Earwig, a brown beetlelike insect with a pair of pincers at the tip of its abdomen. The use of the pincers is not known. The name, meaning "ear insect,” comes from the mistaken belief that the insect creeps into the ears of sleeping persons.
The earwig is seldom more than one inch (2.5 cm) long. A pair of many-jointed antennae projects from the insect's large head. Most earwigs have four wings—a short, thick, upper pair; and a larger, thin, transparent rear pair that folds like a fan beneath the upper pair. However, these insects rarely fly, and some do not have wings at all. Earwigs feed mainly on crop and garden plants, but their chewing mouthparts are also adapted for eating insects, slugs, and decayed matter.
By April the female lays a small number of eggs in a damp spot. She guards the nymphs for about four weeks. There is no pupal stage. The nymphs mature in about two months.
Earwigs are found in all warm climates. Of the more than 500 known species, about 12 inhabit the Pacific and Gulf states areas of the United States.
The common earwig is Forficula auricularia of the family Forficulidae, belonging to the skin-winged insect order, Dermaptera.