Twenty species of earwigs occur in the U.S. They are widely distributed, however more species are found in the warmer regions. Larger populations are found in the moist coastal areas.
Earwigs are elongate and somewhat flattened. Adults are about one-half to one inch in length. Most have short leathery wings that do not cover their abdomen. Some species are wingless. Most species are brownish, some are black. Some have reddish or yellowish markings.
Earwigs are easily recognized by their large, well developed forceps-like cerci. When handled earwigs give off a very pungent odor. This odor comes from a secretion that is use in self defense, spraying it at their enemies.
Females lay their eggs in a shallow cavity in the soil. They will brood over their eggs and young hatchlings, protecting them until they are able to survive on their own. The young look like the adults except they are smaller and are wingless.
Earwigs are omnivorous feeding mainly on decaying plant material but also on small insects.
These insects will protect their territory. They may be seen running backwards at each other and trying to grasp each other with their cerci.
Contrary to an old wives tale, earwigs will not enter the ears of someone lying on the ground.
Earwigs are mainly nocturnal, feeding at night and hiding during the day. They frequent moist dark places and may be found under loose bark, under logs or rocks, or under leaves or other debris on the ground.