Looking to for some quick facts about earwigs? Find out what they are, pictures of what they look like in color and size, types, where they come from, habitat, habits, life cycle dangers, and frequently asked questions.
Table of Contents
What is an Earwig?
This is a small and long insect that has a pair of terminal appendages that look like pincers. They are one of the most confused insects and at times look like and are confused with mosquitoes.
Its scientific name is Dermaptera.
It is of the order Dermaptera
The order above has about 12 families namely: Anisolabididae, Chelisochidae, Labiduridae, Spongiphoridae, Pygidicranidae, Carcinophoridae, Labiidae, Forficulidae among many other families.
Origin-where they come from
According to the handbook of the insects of America north of Mexico, about 6 families of the earwigs come from Florida. They are introduced by the plant materials. However, the species could be found far and wide in a number of areas.
Others are found distributed in various places of the planet. For instance, there is the European earwig that is found in areas including but not limited to Europe, Western parts of Asia and parts of Northern Africa.
This was however observed first in Washington in 1907 and thereafter spread to other areas like Columbia and California.
Where they live
Earwigs are nocturnal animals that only come out to feed when it is night time. They scavenge and feed on the dead insects and even the decomposing plant materials. There are some earwigs that are not entirely nocturnal but could be attracted to light.
During the day, the earwigs spend a great deal of time under the organic materials and matter like the mulch, litter from the leaves, pine straw and other debris.
How did earwigs get their name-Why are they called so?
Conventionally reasoning out, the earwigs have the tendency crawling into the ear and that is why they have the name earwigs. They are said to do so when you are asleep.
Some individuals believe that these insects can dig deep into your ear to the brain where they lay eggs and cause more damage. The Natural History of the Animal Kingdom by William Sweetland Dallas, 1856 alludes to the same reasoning.
On the other hand and school of thought, there are etymologists (those who study languages) point out that the allocation of the name could be inaccurate.
They put it that the proper translation from literature would maybe have given it the name ear wing and not earwig. This is nothing to do with the behavior of the insect but the shape of its wings.
What does an earwig look like?
The appearance of the wig can be described in terms of the color, size and the anatomy.
Typical earwigs appear to be dark reddish brown in color.
Size-how big is an earwig
There are a number of variables that determine how big an earwig could be. The size varies depending on the species and the age. An adult earwig for instance could range between 5 to 25 mm. They could even be bigger.
Earwigs have a flat but cylindrical body that has a long abdomen containing large forceps called the cerci at the end. They use the cerci in self-defense. Some earwigs have wings while others don’t.
Those that have, the wings are in two sets which they use a pair to fly and the other pair to protect the flying wings. The wings used for protection of the flying wings are called tengmina. They are short, leathery and lack veins in them.
The wings used to fly look like membranes and can fold and unfold in a short time. The males can be distinguished from the females by looking at the abdomen. The male cerci are curved while the female cerci are straighter.
The male abdomen is divided into 10 visible segments while the female abdomen is divided into 8 segments that are visible.
Here are some pictures to help you have a deeper insight of how the earwigs look like in reality. Have a look at them so that you can identify them at first sight.
Are earwigs dangerous or Poisonous?
Looking at their anatomy; their pincers and forceps that protrude from the abdomen, it is easy to come to a conclusion that they are dangerous. This is however not true but rather a misconception.
They can use the forceps and pincers to cling to your fingers or skin but do not bite at the end of it all. They lack venom and thus harmless. This is according the Orkin website.
When they pinch your skin, they tend to make you uncomfortable and irritated. This could prompt you scratch and this could expose you to germs and other infections.
In this case, an antibiotic would sort you out to eliminate the infection. The only danger these insects would pose is to your garden.
They are likely to destroy your seedlings and other plants in your garden. It is therefore not an emergency when you get a sting by the earwigs.
What do earwigs eat and do
What they feed on
Earwigs have a very diverse diet. They could eat insects that are smaller than them, like the fleas and mites as well as their respective eggs. They are also likely to scavenge on dead animal’s bodies or decomposing matter.
Apart from that, they also eat corn silk as well as flowers and other crops. They also feed on the butterfly bushes, carnations, hollyhocks and sunflowers.
Other crops commonly fed on by the earwigs include pea, cucumbers, beats, chard, lettuces, pears, potatoes and strawberries. The specific foods could also depend on the geographical location of the earwigs.
