European Earwig (Forficula auricularia)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the European Earwig.
Updated: 3/14/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The exotic European Earwig has made North America its new home, comfortably living in a variety of habitats from coast to coast.
Contrary to popular belief, earwigs do not crawl into human ears to make nests or lay eggs. They also do not bite or pinch people on the ear. In fact, bug literature about earwigs states that they are harmless to people. It is believed that the name for this insect was intended to be "earwing" because of the shape of the wing, but somehow the 'n' was dropped and a mythology about the insect was created.
Testimonies of those who have been bitten or pinched by them exist, but their pincers are not intended for use against humans. Their pincers are designed for use in defense against other earwigs (males fighting for females) as well as against predators in self-defense. The pincers also help the earwig fold its wings to close them.
They do have wings, but rarely fly. European Earwigs have a dark brown or red body. Legs are yellow. The pincers are at the end of the abdomen and are also dark. They curve inward, like old-fashioned calipers. Adults of this species tend hide under objects by day, and sometimes in clusters. Lifting rocks, logs, and BBQ grill covers may reveal a group of them. They can crawl into small covered spaces like wall-mounted exterior garage door openers and electrical outlets, startling the unsuspecting human that flips the lid.
They are considered somewhat beneficial in gardens because they eat aphids. However, if insect prey is scarce, they may eat the roots of planted flowers (in containers as well as in ground). They will also nibble on the flower blossoms of fruits and vegetables, making the produce inedible. In such a case, they become pests. Their population numbers swelled so rapidly in Portland, Oregon back in 1924 that the city declared a state of emergency. The European Earwig was decimating the states' crop and fruit tree harvest and measures were taken to eradicate them from the area. These days, they are not likely to pose such a threat and are mostly contained in backyards.