12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - six earwigs a laying

Chris Lawrence

Traditionally on the sixth day of Christmas, we would be receiving six geese a laying from our one true love but we’ve decided to talk about six earwigs a laying instead!

So why have we chosen the common earwig to talk about in terms of laying eggs well, most female insects aren’t good mothers and exert minimal levels of parental care, the common earwig however, is a good contender for mother of the year as they provide a great deal of care looking after their eggs over the winter. After mating in the Autumn, the female will lay her eggs in the soil where she can lay between 30 – 50 eggs and she will not only guard these eggs until they are ready next spring, but she will also lick and turn the eggs to save them from becoming! This behaviour is very unusual when you look at the large majority of parental care in insects who will usually abandon their eggs once laid.

Earwigs are mostly nocturnal and can be found feeding at night on young flowers and leaves of plants and can be wrongly disliked by gardeners but they do also enjoy a diet of greenfly as well. They can be found in gardens and green spaces across the UK choosing to live in damp dark places such as log piles, under bark of trees, leaf litter pots and other sheltered spots such as inside flowers.

Male and female earwigs can be easily sexed from one another by looking at their pincers on the top of their abdomens. The males have curved pincers whilst the females are straight. As well as pincers, earwigs have membranous wings that that are folded compactly under their wing cases but it is rare that you will catch an earwig in flight. 

Any mother that is prepared to lick her 30 – 50 children to save them going mouldy over the winter and standing guard over them out in the cold is certainly worth a mention we think. So if you stumble across an earwig this winter, perhaps you, like us, will have a new found respect for the hardworking earwig this Christmas!