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8 Different Types of Bugs that Look Like Earwigs

Different types of bugs that looks like earwigs.

Earwigs are beneficial insects despite their scary look. According to colonialpest.com, earwigs help to clean up the environment by feeding on dead decaying organic matter. They also feed on live and dead insects, controlling the number of bugs in your garden/yard.

Over and above that, they are harmless to people, pets, and even crops. However, there is a vast number of other bugs that look like earwigs, some of which may harm you or destroy your crops. I recommend you familiarize yourself with these look-alikes to know what you are dealing with.

This guide will take you through what earwigs are, their feeding habits, and their natural habitat. It will also highlight and explain aspects of several other bugs that take after earwigs. Please keep reading to stay informed.

What Are Earwigs?

A macro shot of an Earwig.

An earwig is an elongated insect with a brownish black color and a pair of formidable cerci on the abdomen. The other defining morphological features of this insect include a pair of long antennae, six legs, and membranous wings, which are hidden beneath short, barely used forewings. And their size ranges from 5mm to 50mm. 

The common earwig is mainly nocturnal. During the day, they hide in moist and high humidity areas like crevices and areas with small to huge amounts of debris like tree barks, fallen logs, and heaps of plants and animal waste. You can find them in all parts of the world, excluding Antarctica.

Most earwig species are omnivorous. They feast on a wide array of dead and living animals and plants. The common prey to earwigs includes the plant lice, wooly aphids, and bluebottle flies, among others. 

The plant species commonly attacked by earwigs include clover, butterfly bush, strawberry, etc. Earwigs have a flexible and muscular abdomen and forceps. The insect can fold the abdomen, open and close the forceps to hold their prey, and scare their predator/enemy.

They also use the forceps during copulation. Earwigs mate in autumn and winter. After mating, the female earwigs (with straight pincers) lay eggs, which hatch in spring.

After hatching, the nymphs molt five times to reach adulthood. They last for approximately one year. Contrary to what people believe, earwigs don’t creep into people’s ears.

They got their name from the popular myth that the insects would enter peoples’ ears and lay eggs in their brains. If you don’t want to see them in your compound, you can control them using a pesticide

Bugs That Look Like Earwigs

Some insect species look like earwigs, yet they are not. Some may be harmful to humans, and others may not. Below is a description of the common bugs that look like earwigs:

1. Cockroaches

Hand holding cockroach on room in house background

Cockroaches are most prevalent in human residences like homes, schools, and businesses. They love to stay in warm and humid spaces like crevices, drainage systems, kitchen cabinets, toilets, leaf litter, rotting wood, tree stump holes, tree bark cavities, and congested living spaces. 

Like earwigs, mature cockroaches are brownish black and have three pairs of legs, three body parts, and a pair of long antennae.

They use their antennae to look for food and navigate their way in the darkness. You can differentiate cockroaches from earwigs by their thicker flattened body and lack of more pronounced forceps in the abdomen. Cockroaches are omnivores.

They can eat anything including plants and animals, smaller insects, fruits, bread, skin flakes, soiled clothing, starch in book bindings, etc. Cockroaches can reproduce at any time of the year. The females use pheromones to attract a mating partner.

On the other hand, the males use stridulation, posturing, and courtship to stimulate their female mates for the action. The common cockroach is typically nocturnal. After successful fertilization, the female cockroach develops an egg casing called ootheca.

They may carry the egg casing for several days and lay it in a safe, warm, humid environment. The eggs take three to four months to hatch. And the resulting hatchlings are fully developed, with all body parts excluding the wings and the reproductive systems, which develop later.

A female lays up to eight casings (ootheca) during its lifetime, usually a year. Finally, cockroaches move from one place to another in search of food and a favorable environment. 

2. Firebrats

Firebrat isolated with white background.

Firebrat is a wingless insect whose body shape resembles a carrot. They derive their name from their love for heat. You can find them within high-temperature areas with moderate humidity, like bakeries, furnaces, and boilers.

You can also find them outdoors, hiding in warm zones like beneath rocks, leaf litter, and other friendly places. Firebrats may be brown or gray. They have a pair of antennae and three pairs of earwigs.

However, they have three appendages like tails extending from their abdomen, unlike earwigs, which have only two appendages. The other distinguishing features of a firebrat include a flat elongated body that broadens around the head and tapers in the abdomen area and a long pair of antennae.

Firebrats survive on starches and carbohydrates like book bindings and flour. They may also feast on starches rich in proteins like dog food. Firebrats are mainly nocturnals. They rely on their antennae to locate food and navigate their way in the dark.

