Common Earwig

Common Earwig ©Chris Lawrence

Common Earwig

Scientific name: Forficula auricularia
Despite popular belief, and its name (from the Old English for 'ear beetle'), the Common Earwig will not crawl into your ear while you sleep - it much prefers a nice log or stone pile! It feeds on organic matter, recycling important nutrients.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 1.3-1.8cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

The Common Earwig is nocturnal, scavenging on dead plant and animal matter at night and retreating to hide under stones or in rotten logs during the daytime. Female Common Earwigs are excellent mothers: laying their eggs in damp crevices, they guard the nest and gently clean the eggs until the young hatch. They will then guard the young until they are ready to fend for themselves. The pincers of the Common Earwig can give a human a small nip, but they are generally used to scare off predators.

How to identify

The Common Earwig is a large earwig and the only species which is common and widespread in the UK. A familiar insect, it has a dark brown, elongated body with pincers at the end. The pincers are more curved in males than in females.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) was the world's biggest earwig, reaching lengths of 8cm. However, this creature was declared officially extinct by the IUCN in 2014. It is thought that predation by mice and rats, and the removal of stones from its habitat for construction, caused its decline. There are more than 1,000 species of earwig worldwide, but only four are native to the UK.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try planting native plants and trees to entice birds, mammals and invertebrates into your backyard? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.