Management of European earwig

Page last updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2018 - 12:50pm

The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is native to Europe and has been in Australia from the mid-1850s. They were first recorded in Western Australia around 1990 and now can be found over much of the south west of Western Australia and in Perth.

Although the adults have wings, they seldom fly and are mainly spread by human activity. In recent years these earwigs have caused significant damage to broadacre and horticultural crops as well as contaminating grain.

This page details the biology and management options for this pest.

Description

European earwigs

  • Adult European earwigs range from 12-24mm long.
  • European earwigs have uniform brown bodies that are smooth and shiny with light brown/ yellow legs, pincers (also called forceps) and 'shoulders'.
  • These earwigs have a flattened, elongated body with a reddish brown head and slender, beaded antennae.
  • Pincers of male earwigs are long and curved while those of females are almost straight.
  • Young earwigs, also called nymphs, look similar to adults but are smaller, paler and do not have wings.

European earwig: Left is a male, Right is a female
European earwig: left is a male, right is a female

Native earwigs

Native earwigs are widespread and feed mainly on leaf litter and other organic material and are not known to damage crops.

They are often solitary and will not be seen in the high numbers usually associated with pest populations of European earwigs.

There are two species commonly confused with European earwigs:

Carcinophora occidentalis (no common name)

  • Have reddish brown foreparts and legs with a darker abdomen and pincers.

Native earwig: Male on left, female on right
Native earwig: Male on left, female on right. Note the male has curved pincers.

Labidura truncata (common brown earwig)

  • Has similar colouring to European earwig.
  • Can be distinguished from European earwig by presence of orange triangle behind the head on the wing case.

Common brown earwig (Labidura truncata)
Common brown earwig (Labidura truncata)

Contact information

Stewart Learmonth
+61 (0)8 9777 0167

Authors

Marc Widmer
Svetlana Micic
Stewart Learmonth