Though harmless, firebrats may contaminate food, stain clothes, or damage paper goods. The females reach reproductive age between 1.5 and 4.5 months. However, the males and females can only copulate if they are in the third or fourth molting stage of each other. 

The females start laying eggs a few days after mating. However, this is only possible if the temperatures are favorable (between 32–41 °C or 90–106 °F). On average, a female firebrat can lay up to 6,000 eggs in her lifetime (usually 3 to 5 years).

3. Jumping Bristletails

Archaeognatha is an order of wingless insects also known as jumping bristletails

Jumping bristletails are brownish and wingless insects that resemble earwigs. They are common in warm areas like stone crevices, loose poles of stones, leaf litter, rocky cliffs, and grassy and wooded areas. An adult jumping bristletail measures approximately 20mm in length, exempting the antennae and the tail.

Besides their brownish color, you can identify jumping bristletails by their distinctive hump, appearing over the thorax area. In addition, they have reflective scales and three ‘tails’ that extend from their abdomen. Of the three tails, the middle one is a terminal filament (the middle one), and the remaining two are cerci. 

Another notable feature in these insects is tiny appendages that look like bristles below the abdomen. Jumping Bristletails are mainly nocturnals. They use their simple eyes to detect the intensity of light and darkness.

Like other insects, they rely on their antenna to look for food and navigate their way. The insects can feed on decaying vegetation, fungi, algae, dead leaves, and lichens. The nymphs start mating after molting at least eight times.

However, unlike other insects, jumping bristletails don’t copulate to fertilize the eggs. Instead, the male jumping bristletail strategically deposits its spermatophores on a secure area and leaves it for the female one to find. The mating is more solitary.

After fertilization, the females may lay approximately 30 fertilized eggs, which may stay dormant for almost a year before hatching.

4. Two-Pronged Bristletails

A two pronged bristletail animal related to insects.

Two-pronged bristletails are small, wingless arthropods with a white cream complexion. Like earwigs, the two-pronged bristletails have two appendages extending from the end of their abdomen. They use their cerci to hold their prey, sense their surroundings and defend themselves against predators.

You can differentiate two-pronged bristletails from earwigs by their white cream complexion and numerous hair-like bristles on their bodies. The two-pronged bristletails love to stay in warm and moist environments like stone crevices, leaf litter, and moist soil. These arthropods are generally blind and use their antenna to look for food.

They feed on decaying vegetation and plant tissues, which can be detrimental to your crops. Fertilization in Two-Pronged Bristletails is mainly external. More specifically, a male will deposit up to 200 spermatophores on short stalks and leave them for the female to find.

The females then locate these spermatophores and collect them with their genital opening to fertilize the eggs. 

Note: The spermatophores remain viable for only two days. 

The female lays eggs in a cavity on the ground a few days after fertilization. The eggs hatch into nymphs, which resemble adults but their reproductive organs aren’t fully developed. The nymphs don’t undergo metamorphosis.

The bug may molt up to 30 times during its one-year lifespan.

5. Silverfish

A Close up photo of long tailed silverfish (Ctenolepisma longicaudata) on black bacground.

The silverfish is a tiny, wingless insect with a carrot-like body. It derives its name from its flattened body with shiny silver scales, and tapered abdomen, that give it the shape of a fish. In addition, the insect moves in a fast wiggling motion like a fish, hence its name.

A typical silverfish ranges between 13–25 mm in length. They are prevalent in warm, moist, and shady areas like bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, laundry rooms, basements, kitchen cabinets, attics, etc. The insects travel long distances in search of food and a favorable environment.

According to sources, silverfish love sugary and starchy foods like books, documents, and wallpapers. The other food sources for silverfish include glue, cotton, silk, linen, insects, and sometimes dried beef. The insects only appear at night to look for food and other necessities.

When mating, the male silverfish deposits a sperm capsule (containing spermatophores) covered in gossamer into the female’s ovipositor to fertilize eggs. After fertilization, the female may lay up to 60 eggs at a go on a crevice or any other safe location. The eggs hatch between two weeks and two months.

The nymphs are usually white. They develop the silver gray color later in life during molting. The insects may molt more than 66 times in their lifetime, which may take two to eight years. 

6. Green Lacewing Larvae

A larva of common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) feeding on an aphid

Another insect that can easily be confused for earwigs is the Lacewing larvae. This is because the insect features a long and flattened body, a tapered abdomen, and three pairs of legs like female earwigs do. In addition, they have pair antennae and pincer-like mouths like earwigs.

