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What Are Firebrats? Why Are They Considered Pests?
Firebrats aren’t known as destructive pests, but they can still cause you problems. Find out how.
Firebrats, also known as Thermobia domestica, are insects that belong in the Lepismatildae family. They are commonly referred to as “bristletails,” together with their cousins, Silverfish. This is because of their three tail-like appendages that protrude at the ends of their abdomens. Firebrats can grow up to 12 mm (0.4 inches) long, but their antennae and tails make them seem much bigger. They have flat, elongated, and segmented bodies covered in grayish-brown scales with dark spots, which create a mottled armor-like appearance.
These insects lack wings. Instead, they move by running in a quick, distinct, wriggling motion, similar to how a fish swims. They are capable of moving sideways too. Firebrats’ size and movement allow them to hide in small crevices, making it hard to get rid of them.
Female firebrats can start laying eggs at 1.5 to 4.5 months of age. They need the right temperature to lay eggs, about 90 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 41 degrees Celsius). They can lay up to 6000 eggs in their lifetime, with several generations hatching each year. Eggs are laid in groups of 50 to 60 and hatch after 12 to 13 days of incubation. The nymphs go through several times of molting before reaching maturity in 2 to 3 months. Adults continue to molt over their lifespans, and they can live for 3 to 5 years.
Firebrats can be found all around the world and are considered pests indoors.
What Do Firebrats Want?
Firebrats generally want warm temperatures and humidity. They are nocturnal scavengers. They hide in dark, hot, and humid areas during the day and then search for food at night. Their diet consists of a lot of things. They are not picky eaters. They are general feeders that can consume starch from just about anything. Firebrats can eat wood, paper, glue, flour, silk, cereal, dog food, cotton, and many others. They also like eating protein-rich products like dried beef, beef extract, and dead insects. These insects feed on whatever is convenient and near their hiding grounds.
As heat-lovers, firebrats live in unusual places you won’t expect to find insects. They gather toward areas that are 90 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. You’ll often see them hiding near ovens, furnaces, water heaters, hot water pipes, and other heat-producing equipment. They can also be found around heating vents.
While firebrats do not cause any significant damage to structures and equipment, they can harm you in other ways. Firebrats can contaminate food such as cereal, flour, and sugar. As these insects scavenge over your food supplies, they may bring harmful bacteria with them and into your food. These bacteria are the ones that may cause you illnesses. They are also known to damage paper products like books and other documents, which can be a nuisance, especially if they damage important ones. Aside from those, firebrats can also damage clothing. Fabrics like linen, cotton, silk, and rayon are their usual targets. You will know if firebrats are pestering your closet if you find feces and scales they deposit. They usually leave patchy feeding marks on individual fibers and yellowish stains on fabric, especially on linen.
However, firebrats don’t bite humans and pets, so you won’t have to worry about itchy and annoying bite marks. They are less troublesome than other pests such as fleas, bed bugs, or mites.
Like other insects, firebrats sneak into your homes through small openings they can find. They can also make their way inside by hitchhiking on paper products, shipping cartons, and furniture that you bring. Firebrats are excellent climbers with thin, flat bodies that allow them to squeeze into tight spaces. Once inside your home, they will start looking for warm locations near heat sources.
Firebrats are also great at hiding. As soon as they find a good hiding spot, they will stay there for many hours until nighttime, when they start to forage. But firebrats don’t travel a lot. They look for food in places close to their hiding place, and they stay near the area where they originally entered your home.
Getting rid of firebrats is not an easy task. You can use a couple of methods to reduce or manage their numbers eventually, like sanitation, de-humidification, use of insecticides, and habitat modification. However, it is still advisable to get professional help for the best results.
Store food properly. Keeping food in airtight containers will not only prevent firebrats from accessing them but other pests as well. Also, vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture regularly, as they may contain food droppings that can harbor these pests.
Reduce humidity. Firebrats love humidity. Use a dehumidifier if possible. Look for sources of moisture like a leaking kitchen faucet and fix them. Keep exterior areas of your house caulked and well-painted. Make sure your gutters and downspouts are free of debris.
Cover up cracks and crevices on your walls. Firebrats can squeeze into these tight spaces. Look under and behind your baseboards, windows, doorways, and use caulking or expandable foam to fill them. Check your floors and walls for holes too.
Apply insecticide. There are different insecticides and chemical formulations that you can use against firebrats. Some desiccants can cause insects to lose moisture, such as silica aerogel and diatomaceous earth. Apply them in cracks at crevices where firebrats may hide. You may also spray synthetic pyrethroids mixed with water such as deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, sumithrin, cyfluthrin, or tralomethrin to cracks. These chemicals are more advisable to use in dark areas because sunlight reduces their period of efficacy.
Even if you use all these methods, it’s still hard to remove firebrats altogether. What you can do is to contact a professional pest control service. Rocklin Pest Control is your number 1 pest control service in Sacramento. We can rid your house of firebrats and any other pest in no time. Call us, and let’s talk about your pest problem!
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