What is a Firebrat?

Close up of firebrat

We’ve written about how widely unknown and misunderstood silverfish are before. If that’s true of silverfish, however, it goes double for firebrats. Firebrats are basically silverfishes’ freakier cousin. They look more intimidating, they’re not as common, and you find them in stranger places. If the average homeowner can’t identify a silverfish on-sight, they’ve probably never even heard of a firebrat.

Just like silverfish, however, firebrats aren’t nearly as freaky as they look or sound. Like all pests, they have certain predictable patterns of behavior you can identify with a little knowledge. Once you understand firebrats, you’ll fear them far less. Even better, you’ll know what to do to keep them away from you! Here’s everything you should know about the silverfishes’ heat-loving cousin, and what to do about them.

What are firebrats?

Firebrats and Silverfish are both insects in the Lepismatildae family. Lepismatildae insects are commonly referred to as “bristletails,” because of the three, prong or tail-like bristles on their abdomens. The insects grow to around 12mm (0.4 inches) long, though their bristles and antennae make them appear longer. Bristletails have flat, long bodies with clearly segmented sections. These segments are covered in small scales, giving bristletails an armored appearance.

Firebrats and silverfish are similar in most ways. They’re both nocturnal scavengers, and they both move by running in a distinct, wiggling motion that resembles swimming. There are a few ways to tell a firebrat apart from a silverfish, however. While silverfish are silvery and metallic-looking, for instance, firebrats are darker gray or brown and less shiny. Unlike silverfish, firebrats have tufts of brown scales, which gives them a mottled or spotted appearance. While you’ll find silverfish in any humid area, firebrats prefer environments that are both hot (over 90℉) and humid.

what do firebrats want

What do firebrats want?

Firebrats enter homes looking for food, shelter, warmth, and humidity. Like silverfish, firebrats are nocturnal foragers. They hide in dark, hot, and humid areas during the day and come out to feed at night. Firebrats are general feeders that break down and consume the starch in a wide variety of material. They can eat wood, paper and paper products, glue, cotton, silk, flour, cereal, and more. Bristletails aren’t particularly picky about what they eat, and generally feed on whatever’s closest to their preferred hiding places.

Firebrats need to live and hide in areas of very high heat. They also prefer humid environments, though they’re more resistant to dryness than silverfish. Firebrats are highly heat-resistant and usually gravitate toward areas that are 90℉ or hotter. You’ll often find them hiding around furnaces, ovens, water heaters, hot water pipes and other heat-generating fixtures. They may also gather around heating vents. If you find a bristletail near a heat source, it’s probably a firebrat.

Where do firebrats come from?

Firebrats are distributed all over the world, and most commonly found indoors. They sneak into homes the same way most nuisance pests do: either through openings, or by hitchhiking on packages. Firebrats have very thin, flat bodies, and they’re very proficient climbers. The insects squeeze their way through very small cracks and crevices in order to get to warm locations. They find these cracks and crevices by following heat sources like utility pipes or drafts.

Firebrats are also very good at hiding. When they find a suitable hiding place, they’ll hunker down in it for hours at a time, until night falls and they can forage. Often, homeowners may inadvertently carry their hiding place into their home–while the firebrat is still using it! Boxes, bags, firewood, linens, and especially heat sources can all harbor firebrats. Inside, they’ll seek out hot and humid hiding places where they can easily access food. If possible, firebrats will stay close to the area where they initially entered your home.

keeping firebrats out

How can I keep firebrats out?

Generally speaking, if you have a bristletail infestation, it’s because there’s too much humidity in your home. That excess humidity could be coming from all kinds of places. If you have a firebrat infestation, specifically, then the source of the problem is probably near a warm place. Start by checking your water heater and hot water pipes for leaking or other damage. Leaking hot water creates the picture-perfect environment for firebrats, and they’ll notice it.

After you’ve checked your water fixtures, expand your search to all heat-generating fixtures. Make sure nothing’s leaking or dripping condensation in your kitchens or bathrooms. Check for drafty openings, especially near your utility lines and window sills. Make sure your attic insulation is doing its job properly, and you aren’t losing heat. You should also consider investing in a humidity monitor and dehumidifier for at-risk areas of the home. Addressing humidity, patching up access points, and removing clutter should all help keep firebrats away.

Despite sounding like some kind of cartoon monster, firebrats aren’t dangerous. They can’t sting, bite, or otherwise harm humans in any way. That doesn’t mean they’re not a problem, however. Firebrats can and will reproduce in your home. They’ll also stain and damage all kinds of food and other materials. You shouldn’t fear firebrats, but you should do all you can to keep them out.