What they do
These insects are nocturnal and during the day, they spend their time hiding in small, dark and moist areas. They only come out at night to look for food. They are at times regarded as garden pests because they spend time eating up young leaves and petals of plants.
There are different types of earwigs and here is a discussion about some of them.
Ring legged earwig
They appear in large numbers and are known to feed on both plant and animal matter.
They also have detrimental effects on plants that are succulent like the lettuce and they end up leaving some poop on the leaves. They would prey on the beetle larvae, caterpillars and leafhoppers.
These are earwigs that feed on other insects of smaller sizes or lower orders. They could feed on among others caterpillars, beetles, aphids and other insects. They could thus be a control insect of these dangerous insects. They do not at any point feed on man or their blood.
This is the commonest in the US. It can be spotted in homes especially at night. They spend most of their time hiding in the layers of moist soil, decaying matter and dark areas.
This group is known for their mammoth entry into homes. They do not cause damage to the vegetation outside but their huge entry into homes is what causes alarm.
Red legged earwig
It is commonly seen in the southern parts of the US, dominantly in Florida. What makes it different from the rest is that it does not have the set of wings that are leathery as seen in other earwigs.
They have antennae and forceps just like the others, colored black and yellow on the underside. They infest homes in large numbers just like the European earwigs.
They live mainly in the southern part of the US and they are not a threat to the vegetation outside the homesteads.
They do not infest homes in abundance of numbers like the other species. They could however largely infest homes when the weather outside is hot and dry whereas they need to survive.
Because there are so many species of earwigs, there are also so many differences in their life cycles.
Despite so, there are also a lot of similarities. All the species of earwigs undergo gradual processes of metamorphosis. The stages are egg, nymph and adults.
Immediately after the mating process mainly during the summer or early falls, the female earwig lays eggs.
The female earwig is very unique as it has instincts that are very special to the life cycle of the earwig.
When the nest is completely ready, the female earwig will make arrange the eggs and then put them in cell about 20 to 60 eggs at a time.
The female is always on standby to protect the eggs from danger of other insects or even its own mate. She occasionally leaks each egg as a way of protection.
Baby Earwigs (Nymph)
Dependent on the temperature, the eggs get hatched after 20 to 70 days. The newly hatched and emerging earwigs are called baby earwigs or nymphs.
The justification of this is that earwigs undergo slow and incomplete metamorphosis. They then undergo about 4 instar stages of development before they get to the adult stage.
This is the final stage of the development process. The earwigs reach adulthood around August or September. During this time, the earwigs are sexually mature and they therefore start mating with each other.
Life span-how long do earwigs live?
Earwigs could live for about a year once they are hatched. They begin mating during the autumn and are mostly found together during the winter.
The male and female will live in the chambers, crevices or the soil as deep as 2.5 centimeters.
What attracts earwigs
Food in the garden
First, the promise and assurance of food in the garden attract earwigs. The presence of moist soil in the garden also attracts the earwigs. They could at the end of the day find their way into your house because of the harsh environmental conditions outside.
Small lights at the set of darkness also attract the earwigs to your home. Too much and excessive light could act as a scare because they are predominantly nocturnal insects. When the outside also becomes too cold, the wigs could be forced to seek more conducive shelter in your house.
Rotting wood in your house or compound could also be a great attractant to the earwigs. When the woods grow holes in the course of rotting, the wigs find a home right there. Wood piles around your home attract the wigs as well.
The woods provide an environment where they can lay eggs and breed with a lot of ease. Always keep the piles of wood away from your homes to keep these bugs off your home.
A humid home is an environment safe for the earwigs. They would comfortably colonize these areas and keep coming out to be a source of nuisance to you when you sleep.
Presence of flowers on plants in the garden keeps the earwigs as close as possible. They will always feed on the vegetation as they feed on the insects that feed on the flowers.
Do earwigs fly
Earwigs have very able wings. In that regard, they use the wings to fly from one place to another. The order Dermaptera, which the insects belong, means something like leather or skin wings.
They have front and rear wings. The front wings are not so clear but rather dark and more durable. Despite the presence of wings, there are species that still do not fly.
The earwigs that fly are not the most agile. This is because the wings are not efficient enough to ferry them far. They can only carry them over very short distances.
The reason the flying earwigs do so is because they would want to search for food located farther. If food is readily available, they would hence find no need to do so.
The flying in the wigs entails moving the forewings that are again harder and more leathery to the inside. The leathery wings then unfold and spread as the earwig plans a takeoff. The insect flies with a limited agility while in the air.
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