MTPR

Bug Bytes: Earwigs - Creepy But Caring

Jun 10, 2019

For some people it’s spiders. For others it’s centipedes. But for many people, the answer to “What kind of bug really creeps you out” is earwigs.

Maybe it’s the big pincers at the end of their abdomen? Maybe it’s the fact that it's a bug with the word “ear” in its name. Whatever the case, they’re not high on many people’s lists of lovable insects.

In fact, if you google “earwig”, most of the information you’ll find is on how to get rid of them.

They have big pincers, making them appear a bit menacing. There’s a superstition that earwigs will burrow into your ears while you sleep — which is not true. They can give off a foul odor. And they have a tendency to invade our homes, hide under clothing you might leave on the floor, and get into and consume food you might store in your cupboards.

By now, you’re probably agreeing there’s not much to love. But did you know that female earwigs are great mothers?

Parental care is pretty rare amongst non-social insects and arthropods. While some species will guard an egg sack, eggs are often just laid and forgotten about.

Not so with earwigs.

In the fall, a female earwig will lay a clutch of about 50 eggs in an underground nest. She’ll stay with and care for them by moving and cleaning each egg to avoid fungal growth. In the spring, she’ll carefully spread them out into a single layer. And once her young emerge, she’ll stay with and guard them for their first month or more of life.

So the next time you see an earwig and you’re initial reaction is to dispose of it, remember, while it may give you the creeps, it may also be another earwig’s loving mother.

Bug Bytes is made possible by the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium, and Montana Public Radio. This show is also supported by funding from the Greater Montana Foundation: Encouraging communication on issues, trends and values of importance to Montanans.