Updated: March 30, 2023

Earwigs are insects that have a reputation for being creepy and crawly. They are known for their pincers, which they use to defend themselves and capture prey. Earwigs are found all over the world, and they belong to the order Dermaptera. However, did you know that at one point, they were classified under Coleoptera? In this article, we will discuss who classified earwigs under Coleoptera, and how they ended up in their current classification.

Who Classified Earwigs Under Coleoptera?

The classification of animals is a complex process that involves grouping them based on their physical characteristics, behaviors, and evolutionary relationships. In the case of earwigs, they were first classified under the order Coleoptera by the French entomologist Pierre André Latreille in 1802. Latreille was a renowned entomologist who made significant contributions to the field of taxonomy. He is also known for his work on arachnids and crustaceans.

It is unclear why Latreille classified earwigs under Coleoptera. However, at that time, the classification of insects was not well-developed, and many species were grouped together based on superficial similarities. The order Coleoptera is a large and diverse group of insects that includes beetles, weevils, and fireflies. Earwigs share some physical characteristics with beetles, such as hardened forewings (elytra) that protect their hind wings. This similarity may have led Latreille to classify earwigs under Coleoptera.

How Did Earwigs End Up in Their Current Classification?

Earwigs remained classified under Coleoptera until the mid-20th century when advances in insect taxonomy led to their reclassification under Dermaptera. Dermaptera means “skin wings,” which refers to the thin wings that earwigs use for flight. The reclassification was based on several factors, including molecular studies, morphological analysis, and behavioral observations.

One of the key differences between Coleoptera and Dermaptera is the structure of their mouthparts. Beetles have mandibulate mouthparts, which are adapted for chewing and biting. Earwigs have forcep-like cerci, which they use to capture prey and defend themselves. This difference in mouthparts was a significant factor in the reclassification of earwigs under Dermaptera.

Another difference between Coleoptera and Dermaptera is their developmental stages. Beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, which means they have four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Earwigs undergo incomplete metamorphosis, which means they have three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. This difference in development was also considered in the reclassification of earwigs under Dermaptera.

Why is the Classification of Earwigs Important?

The classification of animals is important for several reasons. It helps scientists understand the evolutionary relationships between different species, which can provide insights into their biology and behavior. It also helps in the identification and naming of species, which is crucial for conservation efforts and pest management.

In the case of earwigs, their classification under Dermaptera has helped researchers better understand their biology and behavior. For example, studies have shown that earwigs are social insects that communicate with each other through chemical signals. They also play an important role in ecosystems as predators and scavengers.


Q: Are earwigs harmful to humans?

A: Earwigs are not harmful to humans. Although they have pincers that they use for defense, they do not pose a significant threat to people.

Q: Do earwigs fly?

A: Yes, earwigs are capable of flight. They have thin wings that they use to fly short distances.

Q: Do earwigs eat plants?

A: Earwigs are omnivores and will eat a variety of foods, including insects, plants, and decaying matter.

Q: How can I control earwig infestations in my garden?

A: You can control earwig infestations in your garden by removing debris and plant material that provides shelter for them. You can also use traps or insecticides to reduce their populations.