Updated: June 10, 2023

Earwigs are a common household pest that often evoke a sense of disgust and fear in people due to their menacing-looking pincers. But have you ever wondered where these creepy crawlies come from? In this article, we will explore the origins of earwigs and shed some light on their fascinating history.

Earwig Basics

Before we dive into the origins of earwigs, let’s first understand some basic facts about these insects. Earwigs belong to the order Dermaptera, which means “skin wings.” Despite their name, they do not actually have wings and are unable to fly. They typically measure around 1 inch in length and have slender bodies with six legs and two antennae. One of their most distinguishing features is a pair of forceps-like pincers called cerci that protrude from their abdomen.

Earwigs are nocturnal insects that feed on a variety of things, including plants, insects, and small animals. They are also known to be scavengers, feeding on decaying organic matter. Earwigs prefer damp environments and can often be found hiding under rocks, mulch, or debris.

Evolutionary History

The exact origin of earwigs is not known, but scientists believe they evolved from a group of ancient insects called the Protelytroptera. Fossil evidence suggests that these insects existed during the Carboniferous period, over 300 million years ago.

Earwigs first appeared in the fossil record during the Jurassic period, around 200 million years ago. These early earwigs had long cerci that were used for defense and mating purposes. Over time, the cerci evolved into the shorter, more compact pincers that we see today.

Today, there are over 2,000 species of earwigs found all over the world. Some species are native to specific regions, while others have been introduced through human activity.

Earwigs and Human Interaction

Earwigs have been around for millions of years, but their interaction with humans is a relatively recent occurrence. As humans began to settle and create permanent structures, earwigs found new habitats in homes and gardens.

Earwigs are not harmful to humans and do not pose any significant health risks. However, they can be a nuisance and can cause damage to plants and crops. In homes, earwigs may enter through cracks and crevices in search of food or moisture.

Managing Earwig Infestations

If you’re dealing with an earwig infestation in your home or garden, there are several steps you can take to manage the problem. Here are some tips:

  • Remove any debris or clutter around your home or garden that could provide shelter for earwigs.
  • Seal any cracks or gaps in your home’s foundation or walls to prevent earwigs from entering.
  • Use sticky traps or insecticides to control earwig populations in your garden.
  • Keep your home dry and well-ventilated to discourage earwigs from seeking shelter indoors.


Why are they called earwigs?

The name “earwig” comes from the old English word “earwicga,” which means “ear insect.” This name likely originated from the belief that these insects would crawl into people’s ears while they slept.

Do earwigs bite humans?

Earwigs do have pincers, but they are not venomous and cannot cause harm to humans. They may use their pincers for defense, but they are unlikely to bite unless provoked.

Can earwigs fly?

No, earwigs do not have wings and are unable to fly.

Are earwigs beneficial to the environment?

Earwigs play an important role in the ecosystem by feeding on smaller insects and helping to break down organic matter. They are also a food source for other animals, such as birds and small mammals.


Earwigs have a long evolutionary history and have adapted to survive in a variety of environments. While they may be considered pests in some situations, they also play an important role in the ecosystem. By understanding their origins and behavior, we can better manage earwig populations and coexist with these fascinating insects.