The name earwig is derived from an old superstition that these insects enter peoples’ ears and bore into the brain. This idea is entirely unfounded as earwigs are harmless to man. Some species have scent glands from which they can squirt a foul-smelling liquid. This is probably used for protection; however, it makes them very unpleasant when accidentally or purposely mashed. If handled, earwigs can pinch with their pincerlike appendages.
Earwigs are elongated, beetle-like insects. They are short-winged and fast-moving and typically measure about 1/2 to 1 inch in length. They are usually dark brown and possess a pair of pincerlike appendages at the tip of the abdomen. They have chewing-type mouthparts and slow development.
Earwigs are nocturnally active, and usually hide in cracks, crevices, under bark or in similar places during the day. They are usually scavengers in their feeding habits, but occasionally feed on plants. Some species will feed on other insects and spiders.
The striped earwig adults are dark brown with light tan markings. The males are large and robust with stout pincers. The females are somewhat smaller and lighter in color than the males. Striped earwigs are found in areas with sandy or clay soils and live in subterranean burrows or under debris. They are usually found outdoors unless populations are large or other conditions are adverse. They enter structures in search of food, a more suitable environment, or just by accidental meanderings.
Because of their nighttime activity, they remain in the soil or under debris during the day. Heavily thatched lawns or mulched flower beds are among their preferred daytime habitats. At night, they assemble in large numbers around street lights, neon lights, lighted windows, or similar locations, where they search for food. Favorite foods include armyworms, aphids, mites, and scales. They also forage on food scraps or dead insects.
The female lays about 50 tiny eggs in a subterranean burrow. The eggs hatch into nymphs in about seven days, and the nymphs feed on their egg case. The female continues to care for the young, grooming and manipulating them in the burrow throughout the first nymphal stage. The young nymphs are about 1/8 inch long and could be very easily confused with termites.
In about seven days, the nymphs molt into the second stage, and they are released from the burrow by the female. At this time, the female loses her maternal instincts and often will devour the nymphs before they can escape and hide. During later stages, the nymphs tend to be cannibalistic. The earwig becomes an adult after passing through six nymphal stages. The life cycle from egg to adult usually averages 56 days.