Order Dermaptera: The Earwigs

When we talk about insects, especially when you are from the western countries, it is impossible to not put earwigs in our conversation. Earwigs have been famous not only in the woods, but also in our houses; for they have been the subject of an old tale about insects which crawls into humans’ ears and lay eggs in their brains. In fact, earwigs got their name from such myth; insects which penetrates in the man’s brain through their ears. However, we should know by now that this is a misnomer.

Earwig Biology

From the order Dermaptera, they were taxonomically classified as such because of the presence of their front and hind wings which, in Greek, is called as ptera. The term derma, on the other hand, is imposed because of their thick skin.

Earwigs are three-segmented insects. Their physiology includes two pairs of wings. The forewings are oblong in shape while the hind wings are fan-like and thin. They have a pair of pincers in their abdomen which they use when they catch their prey or hold their eggs. Most of their kind has flat bodies so they could get into small crevices and survive in narrow places. Their bodies have the capacity to grow from 7-50mm in length.

Earwig behavior

As to the behavior of earwigs, these insects are nocturnal; this means that they are usually awake at night and stays dormant in the morning. Scientists believe that this is correlated to their scavenging nature. Most earwigs feed on dead wood, animal meat, and dung of living things. All though some of them may have the tendency to be predatory, they are also herbivores or plant-eating insects.

Facts about earwigs

An interesting trivia about earwigs is that their females are good mothers. They lay their eggs on the ground and stay with them until they hatch. The hatchlings of earwigs are called instars and the stage of their lives between instars and adults is called nymph. Their nymphs could undergo 4-6 series of molting until they reach maturation.  Most earwigs survive the cold weather, but some of them tend to thrive on the southern and tropical parts of the world despite of their preferred climate.

It is debatable to say that earwigs are helpful in agriculture. All though they eat plant parts, most of them have no records of helping in terms of pollination. They are known causes of loss in harvest, so it is safer to conclude that it could affect our farmers economically.

On the other hand, earwig-human relationship is not harmful. These insects are not known to transmit diseases and the tales that their pincers contain poison is not true. Earwigs are not threats to living organisms, and if we can hear them, they’d probably say: Don’t be scared, folks! We too, are just trying to live our lives.

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