Image: Earwig

Earwig

Earwig, line drawing.

Creator:
Andrew Howells
Rights:
© Australian Museum

Notes

Earwigs belong to the Order Dermaptera.

What do earwigs look like?

Size:
  • 5 mm - 50 mm in length.
Body:
  • Column-like or vaguely tear-drop shaped.
  • Flattened as if pressed from above.
Antennae:
  • Thread-like, never longer than body.
Eyes:
  • Large and well separated or very small to absent.
Mouthparts:
  • For chewing or munching.
  • Held in front at rest.
Wings:
  • Two pairs if present.
  • Forewing hardened, cloudy and without veins; rectangular shaped and so short the abdomen is uncovered.
  • Hindwing membranous, and partially see-through; larger than forewing and folds like a hand fan.
  • At rest the wings are held flat to body, meeting at midline, with hindwing hidden.
Limbs:
  • Six legs, slender.
  • Tarsi (toes) with three segments.
Abdomen tip:
  • Two hardened tails modified as forceps.

Where are earwigs found?

  • Amongst leaf litter, under bark and rocks, and within crevices or rotting logs.

What do earwigs do?

  • They are usually found alone or at most in small numbers.
  • When disturbed they run away, in search of cover; they rarely fly.
  • They are weak fliers, usually flying for short bursts.
  • They feed on decaying plant or animal debris; some will also feed on live plant material and capture live insect prey.
  • Most are active during the night.

What looks similar?

  • Diplurans (Order Diplura) can be distinguished from earwigs by a lack of eyes, paired ventral appendages under all or most of the abdominal segments and tarsi (toes) with only one segment.
  • Rove beetles have small forewings, with large folded and functional wings underneath, but unlike earwigs they lack fully developed forceps.

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Tags insects, invertebrates, identification, Bugwise,