I never thought that I would feel excitement from finding an earwig … but it has been years since spotting my last earwig and I was beginning to wonder whether they had become extinct in my area along with so many other insects. This was a splendid male. Male earwigs have round rear pincer like protrusions whereas their counterpart females have rather straight protrusions with just the faintest suggestion of a small outward curving wobble in them. This particular earwig is the common variety which grows to between 10 to 15 mm in length. There are four different species of earwig in Britain, all of them usually go into a sort of hibernation during the colder months of the year so perhaps this male was looking for somewhere to spend the Winter months … he has wiggled away during the night so I’m not sure if he found a good hiding place to take a long nap in. Although earwigs have wings that they tuck away they rarely ever use them to fly with.
Common earwig - Forficula auricularia
The earwig’s name comes from earwicga which actually means ‘ear beetle.’ It was a widely held belief that the earwig crawled into ears whilst a person slept and some people even believed that earwigs laid their eggs deep inside the ear, there were also people also believed that the earwig crawled so far into the ear that they were able to lay eggs in a sleeping person’s brain. This widely held myth is still believed by a few people to this very day.
The female earwig is, in insect terms, a loving mother as she lays her eggs some twenty to sixty and occasionally eighty and stays with them whilst they hatch. She will gather her eggs up to keep them safe and checks the eggs keeping them in a tidy group. She will move the eggs and clean them regularly this keeps the eggs from developing mould in the damp nest. The young earwigs are the same shape as their parents and the ‘loving’ earwig mother stays with her young guarding them and providing them with food until they are large enough to fend for themselves. Once her job is done and her young have matured enough to live safely on their own in the big wide world, the mother earwig finds her final resting place and dies.
The earwig is a useful garden insect as although it may be seen eating flower petals it also tucks in to aphids and other garden pests as well as eating dead and decomposing plants and animals. This helps to keep the garden tidy and clean … so be thankful if you find an earwig for they are a friend to the gardener and quite lovely garden insects.