Order Dermaptera (Earwigs) in the Christopher B. Smith Preserve

Order Dermaptera Characteristics: Earwigs have elongated and flattened bodies, thread-like antennae with at least 10 segments, biting mouthparts, and no ocelli. This insect order can be easily recognized by the cerci... a pair of forceps or pincers on the abdomen. Males have curved cerci, while female cerci are straight. Cerci are used to capture and hold prey, for defense, as an aid in copulation, and to fold the membranous hind wings under the short, leathery forewings.

The name "Dermaptera" means "skin wings." Most dermapterans have wings, but there are exceptions. Even those species with wings rarely fly.

Dermapterans are mostly nocturnal, hiding in moist crevices during the day, and actively feeding on a variety of insects and plants at night. Most are scavengers, some are omnivores, and others are predators. Some cause damage to plants.

A dermapteran's lifetime is ~1 year. Metamorphosis is incomplete with 4 to 6 molts. The mother lays her eggs and takes care of them by providing warmth and defending against predators. She even cleans them to remove fungi. She also protects the nymphs until their second molt, feeding them food she regurgitates.

Dermapterans are prey by birds, insectivorous mammals, amphibians, lizards, centipedes, assassin bugs, yellow jackets, tachinid flies, roundworms, spiders, and parasitic fungus. Earwigs are known to cannibalize their own eggs and nymphs.

There are 1,800 species in 12 families worldwide. Twenty-five of these species are found in North America.

Interactions in the Smith Preserve: Dermapterans are part of the food web, keeping populations of other arthropods in check, and providing food for other species.

Species Name
Common Name
Euborellia annulipes


Euborellia annulipes

Ring-Legged Earwig

On November 17, this 5 mm long earwig was captured in a pit trap placed below a Quercus laurifolia (Laurel Oak) growing just north of Smith Preserve Way.

Image 1 is a dorsal view and image 2, a ventral view.

Ring-legged earwig adults are 12 to 16 mm in length. Males have 10 abdominal segments, while females have 8. Regardless of sex, nymphs have 10 segments.

Because this individual is only 5 mm long and has 10 abdominal segments, it has been identified as a nymph. Although the cerci are slightly curved, 75% of nymphs will develop into adult females.

Adults are typically dark brown to black with yellow legs with noticeable dark brown rings around the middle of each femur. Antennae are black with white rings. The species is wingless.

The species inhabits tropical and temperate climates in the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, India, China, Japan, and other regions of the world.

Food includes aphids, isopods, leaf hoppers, caterpillars, beetle larvae, some plants, and decomposing plant stems and leaves. They are capable of eating animals larger than themselves.

The ring-legged earwig is the most common pest earwig in Florida. It causes plant feeding injury, but that problem is probably offset by the beneficial effect of eating other plant-damaging insects.

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© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer), unless otherwise credited above.

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