Earwigs are common insects across the US. These brown insects are often confused with earwigs. Many brown bugs that are at least 5mm long are often confused with earwigs.
Some people mistakenly believe these bugs are earwigs that are dangerous for laying eggs in the ear canal. This is a myth.
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What Are Earwigs?
Earwigs are brown insects that grow between 5 and 20mm. They have long slender bodies that feed on insects and plants.
There are more than 20 species of earwigs in the US. They are very common in gardens.
Earwigs prefer high moisture and high humidity. This is why they’re common under piles of leaves, logs, and rocks around the garden.
Earwigs are very easy to identify by their 2 long cerci (antennae) sticking out from the rear. These resemble pincers.
These pincers have led to some people calling earwigs pincer bugs. These pincers are rarely used against people.
What Do Earwigs Look Like
Earwigs are known for their shiny brown body and dark yellow legs. These insects grow to a maximum size of up to 200mm.
It has 2 long antennae and 2 long cerci that look like pincers. Its cerci are connected to the rear of its body.
Behavior and Distribution
Earwigs have been introduced to the US from Europe. They have maintained their behavior and have settled into Southern and South-Western territories.
Earwigs are nocturnal insects. They prefer to live in crevices and under leaves. Their natural shelter is away from direct sunlight and is known for high humidity.
Some earwig species only live in caves. A significant percentage of cave-living earwigs are blind.
While known for long pincers, earwigs mostly use them for defensive purposes.
Bugs That Look Like Earwigs
Long bugs with or without pincers are often confused with earwigs. Here are the species that mostly resemble these insects.
Silverfish is a species that resembles earwigs. It has a long body that grows to a size between 5 and 25mm.
Its size is almost identical to the size of earwigs. Furthermore, it also has cerci which can sometimes be confused with the cerci of earwigs.
Silverfish has a dark shiny body resembling the brown shiny body of earwigs.
These bugs are found across the US and are considered household pests.
Earwigs and silverfish often intersect in South-Western US territories. However, earwigs are considered silverfish predators.
One of the best methods to eliminate both silverfish and earwigs from a home is to considerably reduce humidity levels.
This involves reducing humidity in the basement and the bathroom, areas of a home known for high humidity.
Silverfish prefer environments with at least 70% humidity which means they will be mostly found in dark humid basements.
Firebrats also resemble earwigs. They prefer higher temperature environments which is why they’re often found around boilers in basements.
Firebrats have a long slender body that tapers towards the rear. While similar in shape to earwigs, firebrats are also smaller.
Most firebrats grow to a size of 10mm. Some of them with constant access to food might grow as large as 20mm.
Firebrats have a dark great color with golden markings on the body. These insects are considered household pests long before the common cockroach.
Firebrats eat carbohydrates and protein. They start consuming food commonly found around the house such as pasta, rice, and flour.
These insects also eat dog and cat food found on the floor.
Commonly found around the house and not exterminated, firebrats are known for a wide range of infestation issues.
Apart from eliminating them from the house you also need to ensure they don’t return.
Eliminating food sources is the first step. Storing flour and other foods in sealed containers is a must.
Ventilation humid warm environments such as the basement are also important to keep these insects clear of the house.
Firebrats live a long life. They live at least 3 years and sometimes even 5 years.
In this lifetime these bugs can lay as many as 6.000 eggs which means they have a rapid multiplication rate.
3. Jumping Bristletails
Jumping Bristletails are some of the oldest insects in the world. They are here for millions of years and they’re commonly confused with earwigs and silverfish.
Commonly found around the house, these insects are identified by a body with 3 sections. A head, thorax, and an abdomen of grey or spotted gray coloring characterize the species.
These insects routinely grow to a size of up to 20mm which makes them very similar to earwigs.
Preferred habitats include humid places even if these insects can’t navigate through them very precisely.
They have 2 eyes that touch each other but are only basic eyes called ocelli.
These eyes can only distinguish between light and dark with poor recognition of shapes.
Further reasons why the species is confused with earwigs include their tails.
While these aren’t true tails, they are one of the reasons why most people think of insects as earwigs.
2 tails are cerci while the inner tail is part of the reproductive system.
A further distinction between the species is based on the number of laid eggs.
Jumping Bristletails are known to only lay up to 30 days.
As their name suggests, these insects can also jump. They can jump up to a few times the length of their body.
This skill is solely used when pouncing on prey.
4. Two-pronged Bristletails
The Two-pronged Bristletails is one of the species confused with earwigs that’s hard to see. It prefers to live underground which means chances of seeing it in the house are slim.
Insects of the genus are characterized by a white almost translucent body. It grows up to twice the length of earwigs to a size of up to 50mm.
With 6 legs and a translucent body, this species is further similar to earwigs by its 2 cerci and 11 abdominal somites.
These insects are common in high humidity environments such as under leaves and in soil.
Some scientists believe the Two-pronged Bristetails are capable of drawing moisture from the air. This balances their hydration levels and allows them to survive even during the warmest summers.
