Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name

Thermobia demestica


Firebrats are grayish-brown and speckled with darker spots on their back. Their body is tapered from front to back and is somewhat carrot-shaped. Two of their most distinguishing characteristics are the presence of a long pair of antennae and 3 long, slender, hair-like structures that extend from the last segment of their body –giving them the common name, bristletails. Firebrats do not have wings, but move around by running rapidly.

Behavior & Diet

Both young and adult firebrats share the same or very similar environments, so all ages of the insect will be located together in a suitable habitat. Firebrats are primarily seen in environments that are generally dark and warmer than 90 degrees F, including near dryers, hot water heaters, steam pipes, ovens and attics. Firebrats may be found in bathtubs since they often are trapped in the tub as they seek moisture. Firebrat eggs are laid in batches of about 50 and hatch in a little less than two weeks, which explains why a homeowner may suddenly see a large number of small firebrats in places they’ve never been seen before. Firebrats will live for about three to four years and molt throughout their lives. They feed on materials that are high in carbohydrates and protein. Examples of good sources of food for firebrats are glue in books and behind wallpaper. Infestations in a home or business can begin when infested books, papers, cardboard boxes, shipping cartons or furniture are brought into the home.

No single method or simple technique is successful in controlling firebrats. Rather, it takes the integrated approaches of prevention, sanitation and treatment with a product. Seal holes and cracks around windows and doors. Although sometimes difficult to accomplish, lower the temperature and humidity in the home by using air conditioning units, fans or dehumidifiers, plus fix any leaking plumbing pipes to reduce the firebrat’s source of water. It is wise to seek the services of a pest management professional when using insecticides to combat an infestation of firebrats.