Jul 27 2011
I was doing the laundry the other day when I picked up a jug of detergent from the basement floor and this critter dropped off the underside onto our gleaming white washing machine.
He was not happy to be exposed in a high, bright place so he ran to the edge of the machine and looked down.
I was startled (I think I screamed) but I got a good look at him before I killed him. (Did I tell you I hate bugs?) His long flat body and curved pincers impressed me so much that I looked him up.
This is a male earwig!
Despite the name, earwigs do not crawl into human ears. They’re nocturnal insects who spend the day hiding in dark damp crevices and come out at night to eat living and dead plants and animals, including insects. I should probably be grateful to have a few patrolling my basement.
Earwigs are really successful bugs. They first appeared in the late Triassic period 208 million years ago and they are still around today. For comparison Dippy the Dinosaur (Diplodocus carnegii) lived for about 5 million years in the late Jurassic period, 154-150 million years ago.
Part of earwigs’ success may be due to this unusual trait: Though they are not social insects, the mother earwig guards her eggs and babies. She continuously cleans the eggs to remove fungi, monitors their warmth and protects them from predators. When the eggs hatch she stays with her young until their second molt.
There are 1,800 species of earwigs on earth but they don’t survive winter outdoors so there are only 25 species in North America. The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) was introduced from Europe in 1907, the same year my house was built.
After all this time I finally noticed my house is home to this prehistoric bug.
(photo by Scott Hussey via Shutterstock.com)