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earwig, common name for any of the smooth, elongated insects of the order Dermaptera. Earwigs are small, with pairs of horny, forcepslike abdominal appendages, larger in the male than in the female, and short, leathery forewings that cover the membranous hindwings when folded. Some of the 900 species lack wings; the winged species rarely fly. Many tropical earwigs are brightly colored and carnivorous, even cannibalistic. The common earwig of temperate climates is native to Europe but has spread widely and seems destined to become cosmopolitan in distribution. Most species feed on plants and some are serious pests; others are predaceous or scavengers. The pincers of the male are used in courtship battles with other males. The female is unusual in that it guards its eggs and tends the young, which molt from 4 to 6 times during metamorphosis. The superstition that earwigs crawl through the ears and into the brains of sleeping persons probably derives from their nocturnal habits and the tarry or waxy odor of a secretion of their abdominal glands. A fossil earwig links the order to ancient cockroaches. Earwigs are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Dermaptera.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



any insect of the order Dermaptera. Earwigs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. The body is elongated (3.5–30 mm) and flexible; the coloring ranges from yellow-brown to black. At the end of the abdomen are pincerlike appendages (modified cerci) that are more complicated in the male than in the female. The forewings (tegmina) are hard and very short; the hind wings are membranous and hidden under the forewings when the insect is at rest. There are also wingless species in the order. The legs are ambulatory, and the tarsi are three-jointed.

Earwigs are found throughout the world, particularly common in the subtropics and tropics. Of the approximately 1,200 species, 26 are found in the USSR. Earwigs are predominantly nocturnal. During the day they hide under rocks, bark, fallen leaves, and other objects. They require moisture and heat. Sometimes earwigs swarm in houses or move into hives. They feed primarily on animal and plant remains but sometimes prey on small insects, spiders, and worms; some species, for example, the European earwig (Forficula auricularia), feed on plants and can damage agricultural crops.


Bei-Bienko, G. Ia. Nasekomye kozhistokrylye. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936. (Fauna SSSR, no. 5.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for members of the insect order Dermaptera.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


any of various insects of the order Dermaptera, esp Forficula auricularia (common European earwig), which typically have an elongated body with small leathery forewings, semicircular membranous hindwings, and curved forceps at the tip of the abdomen
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005