Common Earwig (Forficula auricularia)


Class: Insecta
Order: Dermaptera
Family:    Forficulidae
Size:    Up to 3/4 inch (1.91 cm)
Weight: Unknown
Diet: Plants, insects and fruit
Distribution: Worldwide
Young:  25 to 50 eggs, once or twice a year
Animal Predators:  Toads, birds and other predator insects
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Up to two years 



·         Males and females are easily identifiable by their forceps.

·         The name, earwig, comes from a misguided belief that they crawl into people’s ears to bore holes in the brain.

·         There are 22 species of earwigs in North America.



These small, reddish-brown bugs are widely disliked because of their appearance (people sometimes mistake them for cockroaches), but they are actually harmless creatures that live in damp, moist areas such as under rocks and in gardens. Males have thin, curved forceps on their hind end, while females have thicker, straight forceps. These forceps, also known as cerci, are primarily used for courtship. Adult earwigs have two pairs of wings: short and leathery front wings and a membranous hind pair that is folded underneath by the front pair. Though earwigs have wings, they rarely fly, instead moving primarily by crawling.  



Earwigs can be found all over the world, except for the extreme north. They tend to hide in cracks and crevices and under bark, preferring moisture. They first appeared in the Americas in the early 1900s, carried by humans arriving from Europe on their clothing and in their bags. 


Feeding Habits

Although earwigs feed on plants such as flowers and lettuce, they also eat other insects that do far more damage to plants, making them a welcome sign to gardeners. They are also beneficial in that they sometimes feed on decaying fruit.



A male and female mate in late summer or early fall. Together, they dig a hole in soil or rotting vegetation for their nest. The female lays her eggs in early spring after a winter of hibernating with the male. The male leaves the nest but the female remains, to guard her 25 to 50 creamy-white eggs, constantly turning them and cleaning them with her tongue. They hatch in four to five weeks and are shaped like adult earwigs, but are smaller and white. The female feeds and protects them for the next 10 days until they shed their skins. The family stays together until late summer, when they are fully grown and can feed and fend for themselves. This type of parental care is very uncommon in most insects, who usually lay eggs and then leave before they are hatched. The female may then produce another brood, though there will be fewer eggs in this second brood and since it is late summer and therefore hotter, will take less time to hatch.  



Common earwigs sometimes end up in houses, usually on cut flowers, or because they have curled up inside a newspaper or crawled into a cardboard box and are carried inside. They do not bite and can be easily carried back outside. Earwigs are nocturnal and sleep in a moist spot during the day.



Earwigs are not a conservation concern. 



Common Earwig Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US