Insects and their Allies  

Archeaognatha: bristletails

Bristletails are a group of small wingless insects that resemble silverfish (Thysanura) but unlike the fast running silverfish, bristletails can jump distances up to 10 centimetres by flexing their abdomens when disturbed. Bristletails are mostly grey in colour and usually less than 20 millimetres in length. They can be recognised by the following features:

Allomachilis froggatti
Allomachilis froggatti
  • Elongated body that tapers towards the back of the abdomen
  • Body covered in minute scales
  • Long antennae with many small segments
  • 3 long slender cerci with the middle one much larger than the 2 outside ones
  • Wingless
  • Compound eyes, which meet the middle of the head

    Life Cycle
    Bristletails lay up to 15 soft orange-coloured eggs in crevices or in holes bored with their long ovipositor. Nymphs develop slowly and may have up to 9 moults spanning 2 to 3 years before they reach maturity. The nymphs resemble small adults and unlike many other invertebrates will continue to moult throughout their lives regardless of age.

Bristletails are nocturnal feeders and eat a wide variety of vegetable matter including algae, lichens and decomposing vegetation.

Bristletails are found over much of Australia in a wide variety of habitats. They prefer damp environments and may be found under the bark of trees, in soil or leaf litter or in rock crevices. Some species even inhabit rocks at the base of coastal cliffs while others favour rainforest environments.