Earwigs are fascinating insects that often get a bad rap due to their somewhat sinister appearance and the many myths surrounding them. Belonging to the order Dermaptera, earwigs are diverse and widespread, with more than 2,000 species worldwide. Here’s everything you need to know about these intriguing insects:

– Size: Earwigs vary in size but are typically between 5 to 25 mm long.
– Body: They have elongated, flattened bodies that are usually dark brown or black. Some species may feature stripes or other markings.
– Antennae: Their antennae are long and segmented.
– Wings: While earwigs have wings, not all species are strong fliers. They have forewings (elytra) that are short and leathery, covering the membranous hindwings.
– Pincers: One of the most distinctive features of earwigs is their forceps-like pincers (cerci) at the end of their abdomen. The pincers are more curved in males than in females and are used for defense and capturing prey.

Behavior and Habitat
– Nocturnal: Earwigs are primarily nocturnal and tend to hide during the day in dark, moist places such as under rocks, logs, mulch, and leaf litter.
– Diet: Earwigs are omnivores. They feed on a wide range of food sources, including decaying plant matter, fungi, other insects, and sometimes live plants.
– Environmental Preferences: They prefer moist, humid environments and can often be found in gardens, basements, and bathrooms where conditions are ideal.

Life Cycle
Earwigs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, consisting of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

1. Egg: Female earwigs lay their eggs in the soil or in small crevices. They can produce several dozen to a hundred eggs at a time.
2. Nymph: The nymphs resemble miniature adults but lack fully developed wings and pincers. They go through several molts as they grow.
3. Adult: Once they reach adulthood, earwigs are fully developed with functional wings and pincers.

Ecological Importance
Earwigs play a beneficial role in ecosystems:
– Decomposition: As decomposers, earwigs help break down organic material, contributing to nutrient cycling in the soil.
– Pest Control: By feeding on other insects and pests, earwigs can help control populations of harmful species.

Common Myths
Earwigs are surrounded by several myths and misconceptions:
– Ear Invaders: One of the most pervasive myths is that earwigs crawl into people’s ears and burrow into their brains. This is entirely unfounded. While earwigs might occasionally crawl into ears seeking shelter, they pose no threat and certainly do not burrow into the brain.
– Dangerous Pincers: Although their pincers look intimidating, earwigs are generally harmless to humans. They rarely use their pincers on people and, when they do, it’s usually a mild pinch without any real harm.

Dealing with Earwigs
While earwigs are mostly harmless, they can become a nuisance, especially if they make their way into your home:
– Reduce Moisture: Since earwigs are attracted to moist environments, keeping areas dry and well-ventilated can help deter them.
– Seal Entry Points: Ensure that cracks and gaps around doors, windows, and foundations are sealed to prevent them from entering your home.
– Remove Debris: Clear away leaf litter, mulch, and other debris from around the foundation of your house to reduce potential hiding spots.

Interesting Facts
– Parental Care: Female earwigs display an unusual level of maternal care compared to other insects. They guard their eggs and young nymphs, protecting them from predators and fungal infections.
– Communication: Earwigs use chemical signals to communicate and may even engage in social behaviors like sharing food.

Earwigs, with their unique appearance and intriguing behavior, are a testament to the diversity and complexity of the insect world. Though often misunderstood and mistakenly feared, these insects play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance.