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European Earwig (Forficula auricularia)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the European Earwig, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 7/23/2014; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  European Earwig  
Picture of European-Earwig
Picture of European-Earwig Picture of European-EarwigPicture of European-EarwigPicture of European-Earwig

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 typically 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 exist, but their pincers are not intended for use against humans. Their pincers 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. 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 spaces like outdoor garage door openers and outlets, startling the unsuspecting human that opens the lids.

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 its 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.

Picture of the European Earwig
Picture of the European Earwig

European Earwig Information

Category: Earwig
Common Name: European Earwig
Scientific Name: Forficula auricularia
Other Name(s): Earwig

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Dermaptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Forficulidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Forficula
       Arrow graphic Species: auricularia

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 9 mm to 17 mm (0.351 inches to 0.663 inches)
Identifying Colors: brown; yellow; red; orange
Additional Descriptors: pincers, long, skinny, segmented

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; 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; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that 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. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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