Firebrats Pest Control
If you see a small, flat insect with three long, hair-like structures on its tail scurrying about, chances are you’re looking at a firebrat. These pests move quickly and love crawling along walls, cracks, and crevices.
Firebrats routinely cohabitate with humans, and while their presence is not directly harmful, they’re considered pests because they tend to stain and damage fabrics, books, and wallpaper as well as contaminate food sources.
Scientists are still in the early days of studying these tiny creatures because a closely-related pest—the silverfish—gets all the attention. Research into firebrats, however, is paying off. Study of firebrats’ digestive tracts is paving the way towards making human biofuel production more efficient.
These curious creatures may be welcome in science, but they aren’t often houseguests you want in your home. Learn how to distinguish them from silverfish and how to keep them at bay.
Are Firebrats the Same as Silverfish?
Firebrats look similar to silverfish because both pests belong to the same order: Thysanura. There are anywhere from eight to ten species of silverfish in North America, but we only know of one type of firebrat. Both creatures are known as bristletails because of the distinguishing spikes or hairs that make up their tails.
Silverfish and firebrats both have flat bodies that allow them to move efficiently through exceedingly small and cramped crevices. This also means they can hide undetected against the side of baseboards and walls.
Firebrats are usually grayish-brown in color and are speckled with darker spots on their backs. Silverfish are similar in overall body structure, but they’re silver in color and much larger.
As their name suggests, firebrats love warm, even hot temperatures. Anywhere between 98°F and 102°F works best, while silverfish prefer cooler environments. That’s because silverfish lack the firebrat’s six heat-resistant feet which allow them to withstand high temperatures. That’s why firebrats look for areas like furnaces, hot water pipes, roofing shingles, and even boilers to nest.
Development and Behavior
Firebrats are not as well-known as silverfish, but their unique ability to break down cellulose makes them a scientific curiosity.
Firebrats look for starchy items like books, fabrics, and flour, but they’re not picky when it comes to food. They’ve also been known to eat dried beef, foods with beef extract, other dead insects, and other sources high in protein.
A few firebrats can multiply quickly in your home. The average firebrat will produce more than 100 offspring, and new hatchlings can develop and reach reproductive maturity in a matter of a few months.Adding to their resilience, firebrats can go up to 300 days without food and water. Sometimes, the only way to get rid of these insects is to seek professional pest control—or stop them from coming inside in the first place.