Insects & other Arthropods David A Kendall   BSc PhD
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Order Thysanura - Bristletails

(Thysan-ura, from Greek thusanos = fringe, oura = tail)
Class: Insecta
Order: Thysanura

Small insects with compound eyes and very long, thread-like antennae. Mouthparts for biting and chewing. Tarsi 2-4 segmented. Body often covered with scales. Abdomen with long cerci and a median tail filament. These processes are fringed with bristles. Metamorphosis is slight or wanting, with at least six nymphal stages and often many more. Many members of the Order continue to moult periodically throughout their adult lives. This is unusual because insects normally stop growing and moulting once they reach maturity. The Order contains about 600 known species, of which 23 are found in the British Isles.

Silverfish - Lepisma saccharina

Description. Up to 10 mm long, covered with glossy, silver-coloured scales.

Biology. A common insect which in temperate regions is nearly always associated with human habitation. It lives in dark, damp corners in pantries, storerooms, wardrobes, libraries and bookshelves, where it feeds on tiny bits of rubbish, dust, paper, cloth, leather, paste, flour, sugar and any other kinds of starchy material. Mainly nocturnal, so that its presence often goes unnoticed. The life cycle is fairly long, taking about 3 years to reach maturity - an adult may then go on to live well over 5 years.

Distribution. Cosmopolitan inside buildings. Occurs outdoors in warmer regions.

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Firebrat - Thermobia domestica

Description. Up to 14 mm long, covered with pale and dark brownish scales giving a mottled appearance. Apart from colouring, it can be distinguished from the silverfish by its much longer antennae and cerci (lateral tail filaments).

Biology. Lives inside buildings, usually in very warm places such as boiler-rooms, bakeries and kitchens where, like the silverfish, it feeds on scraps of flour, sugar and other carbohydrate materials. Mainly nocturnal with a life cycle similar to that of the silverfish.

Distribution. Cosmopolitan inside warm buildings.

insect classification
(classification of insects)
(identification key to insect orders)
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Copyright © 2010 David Kendall Last revised May 2010