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European Earwig (Forficula auricularia)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the European Earwig

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The exotic European Earwig has made North America its new home, comfortably living in a variety of habitats from coast to coast.

Updated: 06/27/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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 letter '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 state's 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.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Dermaptera
        Family: Forficulidae
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          Genus: Forficula
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            Species: auricularia
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Forficula auricularia
Other Name(s): Earwig
Category: Earwig
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 17mm (0.35" to 0.66")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: brown; yellow; red; orange
Descriptors: pincers; long; skinny; segmented

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 9mm (0.4in) and 17mm (0.7in)
Lo: 9mm
Md: 13mm
Hi: 17mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the European Earwig may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the European Earwig. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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