A minute frog perched on the top of the doorknob I had just reached for outside my suite. For a brief moment, I wondered, "Was it real?" Standing there, as stock-still as a statue, I was truly dumbfounded. While the tiny frog looked very life-like, it wasn’t moving. I reached down into the depths of my pocket for a magnifying glass, my fingers slowly clasping the handle. Grasping it tightly, my arm moved; the frog hopped and then disappeared. Looking around me, my eyes adjusting to the light of the full moon, I noticed that these little green creatures were everywhere—on the sidewalk, in the planters, on the benches that lined the walkway.
Finally opening the door, I was impressed by the cleanliness of the room. Walking into the bathroom, I saw more signs of life. Three firebrats—with their awkwardly-long antenna and tufts of brown scales—scurried to and fro in the bleach-white ceramic bathtub. Trapped, I let them be. I poured myself a glass of whiskey.
This was Zimbabwe. Insects and amphibians roamed this part of the world freely. Those that loved the heat and the humidity stayed, bred, and enjoyed this wet, green slice of our beautiful earth.
What Are Firebrats?
The common firebrat is shiny, a mottled gray or brown color, and about ½ an inch long. It’s slender, wingless, and soft-bodied. If you conjure this image up in your mind, it’s rather disturbing, isn’t it? To add to that bothersome image, imagine two willowy antennae—each of which is so lengthy that it reaches out beyond the entire length of the firebrat’s body—and three thin tail-like appendages (on the other end of the body) that extend quite far out too.
Firebrats prefer higher temperatures, require some humidity, and can be found in bakeries and near boilers or furnaces. Because they have enzymes in their guts that digest cellulose, their diet is quite extensive, ranging from book bindings and dog food to flour, cotton, and wood.
They can contaminate food, damage paper goods, and stain clothing. That, I believe, is sufficient knowledge to get rid of them.
What Other Bugs Are in My Bathtub (or Sink or Bathroom)?
Other insects that you’re likely to find in your bathroom are drain flies, also known as sewer flies, drainage flies, or sewer moths, cockroaches, gnats, and silverfish. Here we’ll outline how to identify the four most bathroom common bugs.
Drain flies are tiny black bugs with wings. They wine and dine in the organic matter (in a late stage of decay) inside your sewer or drain. Their presence is often an indicator that a plumbing problem exists. Drain flies often enter from a break in the sewer’s main line or through dry, infrequently used drain taps.
How to Identify Drain Flies
- Size: 4-5 mm, (which ranges from 1 penny and 2 dimes stacked on top of one another to 3 quarters)
- Looks: Fuzzy-like appearance, as their body and wings are covered with long hairs
- Shape: They have very long antennae and appendages
- Flight: Drunk-like
- Types: No variants
Cockroaches thrive in dark, damp places. Though their species number in the thousands, there are only a few that you’ll likely encounter. This detested pest wants to hide and multiply. Bathrooms, even those that are neat and tidy, are ideal breeding grounds for them, as they supply all that a cockroach needs: food (they’ll eat soap and human cells), water, and a habitat.
In terms of identification, I believe we’re already all-to-aware of what these pests look like.
Gnats look like baby insects, but they are not. They are just small, so small that they can fit through the tiniest of cracks in doors and windows (and then take up residence there). They generally eat rotting fruits, vegetables, and organic matter. (Organic matter can include rotting plants, and the slim that builds up in and around your sink). Though their presence is more common in kitchens, they may be attracted to the warmth of and moisture in your bathroom.
How to Identify Gnats
- Size: Fungus gnats are 3-6 mm, (which ranges from stack of a dime and a penny to a stack of two quarters and two dimes)
- Looks: Slender and delicate-looking with long wings and spindly legs
- Shape: Very thin, mosquito-like
- Flight: Weak fliers, appear to fly aimlessly
- Types: The three most common types of gnats that you’re likely to find in your home are fungus gnats, fruit flies, and drain flies (phorid flies)
Silverfish have metallic-colored scales and fish-like movements, hence their name. Their diet consists of virtually anything, but especially carbohydrates such as sugar, as well as carpet, clothing, coffee, hair, paper, (including book bindings), plaster, and photos. They tend to congregate near sinks, toilets, wet spaces, or spaces with paper. If you see a jumping bug in your bathtub, this is probably it.
How to Identify Silverfish
- Size: ½ inch long
- Looks: Long, silver and flat, with 3 long bristle-like appendages coming off the back of the body and a long pair of antennae
- Shape: Tear-shaped
- Flight: Wingless, but they can jump up to two feet vertically
- Types: There are three species, but the firebrat is the primary house-invading silverfish.
Why Are These Bugs in My Bathtub (or Sink or Bathroom)?
Many insects are attracted to humid, moist environments. If they’re stuck in your sink, they’re probably wingless, like the silverfish.
Drain flies like standing water in your bathroom pipes.
Cockroaches like unkempt toilets and showers. You have to be more than just tidy in your bathroom.
Gnats like the moisture from your bathroom sink and shower, as they provide perfect breeding grounds, (especially for fungus gnats and drain flies). They will also breed in an always-wet shower curtain.
Silverfish, (including firebrats), like humidity—75% or higher, especially humid areas that are moisture-rich, warm, and dark.
How Do I Get Rid of Them?
Getting rid of drain flies is a two-part job. Spray any that you see with Six Feet Under. To kill those living in your drain, use this DIY formula: Mix ½ cup salt with ½ cup baking soda. Pour this solution into the drain. Fill a container with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into the drain. (As the vinegar mixes with the baking soda, it will begin to bubble and foam.) Allow this to sit as long as you are able, ideally for at least 12 hours. Pour hot water down the drain to swirl away any remaining fly larvae.
Getting rid of cockroaches is a six-step process. To do a thorough job, I recommend purchasing the Insect Buster.
Getting rid of gnats is relatively easy. Follow the guidelines in Why do I have Gnats in my Plants, including using the Insect Buster to spread a non-toxic pest control powder on the top soil of your plants.
Getting rid of silverfish should not bear much difficulty. Use the Insect Buster, filled with food-grade diatomaceous earth or another non-toxic pest control powder in the area where you have seen silverfish activity. Also, use Six Feet Under, a non-toxic kill-on-contact spray, to kill one immediately.