However, the Green Lacewing larvae are mottled brown to cream, while earwigs are light brown to brownish black. The other distinguishing features of Green Lacewing larvae are the hair tufts that appear all over their skin.

They are mainly predators, feeding on soft-bodied insects like mealybugs, spider mites, cottony cushion scales, thrips, insects eggs, caterpillars, etc. 

The green lacewing larvae will rarely invade your home. They are fond of staying on the foliage of most plants, where they hunt for their prey. They use their pincer-like teeth to inject paralyzing venom into the prey before sucking their body fluid.

However, these insects will rarely attack humans. A single Green Lacewing larva can clear more than 300 pests in your garden, offering the most cost-effective and natural way of clearing aphids from your garden. Lacewing eggs undergo a complete metamorphosis, which tackles approximately four weeks.

When the larvae mature, they pupate and then develop into adult lacewing. An adult Lacewing won’t be a nuisance to your garden either. They feed on nectar and honeydew pollen while assisting in pollination.

7. Wood Lice

Macro shot of a Woodlouse Isopod.

The Woodlice are among the oldest insects to be discovered on the planet. Like earwigs, woodlice have antennae and abdominal cerci. You can identify them by their gray color, seven pairs of jointed legs, and the two rear forceps.

These insects are common in dump habitats like decaying wood, wood piles, rotting leaves, dump crevices, rotten tree stamps, etc. The woodlice can also invade residential areas in search of moisture. So you should suspect a dampness problem if you notice too many of them in your house. 

They are fond of eating decaying organic matter like decayed wood, fungi, litter, plant remains, and bacterial mats, among others. They can help in aerating the soil in your garden. Woodlice are nocturnals.

They would look for food and mates at night. During mating, the male Woodlouse climbs on the back of the receptive female, licks her head, and caresses her back with his legs, perhaps to arouse them.

After arousing the female, the male woodlice aligns diagonally on the female’s back to pass spermatophores into the female’s genital opening and then repeats the same on the female’s right genital opening.

The fertilization process takes approximately 5 minutes on each side. After mating, the female lays eggs depending on her body size. And the eggs take 3 to 9 weeks to hatch inside a pouch, where they stay until they are big enough to withstand external extremes. 

A typical Woodlouse lives between three to four years.

8. Rove Beetles

A close up photo of An Adult Rove Beetle of the Tribe Staphylinini.

Rove beetles are commonly confused for earwigs due to their elongated body with a pair of antennae, three body parts, and three pairs of legs. Their predominant brown color in the abdomen area also brings about some mixup. Ober and above that, the two insects feature six abdominal segments and short wings that don’t cover the abdomen.

You can differentiate rove beetles from earwigs by their brown and black body segments and lack of forceps. Rove beetles are common in moist habitats like compost piles, under rocks, fallen fruits, decaying organic matter, etc. A significant percentage of these insects are predators.

They may feed on root maggot eggs, motes, larvae, spring tales, insect eggs, and maggots of filth flies, among others. Rove beetles take three weeks to mature. They mate two weeks after maturity to fertilize the eggs in females.

The females lay the eggs in a place at least 77° F, where they hatch after 3 to 4 days. Typically, an adult rove beetle’s life span ranges between 40 and 72 days.

FAQs

Below are answers to various questions that people have asked about earwigs

Why am I getting Earwigs in my house?

You are getting earwigs in your house because:

The earwigs are attracted to the lighting in your yard/ home, and your house has openings that let them in. The outdoor environment may become hostile (either too hot or too cold) to the insects, and your house is one of the favorable environments they feel comfortable in.

Can Earwigs hurt you seriously?

No, Earwigs cannot hurt you seriously. The worst damage they can do with their pincers is to pinch you to create a small welt if you press them. And the good news is that the Earwigs aren’t poisonous, meaning there is nothing to worry about.

Where do Earwigs lay eggs?

Contrary to the popular myth, earwigs don’t lay eggs on people’s brains. Instead, the females find a secure and moist place like beneath wet leaves and crevices to lay their eggs.

Do Earwigs go in your bed?

No, earwigs have no reason to go into bed. Rather, you can find them in damp and dark spaces in your home, like the basement, cellar, or kitchen cabinets.

How do you know if you have an Earwig infestation?

The only way to tell that you have an Earwig infestation is to spot them in your yard or home, in areas like inside stacks of newspapers, kitchen cabinets, beneath rugs, and other moist and warm spaces.

What can I spray to keep Earwigs away?

An earwig pesticide will get you sorted. Make sure you spray all areas where the Earwigs have been spotted. Don’t know the best pesticides? Ask your pesticide store seller what pesticide you can use to keep the earwigs away, and they will help.