Earwig (Dermaptera): All Details


The earwig is an interesting animal to know about. They fall under the order Dermaptera. When compared to other orders of insects, they are rather small, with about 2,000 species in 12 families. Earwigs have cerci, which are a pair of forceps-like pincers on their abdomen. They also have membranous wings folded under the short forewings that they rarely use.

This is why the scientific name for their order is “skin wings.” Some are small parasites that live on mammals and don’t have the usual pincers. You can find earwigs on every continent except Antarctica. Earwigs are mostly active at night & hide during the day in small, moist cracks. At night, they feed on a wide range of insects and plants. Earwigs, especially the common earwig bug Forficula auricularia, often cause damage to plants, flowers, and crops.

What is an Earwig?

Earwigs are insects in the Order Dermaptera. They have thin bodies and wings that they don’t use very often. Their moniker originates from a folktale from ancient Europe in which they are said to sneak into people’s ears at night. Even though this myth has no scientific basis, many people find the earwig’s pincers to be very scary.

There are 22 different kinds of earwigs in the United States, and they like to live in groups. Scientists think this is because of a scent, namely a pheromone, that these insects give off. They do most of their work at night. They hide during the day in damp, cold places and come out at night to eat.

How to Identify Earwigs?

Earwig bug is thin, reddish-brown insects that are about 3/4 of an inch long and have long flat bodies. They have a pair of sharp pincers or forceps that stick out from the end of their abdomen and are used to catch food and mate.

Male earwigs have thick, pincers with curves that are far apart at the base. Females, on the other hand, have thin, straight pincers that are closer together. Some species have wings, but they don’t fly well, so most of the time, they crawl to find food.

Species with wings sometimes have two sets of wings, and their back wings usually fold under their front wings when they are not in use. Earwigs will sometimes come into your home. But they are only there by accident and won’t set up a home or have babies inside.

Earwig Distribution

There are a lot of earwigs, and you can find them in both the Americas and Eurasia. The common earwig came to North America from Europe in 1907. It is most common in the USA’s south and southwest. Only the spine-tailed earwig bug (Doru aculeatum) is endemic to the northern USA; it lives in the leaf axils of emergent plants in the marshes of southern Ontario, Canada. Other families, such as Forficulidae, Spongiphoridae, Anisolabididae, and Labiduridae, can be found in North America. Doru and Forficula can be found in this family.


Life Cycle of an Earwig


The adults spend the winter in the dirt. In January and February, females lay 20 to 50 creamy color eggs in underground nests. The young (nymphs) first appear in April. Nymphs are safe in the nest, don’t leave until they’ve gone through their first molt, and can take care of themselves.

Earwig nymphs go through four or five developmental “instars” (stages) before reaching adulthood. The only distinguishing features between them and their adult counterparts are the lack of wings and the small size of the pincers. For the most part, a year is a whole generation for most of the country’s animal species…

Where Do Earwigs Live?

Earwigs like to live in moist places with a lot of humidity. So, you can find them outside under wet piles of leaves, yard waste, mulch, or in tree holes.

So, what do earwigs eat? Most of the time, they hide during the day and eat leaves, flowers, fruits, mold, insects, and other animals at night. Earwigs in house get through cracks outside and then through the whole building.

Earwigs love places with water, like bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and crawl spaces under your house. You might also find earwigs in your basement if it gets wet or humid there a lot.

In fact, if you think you have earwigs in your house, it’s a good idea to check for water damage, which may be luring them in. It’s not unusual for them to go to other rooms in the house, like the living room or bedroom. Also, these earbugs like lights, which makes them a problem on summer evenings on patios and porches.

Earwig Behavior

Most earwigs are active at night and live in small cracks or in small amounts of debris, such as bark or logs that have fallen. Cavernicolous species have been found to be blind and live in caves on the island of Hawaii and in South Africa. Food is usually made up of many different kinds of plant and animal matter, both living and dead.

The Doru taeniatum species of earwigs can squirt the foul-smelling yellow liquid in the form of jets from glands on the dorsal side of the third and fourth abdominal segment. This helps them avoid being eaten. It aims at the discharges by turning its abdomen, which also lets it use its pincers as a defense at the same time. In rare cases, earwigs can come together in large groups and take over large parts of a district.