Cockroaches are often confused with earwigs. Brown cockroaches are the most common species that gets confused with earwigs.
There are around 50 species of cockroaches in the US. Many of them share the same habitat with earwigs which also leads to further confusion between the species.
Cockroaches often live under leave piles outdoors. They often make their way inside of the house as pests.
Preferring high humidity environments, these insects are also known for their soft antennae, just as the antennae of earwigs.
Cockroaches also have a pair of cerci, just like earwigs.
One of the biggest (behavioral) distinctions between cockroaches and earwigs is the need to congregate. Cockroaches tend to stay together while earwigs are known for living alone.
Cockroaches that are raised in captivity show a higher level of independence.
Small scorpions are sometimes confused with earwigs mostly because both species are known for their fast movements.
However, scorpions are completely different from earwigs even if they share some characteristics. Habitat is one of the elements these 2 species share.
Young brown scorpions also resemble brown earwigs. However, one of the distinct traits of scorpions is their size, which is constantly larger than the size of earwigs.
Scorpions are only 20mm long when they don’t have access to much food or while young. They easily grow a few times larger than earwigs.
Scorpions are also venomous with the ability to sting. 25 species of scorpions are very dangerous. Their venom can kill people.
A blue-green tint is characteristic of scorpions when exposed to ultraviolet light. This is a rare characteristic based on the high beta-carboline chemicals scorpions have in the cuticle.
This unique trait also makes scorpions good pets. A growing number of hobbyists are growing scorpions as pets with additional ultraviolet lights.
Termites are very different from earwigs in habitat, diet, and life cycle. However, many termites also have 6 legs as earwigs. They can also be brown which can further confuse those who aren’t familiar with the species.
Termites are present on all continents, particularly around the home.
They live in groups but they are considered detritivores. This makes them insects that eat dead plants and dead animals.
Earwigs are known for consuming protein and carbohydrates.
However, earwigs aren’t considered vital to the ecosystem as termites recycle deadwood, feces, and plants.
Centipedes can be similar in size to earwigs but they generally grow larger. While small centipedes are common in the US, many of them can also grow to 12 inches.
One of the first reasons people confuse centipedes with earwigs is their bite. But earwigs rarely bite humans.
Centipede bites are common and they are painful. Many of these bites are followed by headaches and even fever.
It’s rare to see these symptoms following earwig bites, which are also rare and mostly defensive.
Many centipedes don’t have eyes while others have basic eyes known as ocelli, similar to earwigs and other species confused with earwigs such as Jumping Bristletails.
9. Rove Beetles
Rove Beetles are commonly found under leaves in forests. There are more than 600 species of Rove Beetles which means they are seen in various sizes and colors.
Most Rove Beetles grow to a maximum size of 35mm. They have an ovoid body that is somewhat tapered towards the end which makes them resemble earwigs.
Rove Beetles are known to eat just about anything they can find. These insects eat other insects and invertebrates,
One of their habits is to live on animals where they eat fleas and parasites, essentially benefiting the host.
The capacity to live on hosts is often associated with the wrong belief of being earwigs that try to lay eggs inside the ear canal.
Woodlice are often studied in the context of evolution and evolutionary biology. These are some of the oldest insects in the world.
They resemble earwigs with a dark small body, long antennae, and 2 cerci at the rear.
These insects have a bulbous body unlike the long slender body of earwigs.
Most importantly, woodlice are often found under logs or in decaying wood which has also inspired their name.
These species don’t have a wide diet of earwigs. They are even known for having multiple natural predators.
Woodlouse spiders are some of the most common woodlice predators.
As for earwigs, woodlice can also make their way inside the house as pests. The difference is in the numbers.
Woodlice tend to be found in high numbers inside of the house. This is a sign of a high humidity problem inside of the house.
11. Lacewing Larvae
Lacewing Larvae are often confused with earwigs due to similar sizing. These insects commonly grow to a size of up to 19mm, highly similar to the maximum size of earwigs.
However, Lacewing Larvae are mostly found in coastal habitats. Further differences arise in coloring.
Lacewing Larvae is mostly green and sometimes yellow. They are never fully brown.
But even lightly brown Lacewing Larvae is different from the brown coloring of earwigs as their body tends to be translucent.
Feeding habits are also very different in Lacewing Larvae. These are nocturnal or crepuscular insects that largely feed on pollen.
Nectar and honeydew are also among the favorite foods of Lacewing Larvae.
Earwigs are highly common in the US. These insects are found either inside of the house seeking food and humidity or outside of the home seeking shelter underground.
These insects are known for their long cerci and their long bodies that tend to taper towards the rear of the abdomen.
Brown coloring, multiple legs, and shared habitat with other species sometimes make people confuse earwigs with other species such as Silverfish and Firebrats.
Physical and behavioral characteristics make earwigs’ identification easier.
Furthermore, removing open food sources and reducing indoor humidity levels can eventually reduce the chances of earwigs making their way inside of the house.