The earwig, a funny insect very easy to observe


The earwig: this is a very common insect that does not go unnoticed. With its hooks intimidating and its curious name, the insect feeds legends claiming, for example, that it enters the ears during our sleep! Zoom on an animal, the best of which defense does not rely on its two small pincers but on its six legs thanks to which it takes flight.

Identity card of the earwig

The earwig (Forficula auricularia) or ear clip belongs to the order of dermaptera and the family forficulidae. Dermapters number around 1,800 species in the world and around 20 in France. The forficula owes its name to its taste for fruits with cores. The apricot and peach quarters being called ears or mumps, the name earwig has been given to it. Among the stories that forged its bad reputation, the one claiming that the insect would pierce the eardrums sleepers by entering the ear canal. An unfounded legend!

A leather-like shell

The term dermaptera means “with leather-like wings” and refers to the flaking hind wings. These are well developed but folded, so that the insect very rarely uses them for flight. The earwig has a body elongate, whose shell (or flexible chitin cuticle) consists of a thin molecule protective red-brown color. Very characteristic, the morphology of the forficule features a light brown abdomen ending in two pincers rigid. With three pairs of legs, the animal has two antennae and mouthparts on its head crushers. It is between one and two centimeters long.

What are earwig pliers used for?

According toexe of the insect, the pincers take on a different aspect and role:

  • At the male, the cerci are large, arched and toothed. They are used mainly to frighten enemies, immobilize prey and attract partners;
  • At the female, the abdominal appendages are rectilinear and smaller. They are used like scissors to defend eggs and juveniles against petty predators.

The forceps of the ear clip are in fact ineffective against large predators such as birds, lizards or insectivorous mammals. In fact, the forficule protects itself more by projecting a substance onto its attackers. chemical pungent smelling through glands abdominal. But as a rule, the escape is the earwig’s best weapon.

The earwig, nocturnal insect

The earwig is present all over the world and throughout France. Easily adaptable, it frequents all kinds of habitats: woods, open spaces, gardens. Looking for darkness and humidity, the insect lucifuge (who flees the light) takes refuge during the day under the bark, stones, leaves, in cracks in walls, trunk crevices or under flower pots. It’s here night that the forficule is active to find its food.

The earwig eats whatever it finds

The earwig is an omnivore polyphagous, that is to say that he consumes various foods without restricting himself to a single category of food. As such, this insect opportunistic eat what he finds without really looking. It also feeds on young leaves, flowers, shoots, spring buds than vegetables at the limit of decomposition such as fruits (peaches, apricots) very ripe. The insect completes its vegetarian menu with mushrooms microscopic, algae and lichens. The wireworm also consumes aphids, mites, psyllids, slug eggs, young caterpillars and insect larvae. The earwig can show itself cannibal occasionally.

Earwig: a caring female

Reproduction of the earwig begins with mating in the warm season. In the fall, when the first cold weather sets in, the earworm takes shelter in the ground to hibernate. The female takes refuge in a burrow where she lays about thirty eggs that she will lick without respite throughout the winter to protect them from thehumidity ambient. After hatching, which occurs around mid-May, the mother continues to take care of her offspring until the last of four moults through which its larvae will pass. Young adults without wings emerge from their shelter around July.

The short life of the earwig

The males usually die during the winter and therefore have a lifespan of barely six months. By becoming extinct during the summer following spawning, females experience a life expectancy ofa year. Mothers thus spend a large part of their lives caring for their eggs and juveniles. Attachment to their offspring is aexception in insects that rarely care for their offspring.

Earwig in the garden

From May, the young earwigs will begin to feed on their own. Swallowing aphids and ants, the earwig makes common cause with ladybugs. As seen previously, these omnivores will also swallow young caterpillars, butterfly larvae, mites and various insects. harmful for spring plantings. As a reminder, the animal also devours materials in decomposition. Studies have shed light on the role of the earwig in biological control within orchards where it regulates pear psyllid populations. If its partially vegetarian diet has long placed it in the pest camp, the insect is now rehabilitated and used as auxiliary by some gardeners. Its minimal damage is clearly offset by its intervention in the food chain.

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