Dermaptera Click to enlarge image
Earwig (Order Dermaptera) Image: Andrew Howells
© Australian Museum

Earwigs belong to the Order Dermaptera.

What do earwigs look like?


  • 5 mm - 50 mm in length.


  • Column-like or vaguely tear-drop shaped.
  • Flattened as if pressed from above.


  • Thread-like, never longer than body.


  • Large and well separated or very small to absent.


  • For chewing or munching.
  • Held in front at rest.


  • Two pairs if present.
  • Forewing hardened, cloudy and without veins; rectangular shaped and so short the abdomen is uncovered.
  • Hindwing membranous, and partially see-through; larger than forewing and folds like a hand fan.
  • At rest the wings are held flat to body, meeting at midline, with hindwing hidden.


  • Six legs, slender.
  • Tarsi (toes) with three segments.

Abdomen tip:

  • Two hardened tails modified as forceps.

Where are earwigs found?

  • Amongst leaf litter, under bark and rocks, and within crevices or rotting logs.

Earwigs behaviour

  • They are usually found alone or at most in small numbers.
  • When disturbed they run away, in search of cover; they rarely fly.
  • They are weak fliers, usually flying for short bursts.
  • They feed on decaying plant or animal debris; some will also feed on live plant material and capture live insect prey.
  • Most are active during the night.

What animals look similar to earwigs?

  • Diplurans (Order Diplura) can be distinguished from earwigs by a lack of eyes, paired ventral appendages under all or most of the abdominal segments and tarsi (toes) with only one segment.
  • Rove beetles have small forewings, with large folded and functional wings underneath, but unlike earwigs they lack fully developed forceps.