Many bugs have pincers in the back but some of them have pincers in the front. Most people are familiar with earwigs, a type of bug with pincers in the back that often lives in gardens.
There’s a large range of bugs with pincers in the front. These are mostly useful pincers bugs rely on to catch prey, to hold prey, or when fighting an opponent.
Some bugs with pincers in the front have no actual use of the pincers apart from looking more intimidating.
Why Do Some Bugs Have Pincers?
Pincers have multiple purposes on bugs, even if they first seem not to be of much use. Some pincers can be moved while others can’t.
To keep predators away
Bugs mainly use pincers against predators. Often smaller than their predators, bugs need as many tools as possible to keep predators away.
A foul taste, a hard shell body, and pincers are among the most common types of self-defense mechanisms some bugs use.
Not all bugs have pincers but many of those who have them can use these pincers against predators.
Pincers can be used to hold prey
Catching prey is just the first step toward eating. Live insects that bugs eat can still escape if they aren’t properly held by pincers.
Some bugs continuously hold prey with pincers until fully consumed. Bugs that don’t have venom to paralyze prey tend to use pincers to hold prey the most.
To distinguish between males and females
Bugs with pincers share them between sexes. However, pincers may not look similar in males to females.
The pincers of male earwigs have a round shape while the pincers of females have a straight shape.
Bugs can help distinguish males from females just by looking at the shape or the size of pincers.
Stag Beetles are among the species where only males have front pincers. There are many examples of species where females don’t have any type of pincers.
To look more intimidating
While many predators may stay away from pincers to avoid a painful accident, they might not know some bugs aren’t even able to use pincers but solely have them appear more intimidating.
Bugs with pincers first appear intimidating before actually using pincers. Bugs that can bend their body or raise the upper part of the body further show these pincers to appear even more intimidating.
To fight males
Many types of bugs with front pincers only use them to fight members of the same species.
Prionine Beetles and Stag Beetles are common species where males fight each other over food or mating success.
These pincers are used directly on the opponent as a weapon.
Bugs with Pincers in Front
The following bug species are among the most common to show pincers in the front.
1. Dobsonflies – Flying Bugs With Pincers
Dobsonflies are distinct from other aquatic flies. The species is known to grow to a wingspan of up to a few inches and spend most of its life around water sources.
You can find Dobsonflies around streams and rivers as they use water to lay eggs.
Male Dobsonflies have front pincers while females don’t. It’s believed males have these pincers purely for mating strategies as they pursue females.
Male flies use these pincers at different stages of the mating process which start with territorial fights between males and females.
Males fight each other for females. They use their pincers to flip other males over and to assert physical dominance.
Pincers are rarely used to cut an opponent as they are long and difficult to accurately maneuver. This is why males prefer to flip other males first using pincers.
Winning males then use pincers to position females in a mating position if the female is receptive. Female Dobsonflies can refuse mating with certain males, even those most successful in guarding a territory.
2. Dobsonfly Larvae
Dobsonfly larvae have pincers just like adults. The larvae of the species are dark, mostly black.
This type of larvae is known for its impact on the life of the adult as it chooses where it pupates and where adults are going to spend much of their lives.
Adult Dobsonlfies only live between 3 and 10 days but the location where they live is chosen by the larvae.
Eggs are laid in water, typically in streams. These eggs then turn into larvae which are then known to travel with water currents until decide to leave the water altogether.
Larvae of these flies then more on dry land, typically just a few yards out of the water looking for a perfect pupation place.
This place can be any type of sheltered location such as under a rock or log.
It’s here that the Dobdsonfly larvae use its front pincers to dig a hole in the ground. It’s here that the larvae pupate and where Dobsonflies emerge.
Adults continue living in the areas looking for a mate, not food. Most theories agree adult Dobsonflies do not eat.
3. Crab Spiders
There are a few species of crab spiders and many of them have pincers. As with other species, it’s only the male spiders that have pincers.
Females are typically larger with either no pincers at all or with smaller pincers.
Males use these front pincers that resemble crab pincers to catch prey or to scrap off algae.
These pincers are a few times longer than their legs. However, the elongated nature of these pincers means Crab Spiders generally move slowly, especially when it comes to handling pincers.
Crab spiders are also among the species that have very poor vision. They can rarely quickly attack any type of prey.
This is why they need pincers to hold on to rare prey they manage to catch.
These pincers can sometimes be used against humans when roughly handled.
The pinch of Crab spiders can be painful, especially when it comes to the larger examples of the species.
4. Common Hentz Jumping Spider – Spider With Front Pincers
Common Hentz Jumping Spiders (Hentzia Palmarum) are a distinct species of spiders that don’t spin spider webs.
As their name implies, jumping spiders jump or pounce on prey instead of waiting for it to get caught up in silk spider webs.
Common Hentz Jumping Spiders can still produce silk, they just use it differently. They wrap up prey in silk so that it cannot escape.
