Commenting on the essential absurdity of bees making honey, Eddie Izzard once asked “Do earwigs make chutney?” Probably not, but that isn’t going to stop me continuing to rehabilitate the public images of the Bad Boys of British Nature (see eg Magpies) with this interesting nocturnal insect. For a start, the name doesn’t reflect any tendency to hide or burrow in the human ear. The ear reference is believed to relate to the human ear-like shape of their rarely used wings. The wig bit is derived from an old English word for beetle. Earwigs are also very unusual among the non-social insects in that they exhibit maternal instincts. For example, they protect their eggs, keep them warm and continuously clean them to protect them from fungi. The mother may help the nymphs to hatch, and continues to look after the young for a while, sheltering and feeding them. She does this by regurgitation, and should she die, the young will eat her. Drat – there goes the image make-over. To me the location of their fierce-looking pincers (that they use for predation and defence) on their rear-end looks somewhat odd, as if tacked on as an after-thought. There are roughly two thousand species of earwigs in the world, and seven in the UK.
Photo by Pixabay