Earwigs are small, winged insects of the order Dermaptera, which is derived from the Greek words ‘dermatos’ (meaning skin) and ‘pteron’ (meaning wing). The name ‘earwig’ is a word of Old English and it means ‘ear insect’. You might have heard the old wives’ tale that earwigs crawl inside the ears of human beings and lay eggs in the ear canal, but this is just a myth. If an earwig ever went inside a human’s ear, it was probably accidental. The fossil records of these insects show that they existed almost 208 million years ago in the era of the dinosaurs. They have about 2000 different species.
HOW TO IDENTIFY EARWIGS
The body of an earwig is split into three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. Their body is long and flattened. They normally range in length from 6mm to 18mm. The longest one measures 50mm in length and is known as the Australian Giant Earwig. They have paired pincers at the end of their abdomen. These are also called cerci and they’re the most easily noticeable part of earwigs. They are shaped like forceps and they look very dangerous. They might intimidate you, but they’re not poisonous. Earwigs are used to fending off unwanted predators and catch preys. Some species also discharge a yellow liquid that has a foul odor, to protect themselves from predators. They usually don’t harm humans but if they sense danger they might use their pincers to hurt you. However, it’s nothing alarming because their bite isn’t infectious.
Earwigs have a thread like antennae on their head. They have thin forewings and hindwings. The forewings are leathery and cover the hindwings. Despite having wings, they are not usually seen flying. Their feet compensate for that as they are fast runners. Their nervous system comprises of a brain and associated ganglia.
They’re usually found in grasslands and forests, hiding under logs, fallen leaves, stones, wooden planks or flower pots. Earwigs are omnivorous insects that consume both dead and living plant and animal matter. They have compound eyes which are very skilled at detecting motion; therefore, it is very hard to catch them. But some species of earwigs are blind. And since they are nocturnal, you would’ve hardly spotted them during the day. At night they can be seen around light-emitting sources. In houses, they’re usually found where there is water, such as in bathrooms and kitchens.