Forficula auricularia


Ah, what’s in a name? In this case, more beauty to the ear perhaps than the named is to the eye.But contrary to a long history of misinformation, the earwig does NOT burrow into the ear of someone asleep and burrow into their brain. Hardly ever. Though I met someone in town yesterday who might have been a victim.

I tend to think of these creatures as “coffeewigs” because that’s often where I see them–around the sink, often under the coffee pot on first lifting it for the emergency cup of morning alertness.

Pictured here on the buds of some nearby milkweed, they do no harm. Their “pinchers” or cerci are rather puny, and though theoretically they can defend themselves with them, they aren’t much defense against a broom and a dustpan. (They do, however, emit a strong iodine odor if picked up and lifted to the nose.

What! You haven’t snorted an earwig? Well you certainly have lived a sheltered life!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I’m glad to know what those creatures are. I’ve had a lot of them show up lately on my back porch. But I think I’ll pass on the sniff test, and keep my nose sheltered.

  2. I never thought I would see a photo of an earwig that rendered the critter elegant and beautiful. But now I have.

    We have a lot of milkweed behind our house, but the main insect I’ve spotted there is the fritillary butterfly. They adore milkweed so much that they’ll try to get into buds that aren’t even open yet.

  3. THanks for the lovely photo, and for the info about the lowly earwig. With his species name being auricularia, he must have been called an earwig before he received his scientific name. Or was it vice versa?