Earwigs make up the insect order Dermaptera. With about 2,000 species in 12 families, they are one of the smaller insect orders. Earwigs have characteristic cerci, a pair of forceps-like pincers on their abdomen, and membranous wings folded underneath short, rarely used forewings, hence the scientific order name, "skin wings". Some groups are tiny parasites on mammals and lack the typical pincers. Earwigs are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Earwigs are mostly nocturnal and often hide in small, moist crevices during the day, and are active at night, feeding on a wide variety of insects and plants. Damage to foliage, flowers, and various crops is commonly blamed on earwigs, especially the common earwig Forficula auricularia.
Earwigs have five molts in the year before they become adults. Many earwig species display maternal care, which is uncommon among insects. Female earwigs may care for their eggs, and even after they have hatched as nymphs will continue to watch over offspring until their second molt. As the nymphs molt, sexual dimorphism such as differences in pincer shapes begins to show.
Some earwig specimen fossils are in the extinct suborders Archidermaptera or Eodermaptera, the former dating to the Late Triassic and the latter to the Middle Jurassic. Many orders of insect have been theorized to be closely related to earwigs, though the icebugs of Grylloblattaria are most likely.
Earwigs can be found in almost any zone, although they more likely to inhabit southern climates. You might have trouble spotting one—not only are they quick movers, they are also nocturnal, and tend to hide out during the day when you are tending the garden. They like decaying wood and plant material, and dark, damp spaces. Oftentimes, they can be found in basements and woodpiles.
Earwigs are the sole members of the insect order Dermaptera, ancient bugs who began crawling around Earth about 208 million years ago. Today, some 1,100 species are scattered everywhere but in Earth’s polar regions. The name “earwig” comes from the Old English ear-wicga, which means “ear wiggler,” and it is named so because its hind legs are shaped like human ears. In France, they’re called ear piercers, and in Germany, ear worms.
In North America, we’re most familiar with Forficula auricularia, a European variety thought to have arrived with our immigrant ancestors. Earwigs were first reported in 1907 in Seattle, Washington, and they have now spread to most of the United States and parts of Canada.
When earwigs aren’t chomping on plants, they’re enjoying a lively social scene. They congregate during the day because they tend to find the same hiding places. Their nests can number in the thousands, and they aren’t territorial, so they tend to live together.
Pincher bugs feed on other insects, such as aphids, maggots, and army worms, which is one benefit. Unfortunately, they will also feed on the rest of your garden.
HOW TO PREVENT EARWIGS
Expect more earwigs during rainy years, and prepare accordingly.
Avoid growing susceptible plants near walls covered in ivy or hedges, as many earwigs might live in these areas.
Birds and toads are both natural predators of earwigs. Check out our tips for creating a bird-friendly garden.
Contact First Response Pest Control if you have any questions with regards to this post, 214-864-0669.
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