If you need some help with preventing or eliminating a firebrat problem, give Griffin a call any time. Our experts know just how to find and wipe out bristletail infestations for good.

The Pests in Your Basement this Fall

Seal openings in your home to keep pests out.

Fall is prime pest season. All kinds of pests know winter is coming, and they’re scrambling to sneak into a warm place. Basements are a pest’s favorite hiding place. They’re dark, damp, temperature-controlled, and secluded. You’ll deal with more pests in fall than you do during other seasons. You’ll find more pests in your basement than you will in the rest of your home. You… probably see where this is going.

It’s unavoidable: all kinds of pests are going to try to get into your basement this fall. They’ll sneak, squeeze, and scramble in from any tiny opening they get as if their lives depend on it. Just because you can’t stop them from trying doesn’t mean you have to let them succeed, however. If you take action now, even the most audacious autumn pests won’t be able to bug you this fall. Here’s what you’re up against, and how to come out on top.


Silverfish are small, wingless insects with silver-grey, segmented bodies and bristled tails. They require highly humid environments to survive, so they’re a common basement-dweller all year long. During fall, they’re particularly attracted to your basement as a source of warmth. Silverfish prefer environments that are 70 to 80℉. They feed on starchy materials like wood, paper, glue, and linen. The silverfish in your basement probably huddle beneath a food source in a particularly damp, warm area.

If silverfish can’t access moisture, they’ll dry out and die. Try to figure out where the high humidity in your basement comes from. Look for drafts coming from windows, door frames, hatches, or vents. Make sure your sump pump works properly and doesn’t leak. While you’re at it, look for plumbing leaks and other sources of stray humidity, too. Controlling humidity won’t just help with silverfish; it’ll help repeal all kinds of other pests, too. Pests like…

cockroaches in your basement this fall


Like silverfish, roaches are very attracted to humidity. They’ll often seek out kitchens, bathrooms, or basements in order to access the moisture they need to survive. The most problematic roach in Michigan–the German cockroach–also highly prefers warm temperatures. Like rodents (we’ll get to them), they’re very good at following the warmth back to its source. Once inside, roaches tend to hide near food sources during the day and come out to forage at night.

Unlike silverfish, roaches don’t stick to one area in your basement. Instead, they’ll migrate throughout your home. Since they’ll go anywhere, you’ll have to check everywhere. Look for plumbing leaks under sinks, against basement walls, and near utility lines. Roaches love hiding near leaks and food, so depriving them of cover helps, too. Elevate boxes and other storage materials and keep them in dedicated, organized spaces. The clearer and cleaner the floor, the fewer places roaches will have to hide.


Michigan’s many spider species have similar habits: they follow the food. The best way for spiders to feed in fall is by following their prey into overwintering locations. Whether you have orb-weaving or hunting spiders, chances are they’re in your home chasing prey. Michigan’s spiders can’t survive winter without taking drastic steps, so infiltrating your home kills two birds with one stone. Spiders are highly proficient climbers, so they can find access points from any angle or elevation.

Spiders generally build their nests near bug “highways” in your home, where they’re most likely to catch prey. In fact, by tracking down webs you can track down these “bug highways” and do something about them. Look for access points such as small cracks and crevices near the cobwebs in your home. Patching these gaps denies pests a way in and spiders a food source at the same time. Keeping your basement clean and cobweb-free will help disrupt spider hunting, too.

mice and rats in your basement this fall


Rats and mice are the fall pest to watch for. Rodents are extremely attuned to changes in temperature and air pressure. As soon as they feel summer temperatures changing, they start preparing for winter. They have to: rodents and mice need to spend winter in warm places in order to survive. As such, rats and mice spend pretty much all fall looking for ways into warm structures. Unfortunately, they’re… very good at it.

Rodents can actually track warm drafts or food smells around a home’s perimeter until they find small openings. Rodents primarily find openings near utility lines, window and door frames, and vents. Check around these areas and seal them off with caulk or steel wool as necessary. Replace old weatherstripping and worn vent covers. Finally, vacuum, mop, and sweep your home diligently all fall and winter. It’s difficult to keep rodents from smelling your food, but you can keep them from getting it.

Even in the midst of pest season, it’s important to remember: keeping your basement pest-free* is never impossible. It might seem like there’s “always another way in,” but there’s not. If you keep following pest control tips like these, you can make your basement a pest-free* zone.

If you ever need help removing your current pests or keeping future ones out, give Griffin a call. We’ll help make sure you can enjoy your fall to the fullest–without worrying about pests in your basement.