Forficulidae Earwigs


Forficulidae is an insect family that is commonly referred to as “earwigs.” Earwigs are found all over the world, with the majority of them belonging to the family Forficulidae.

These insects have slender bodies, somewhat rounded heads, two large facetted eyes, and long slender antennae made up of short oval joints. When at rest, the elytra, which are very short and usually do not extend beyond the hind margin of the thorax, cover the hind wings.

These hind wings are short but broad, resembling a human ear when expanded for flight but neatly folded up beneath the abbreviated elytra when not in use. However, in many groups, both elytra and wings are absent, with insects relying on their legs and burrowing abilities to escape danger, and even those with well-developed wings rarely use them. The thorax is narrow; the legs are stout, well adapted for digging as well as running; and the abdomen, tapering to the extremity, ends in a pair of callipers or pincer-like processes, sometimes curved and toothed into remarkable shapes. The earwig’s possession of these strange anal appendages has led to it being popularly credited with all kinds of evil proclivities; however, while they certainly look intimidating, they can only give one’s finger a harmless pinch if handled carelessly, and are otherwise perfectly harmless.

Earwigs have elongated and flattened bodies with prominent forceps-like appendages at the end of their abdomen called cerci. They have two pairs of wings, with hardened and leathery forewings and membranous hindwings.

Earwigs are mostly nocturnal and can be found in dark, moist places like under rocks or in plant debris. They are omnivorous, eating a variety of foods such as plant matter, dead insects, and occasionally other earwigs.

Earwigs have a distinct mating behaviour in which the male presents the female with a spermatophore, or a package of sperm, which she uses to fertilise her eggs. Young earwigs moult several times after hatching before reaching adulthood.

While earwigs are generally thought to be harmless to humans, they can be considered pests in certain circumstances. They can, for example, damage crops or plants and be a nuisance when they invade homes or other structures.

There are several species of earwigs in Australia including:

Labidura truncata: Also known as the “short-winged earwig,” this species is found in eastern and southern Australia. It is distinguished by its short and broad wings, which do not extend past the end of its abdomen. L. truncata is a predator of small insects and spiders.

Nala lividipes: Also known as the “striped earwig,” this species is found in eastern and northern Australia. It is distinguished by the yellow or orange stripes on its legs and antennae. The scavenger N. lividipes feeds on dead insects and plant material.

Forficula auricularia, also known as the “European earwig,” is an introduced species found in Australia. It is distinguished by its reddish-brown coloration and prominent cerci. F. auricularia is a generalist feeder that consumes both plant matter and insects.

Euborellia annulipes: Also known as the “ring-legged earwig,” this species is found in southern and eastern Australia. It is distinguished by its black colour and white rings on its legs. E. annulipes is a predator of small insects and spiders.

Chelidurella acanthopygia: Also known as the “spinytail earwig,” this species is found in southern and western Australia. It is distinguished by its spine-covered, long, and slender cerci. C. acanthopygia is a predator of small insects and spiders.

Despite their reputation as pests, the Forficulidae family of earwigs is diverse and plays important roles in their ecosystems. Many species are predators or scavengers that help control the populations of other insects, while others are generalist feeders that play important roles in nutrient cycling.