Updated: March 30, 2023

Earwigs may not be the most beloved insects out there, with their long pincers and creepy appearance. However, they are fascinating creatures that have been around for millions of years. In recent years, researchers have made a surprising discovery about how earwigs are born.

The Traditional Understanding

For a long time, it was believed that earwigs were born through a process called gradual metamorphosis. This means that they would hatch from an egg into a nymph, which would look like a smaller version of the adult earwig. Then, over time, the nymph would grow and develop into an adult.

The New Discovery

However, recent research has shown that earwigs actually undergo a process called incomplete metamorphosis. This means that they still hatch from an egg into a nymph, but the nymph looks very different from the adult earwig.

The nymphs are white and almost completely translucent, with small legs and no pincers. They also have a unique feature – a caudal filament, which is a long protrusion on their backside.

Over time, the nymph will go through several molts, shedding its skin as it grows. Each time it molts, the nymph will look more and more like an adult earwig. It will develop its signature pincers and dark exoskeleton.

Why is This Discovery Important?

This discovery is important because it challenges our traditional understanding of insect development. Earwigs are not the only insects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis – many other insects, such as grasshoppers and cockroaches, also go through this process.

By better understanding how insects develop, we can learn more about their biology and behavior. This can help us create more effective pest management strategies or even develop new medicines based on insect molecules.


Are earwigs harmful to humans?

Earwigs are not harmful to humans. While they may look scary, they do not bite or sting. In fact, they can be beneficial insects in the garden, as they eat other pests like aphids.

Should I be worried about earwigs in my garden?

Not necessarily. While earwigs can damage some plants by eating their leaves or flowers, they also eat other pests that can be even more harmful to your garden. If you do notice earwigs causing damage, you can try using traps or natural predators like birds or toads to keep them under control.

How can I tell if an earwig is a nymph or an adult?

Nymphs are much smaller and lighter in color than adults. They also have a caudal filament on their backside, which is absent in adults. Adults have the signature pincers and dark exoskeleton that earwigs are known for.

Can earwigs fly?

No, earwigs cannot fly. They have wings, but they are not functional for flight. Instead, they use their wings as protective covers for their soft abdomen.


Earwigs may not be the most glamorous insects out there, but they are certainly interesting. By studying how they develop, we can learn more about the incredible diversity of insect life and how it has evolved over millions of years.