What Do Earwigs Do?

What earwigs do not do is enter the ears of sleeping people and crawl into their brains: That's superstition. Although they look scary, earwigs are harmless to humans and animals, but if mishandled they may give a slight pinch with their forceps.


Earwigs only look scary.

According to the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program, earwigs are "elongate, flattened insects, ranging from light red-brown to black" Earwigs are distinctive because of the forceps-like structures at the ends of their bodies.  Males' forceps are of unequal length, strongly curved and larger than those of female earwigs, whose forceps are straight.


Earwigs normally make their homes outdoors.  They are mostly seen at night and hide during the daytime.

If indoors, they are usually found moving rapidly around baseboards, in basements or crawlspaces.  Earwigs are attracted to light and, once indoors, will eat sweet, oily or greasy foods or houseplants.

Forceps' Use

According to the University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program, earwigs use their forceps to "defend their nests, capture prey, probe narrow crevices and fold or unfold wings". 


For food, most earwigs eat living or dead plant material and some insects.  According to the University of Illinois Extension, when earwigs are numerous, "they may feed on tender plants and may damage lettuce, strawberries, dahlias, marigolds, zinnias and roses".

Life Cycle

Earwigs develop from egg to adult, gradually, in five stages, according to University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program.  Females lay 20 to 50 smooth, oval, light-colored eggs in the upper two to three inches of soil, in spring or autumn.

About the Author

Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.

Photo Credits

  • european earwig (forficula auricularia) image by Henryk Dybka from Fotolia.com