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Earwigs (Dermaptera)

Earwigs are common residents of gardens throughout the year, and are also occasionally found in houses. They are in the insect order Dermaptera, named after their skin-like wings, which are rarely seen. Earwigs can be pests of garden flowers, such as dahlias, clematis and chyrsanthemums, eating young leaves and petals in summer, leaving them pock-marked with unsightly holes. They also attack some fruit trees, where they cause damage to the fruit, allowing the entry of fungal diseases. However, while they can be a minor garden problem, earwigs also play a beneficial role in the garden by attacking pests, such as aphids. To remove earwigs, provide shelter in the form of inverted pots. Pack these loosely with dried grass and place the pots on the top of canes situated among the plants. The earwigs can be disposed of once caught, making the use of insecticides unnecessary.

The common earwig Forficula auricularia

Fact File

A common myth suggests that earwigs can crawl through the ear and lay eggs on the sleeping victim's brain. This is untrue, but while earwigs are creatures of damp, moist places, it is unlikely that they creep into ears.

While the majority of earwig species are omnivorous, some species (the Hemimerina) feed on the shed skin of the giant rat and other (the Arixenina) feed on the skin gland secretions of bats.

The oldest fossil Dermaptera is over 200 million years old and their likely ancestors were alive about 290 million year ago.