Are Earwigs Dangerous to Humans?

Even though earwigs look scary, they are not dangerous to humans. Earwigs don’t crawl into people’s ears at night and don’t make people sick. But some species make a liquid with a bad smell as a way to protect themselves. Because of this and how scary they look, many homeowners worry about them.

In any case, earwigs are a bigger threat to garden plants than they are to people. They are a problem in gardens because they eat a variety of flowers and vegetables.

Besides, they are usually active from late June to October. Moreover, they can chew irregular holes in the leaves and flower blossoms of plants like corn silk and seedlings, marigolds, dahlias, butterfly bushes, and hostas, causing damage to the plants. Larger plants can survive this feeding, but a high earwig population can harm or kill younger plants like seedlings and flowers.

Facts About Earwigs

1. Earwigs Don’t Use Their Wings

Even though earwigs have wings and can fly, it might surprise you how little time they spend in the air. Earwigs have wings on their backs but don’t use them very often. They use other ways to get around. They might fly once in a while, but that’s not something we see very often in our area.

2. Many Earwig Species Are There

There are over 1,000 different kinds of earwigs in the world, and just a bit more than 20 in the United States. Most of the time, you’ll see European ear wigs around here, which are some of the most common in the country. They caused problems for many Americans after being brought here in the twentieth century.

3. They Won’t Go Near Your Ears

Despite what their name might lead you to believe, ear wig is not out to eat your brain. This fable about earwig desires is completely false. While they do like it dark and damp, your ear isn’t exactly a top spot on their list of preferred living conditions. Have no apprehension.

4. They’ll Fiercely Protect Their Young

Just when you think you are a loyal and caring person, earwigs show you how much more you can be. A female earwig can lay a lot of eggs at once, and the mother will spend all of her time guarding the eggs. In fact, she’ll stay with them until they hatch — up until their first molt. After that, the nymphs are on their own and can go wherever they want.

5. They’re Omnivores

Earwigs possess pincers or forceps that help them catch plants and other bugs for a hearty meal. Earwigs compete for a wide range of foods, such as rotting leaves, garden plants, and bugs.

FAQs: Earwig


Are Earwigs Harmful To Humans? Do Earwigs Bite?

Earwigs can grab a finger with their forceps if they are upset, but they do not sting and are not dangerous. Since they don’t have poison, earwigs are not dangerous. Bugs that bite, like mosquitoes or bed bugs, can hurt people.

Do Earwigs Go In Your Ear?

However, despite their name, earwigs are actually rather innocuous insects. Earwigs have occasionally been discovered in the ear, but contrary to popular belief, they do not enter the body through the ear canal. Despite the name, it’s not correct.

Can Earwigs Actually Pinch You?

Earwigs may look scary due to their pincers, yet they rarely bite people. When threatened, they may resort to pinching with their forceps-like cerci. Thankfully, they only pinch a little, and the pain is minimal.

What Attracts Earwigs In Your House?

They may be coming in because it is dry and safe to hide there, and there is food all around. Earwigs aren’t discriminating eaters, so you can toss any dead or decaying plant matter in your yard and many of your live plants at their feet.

How To Get Rid Of Earwigs?

Rubbing alcohol and water – Mix some together in a spray bottle. The earwigs will be eliminated instantly upon contact with the sprayed solution. Cook up a trap with olive oil and soy sauce by combining the two in a container and leaving it in the last place you spotted earwigs.

Where Do Earwigs Lay Eggs?

The earwig lays eggs, which hatch, unlike certain insects that have eggs that hatch inside of them and appear to “give birth” to young insects. Female earwigs are quite picky about where they lay their eggs, choosing only specific locations like damp leaf crevices.

How Long Does An Earwig Live?

Earwigs have a lifespan of roughly a year, with spring being the most common time for eggs to hatch. A nymph is in a juvenile stage, and just like cockroaches, they shed their skin several times before becoming an adult. Earwigs are found all throughout the planet save Antarctica.

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