The booklouse (aka psocid), silverfish (aka firebrat), and the house centipede are all insects that will occasionally set up shop in a home. Booklice are rice-sized. Silverfish have three tails and are silvery colored. House centipedes have lots of legs-one pair on each of their body segments-and they scoot fast.
Where they live
They like warm damp areas. They will appear in bathrooms, getting stuck in the tub or sink. The basement is a common headquarters, especially if it was missed during your last spring cleaning.
What they do
Their look—worrisome to a few—is the extent of their threat. They’re infesters because they’ll go through their whole life cycle in your house—feeding along the way. Invaders don’t do well once inside.
The house centipede—arguably the creepiest of the three—is actually beneficial. It eats other creepy crawlies in your home.
Booklice like to eat mold and other fungi.
Silverfish find a way to survive on all sorts of stuff: paper, fabric, stains, and wallpaper. The damage they cause won’t be noticeable if you rarely see them.
How to deal with occasional infesters
All three need warmth and moisture. Keep up with your routine vacuuming and take measures to dehumidify and your problem will probably go away.
If the problem isn’t going away and you’re seeing more than three at once, consider calling a pest management professional.
See these Factsheets at Cornell's Insect Diagnostic Laboratory:
- Silverfish & Firebrats Factsheet, 85k pdf file
- Clothes moths Factsheet, 138k pdf file
- Millipedes, Sowbugs, Pillbugs, and Centipedes Factsheet, 85k pdf file
- Booklice Factsheet, 40k pdf file
- Drain Flies or Moth Flies, 64k pdf file
- Larder Beetle, 64k pdf file
- Powder Post Beetles, 112k pdf file