What are silverfish, and why are they eating my books?

Dear Cecil:

For me, spring brings robins--and silverfish. What do these little buggers want with me? Do they really "eat books?"

Cecil replies:

Dear Bob:

The silverfish, known to insect fans as Lepisma saccharina, enjoys starch as the main staple of its diet. Starch is most readily available to household bugs in paste, particularly the kind used to hang wallpaper and bind books. Hence the silverfish’s reputation as a litterateur.

Like undergraduates at the University of Chicago, the silverfish may come by its intellectual predilections as the consequence of an unhappy sex life. The poor things don’t copulate–the male, as the grand finale to a series of wriggling “courtship movements,” merely drops a “sperm packet,” which the female then tucks away in her vagina. Not much fun, which could explain why singles bars for silverfish do such lousy business.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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