Despite its name and threatening appearance, the common earwig is a harmless and interesting creature.
Earwigs are 8-18mm long.
A small smooth elongated brown insect with a pair of pincer-like appendages at the end of its abdomen. They have a pair of fan-like hindwings that are normally folded away behind the thorax and hidden under their short leathery forewings.
Males and females can be distinguished by their tail pincers, which are more curved in males than females.
They are found all over Europe but have been introduced to many other parts of the world.
Earwigs can be found in damp crevices in houses, gardens and woodland.
They feed on decaying plant and animal matter and other insects.
Earwigs rest during the day inside damp crevices such as under bark or in hollow plant stems. They are scavengers and emerge at night.
Their pincers can give a small nip to a human but they are normally used to scare away predators and to help them tuck their wings away.
The female lays eggs under stones and in crevices and will stay with her eggs guarding them. From time to time she will gently clean the eggs with her mouthparts to prevent fungal infection. She will continue guarding her young, which look like miniature versions of their parents, until they have grown large enough to fend for themselves.
They are not listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The name earwig is derived from the old English 'earwicga' which means 'ear beetle'. It was once commonly believed that earwigs would burrow into people's ears at night and lay eggs in their brains. In fact the story still circulates as an urban myth. Earwigs are not parasitic and would rather lay their eggs under a stone. The human ear, though about the right size for an earwig, is not an ideal resting place. So if one were to crawl into someone's ear it would not be typical behaviour but the actions of one very confused and lost earwig.