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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.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Dermaptera
        Family: Forficulidae
          Genus: Forficula
            Species: auricularia
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Forficula auricularia
Other Name(s): Earwig
Category: Earwig
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 17mm (0.35in to 0.66in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; yellow; red; orange
Descriptors: pincers, long, skinny, segmented
Territorial Map
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.