Earwig vs Silverfish: What Are 8 Key Differences?

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: April 22, 2022
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Earwigs are often confused with silverfish because of their small size and the fact that they both like damp environments. They both also move quickly at night, lending some credence that they share similar traits. In this article, we will take a closer look at the key differences between these two insects to clear up any confusion between them.

Earwig vs Silverfish: A Comparison 

Although both are household pests, these two tiny bugs are quite distinct.
Size1 – 3 cm13 – 25 mm
ColorsDark Reddish-BrownLight Grayish-Blue, Silvery
Physical FeaturesHard Outer Body, 2 AppendagesScaly, Fish-Like Body, 3 Appendages
DangerGardens, Wood PilesBooks, Food, Clothing
DietRotting Vegetation, Plants, FlowersPaper, Fabric, Pet Foods, Grains
Lifespan1 Year3 Years
Indoor / OutdoorMostly Outdoors: Firewood, Waste, Mulch, Leaves, Wet PlacesBoth: Wet/Dark Places, Kitchens, Bathrooms, Basements
InfestationLess Likely in Home, Keep Veggies Fresh And Plants Well Cared ForMore Likely in Home, Keep Dark Areas Clean and Dry
Earwig vs Silverfish: A Comparison

Key Differences Between Earwig and Silverfish


Silverfish is smaller in size compared to an earwig.


The key differences between an earwig and a silverfish are their size, physical features, diet, and lifespan.

The earwig and the silverfish are two small insects that normally dwell outside but can get into your house if you’re not careful. If they grow into an infestation, they can cause harm to your goods. However, their diet, lifespan, and outward appearance are each unique.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Size

Earwigs range from 1 to 3 centimeters in length, depending on the species. Adult silverfish measure 13 to 25 mm in length, including the tail.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Colors

The silverfish’s color is their most noticeable feature. Fish-like creatures, they appear in shades of light gray to light blue, with a silvery sheen as they move across the floor.

Earwigs are dark to reddish-brown in appearance, with a long, slender body and prominent pinchers on the back of their abdomen.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Physical Features

Common earwig or European earwig, Forficula auricularia against white background

Earwigs have only two appendages.

©Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Earwigs have only two appendages protruding from their abdomens, but silverfish have three straight appendages. These appendages are delicate and hairlike. While earwigs have a hard outer body, silverfish have an extra layer of scales.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Danger

Books, food, and clothing are all susceptible to silverfish harm. Silverfish are not dangerous to human health and do not carry any diseases, even though they can be a nuisance.

Earwigs can use their forceps to grab a finger if they are disturbed, but because earwigs lack venom, they are not dangerous. Due to their taste for plants, they usually wreak havoc on gardens. The earwig’s name comes from long-standing misconceptions that the bug may feed inside a person’s ear and lay eggs in their brain. This superstition is untrue. Yes, these creatures, like many others, can enter your ear canal. People have found spiders, fruit fly babies, and ticks in their ears. However, an earwig rarely “wiggles” into an ear. Earwigs love rotting wood over your ear.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Diet

Earwigs commonly consume plants and plant matter.

©Pudding4brains – Public Domain

Most earwig species prefer to eat rotting vegetation, but a few eat small insects as well. Additionally, they like eating a wide range of plants, including vegetables, flowers, and ornamentals.

Silverfish have been shown to eat dried meat, rolled oats, paper, fabric, and other low-moisture meals. These pests also consume pet food and preserved grains. In fact, one of the most common methods of bringing these pests into the house is by infesting household goods prior to purchase.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Lifespan

Earwigs have a short lifespan, usually only lasting around a year. In the fall and winter, earwigs mate and lay their eggs, which hatch in the spring. The life cycle of a silverfish takes approximately four months from egg to adult. However, adult silverfish have a much longer lifespan of about 3 years.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Indoor / Outdoor

There are several areas where earwigs can be found throughout the day. These include piles of firewood, waste, mulch, and fallen leaves. Human activity or a lack of simple housekeeping can lead to earwigs finding their way into our homes through screens, doors, or excessive moisture.

Although silverfish prefer to dwell outside, they are frequently seen in homes. Most of their favored habitats are wet, dark, and moist spaces like basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Earwig vs Silverfish: Infestation

Seeing a silverfish in one or two spots around the house does not mean there is an infestation. They are nocturnal and only appear during the day a few times, making them an unusual sighting. A damp and food-rich environment is ideal for attracting silverfish. However, these insects are incredibly resilient. To keep them from invading, you must restrict their food supply and keep dark areas clean and dry. If not, they can damage your clothing, books, and food items.

Despite their size and frightening pincers, an earwig infestation isn’t usually indicated by the presence of one or two earwigs. In most cases, earwigs are drawn into a home by a shift in the weather or a lack of food available elsewhere. Keep your veggies fresh and well-kept, and tend to your indoor plants regularly to reduce the chances of them thriving in your home.

Wrapping Up Earwig vs Silverfish

Earwigs and silverfish look quite different, making it easy to tell the two apart. Both have noticeable appendages, although they aren’t the same size or number on their bodies. Either way, in most cases, hiring an exterminator is the only way to get rid of either pest infestation in your home.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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