the field guide these animals like to eat flour, dried meat, oats, paper as well as glue which are all things you can find inside. They also require a very high humidity and temperature. So that’s why you find them in your bathtub. Oh, and also: they’re active at night. Very creepy.

They remind me quite a bit of roaches. I wasn’t able to find a definitive answer as to where they majority of Zygentoma hail from originally but I’ll bet they're tropical animals considering their taste for high heat and humidity. I have to admit a less strong but still noticeable aversion towards roaches as well. I wonder if this information will make me any less squeamish the next time I see a silverfish.

What is your least favorite animal inside or out? Why do you think that is? Have you ever gotten over a strong animal phobia or aversion?

1 comment:

  1. I definitly am creeped out by silverfish and mili/centipedes and arachnids. I instantly forget that I am the bigger being than them and have a total freak out moment. I can't even walk near or past them because i am so gripped by fear. When I lived in Riverside, every night a super creepy silverfish would emerge from the basement and hang out on a wall directly across from the front door, next to the staircase. every night when i would come home from school, there that sucker would be and i would instantly freeze up. I would stand motionless on my front porch, scared to run up the stairs, thinking that this little creature would somehow turn into a giant and attack me. it never did, but i dreaded opening the door every night and seeing it there. I eventually went up the stairs, but i still never got rid of that fear, despite that it never did anything to me.

    I'm still that way and I hate how the fear makes me feel. sometimes, especially during the warmer months, i lose sleep because i am thinking about creepy crawlies in my bed. eewww... totally upsetting..