Silverfish in Ant Nests

Silverfish (Order Thysanura) are generally silver-dusted brown or gray insects with a tapering body resembling a sideways carrot with legs. They are known for their habit of infesting houses and eating wallpaper or bookbinding glue.

What a surprise to find silverfish in an ant nest.


The silverfish is the white insect in the center of the photo. As you can see, it is in the tunnel with the ants.


My best guess is that they are in the family Nicoletiidae, possibly in the genus Grassiella. If you know more, I’d love to hear about it.


A few silverfish are beauticians of the ant world. They approach the ants to groom and clean their outer surface.  The silverfish probably also gets a share of the ants’ meal as payment.

These were found under rocks with native fire ants, Solenopsis sp., which is one reason the photos aren’t closer.

While I was taking photos of the silverfish, I also found a few beetles. More on that tomorrow.

6 Replies to “Silverfish in Ant Nests”

  1. Interesting post. I found something just like it in Northern Virginia. Yours and mine definitely resemble Grasiella wheeleri; however these are supposed to occur only in Texas and Florida–except, possibly, for some recent incursions into the Northeast. I posted some photos (for example, the one at at

    I’m curious: Where did you find yours?

  2. I found these silverfish in Phoenix, Arizona. They were under rocks with Solenopsis xyloni, our native fire ants. I didn’t collect any, although I probably should.

  3. Roberta,
    Nice photographs. Peter Edelman (previous poster on your page)and I have found some similar critters to yours here in the East. Ours are a new genus to NA. I’m betting that your’s are Grassiella but it is virtually impossible to tell without dissecting them. Would you be willing and able to send me some specimens? The more the better. They are easy to collect with an aspirator, I can send you directions on how to make one if you do not already have one.


  4. Just found a fat silverfish-looking insect going in an out of an ant nest without being attacked, so guessed it was some kind of mutualistic relationship. This was in Barcelona, Spain

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