They also use their very long pincers to hold prey in place. This means these spiders have long pincers they can move and use against prey.
The front legs of the species look like crab spiders but their pincers are short and only used together with the front legs to immobilize prey.
Working together, the pincers and front legs even have the same red-brown color.
The rest of the spider has yellow coloring and brown coloring on the dorsal side.
This species has excellent vision rarely missing a target when jumping on it which means it uses its pincers frequently.
Scorpions are some of the most common arthropods.
They are found all around the world except in the coldest places in the Northern Hemisphere.
Scorpions have dual front pincers they use for different situations that are tied to fighting or mating.
Scorpions use pincers to defend themselves from various predators. They have been shown successfully using pincers to keep predators such as wasps away.
Front pincers are also used by scorpions to hold prey and kill it with their curved stingers.
Scorpions are also among the species with front pincers that rely on pincers during the mating process.
Fights between male scorpions for females are rare. However, both males and females grab each other’s front pincers when mating.
They move together before males place the spermatophore in females.
6. Camel Spiders
Camel Spiders are the subject of myths. Some believe these spiders can kill humans, mainly due to their large mandibles or front pincers.
Camel Spiders cannot kill humans but they have powerful front pincers which can kill small prey such as lizards.
The pincers of Camel Spiders can grow to a length equal to 1/3 of the total length of the species.
Camel spiders are large, growing to a size of a to a few inches.
This means they also possess powerful pincers. They aren’t attracted to attacking humans as Camel Spiders stay away from large animals.
However, they can attack almost any type of small vertebrate and invertebrate. This species is also known for moving rapidly, which makes it even more dangerous.
People do not keep Camel Spiders as pets as the species is highly aggressive. Their small pincers could easily kill other small pets such as Guinee pigs.
7. Pseudoscorpions – Tiny Bugs With Pincers in Front
Pseudoscorpions are also known as False Scorpions, mainly for having pincers.
You can find pseudoscorpions outdoors or even indoors where they can be looking for food.
These small creatures are known for having 2 large front pincers. Each pincer of pseudoscorpions has an immobile and a mobile section.
It’s within the mobile section that pseudoscorpions have venom as well. This venom is strong enough to immobilize small prey.
Once injected, prey starts to move less until it stops moving altogether.
Pseudoscorpions might continue holding prey down until they consume it.
Growing to a size of about 1/5 inches, pseudoscorpions are also among the species beneficial in homes as they eat other insects.
Some of the insects pseudoscorpions eat are considered pests. Carpet beetles and booklice are among the smallest prey for these predators with pincers.
Small beetles and even small spiders might be among the common daily prey for pseudoscorpions.
8. Whip Spiders
Whip Spiders get their name from their long legs and pincers that resemble whips.
You can identify this species by its large size. Whip spiders can grow to a size of up to 6 inches.
Spiders of this genus have a gray flattened body that helps camouflage the species.
Front powerful pincers are used against a range of small prey. Whip spiders don’t use these front pincers frequently as they can go very long periods without eating.
Front pincers are only used to section prey and to turn it into smaller pieces that are easier to eat.,
Whip spiders do not use front pincers against each other and are generally seen as some of the predatory species with front pincers that prefer to retreat in the face of danger.
Whip spiders are sometimes raised as pets due to their docile nature.
9. Whip Scorpions
Whip scorpions use front pincers for feeding and mating.
These small scorpion creatures are identified by their all-black coloring, long front legs, and front pincers.
Pincers are used against a wide range of prey which makes Whip Scorpions some of the most efficient small predators.
Insects, worms, and even scorpions are frequently eaten by Whip Scorpions. These predators can also eat very small vertebrates.
They are known for releasing a fluid rich in acetic acid similar to vinegar on prey for easier digestion.
Male Whip Scorpions also use front pincers on females during the mating process.
Pincers are used to hold the legs of the female together to prevent a quick escape right until the moment the male passes the spermatophore.
10. Giant Water Bugs
Common in pools of North America, Giant Water Bugs are among the common aquatic predators with front pincers.
The pincers of these water bugs are long and wide. They are quite powerful when used against similarly-sized prey such as small fish.
Giant Water Bugs can also use their pincers against all types of predatory species such as juvenile snakes.
With a size comparable to cockroaches, Giant Water Bugs rely on front pincers to catch prey.
Once caught in pincers, Giant Water bugs bite the prey and inject a liquefying fluid which makes eating prey easier.
The pincers can sometimes be used against humans. However, Giant Water Bugs mostly attack similarly-sized or smaller prey they find in the water.
You can avoid these large predators in your pool by keeping the water free from algae. It’s algae that attract small insects Giant Water bugs feed on.
11. Bull Ants
Bull Ants (genus Myrmecia) are native to Australia. This species is mostly seen across Eastern Australia and is recognized by its red and black body.
Bull Ants have long front pincers as extensions of their mandibles.
They use these pincers for feeding. Bull Ants primarily feed on pollen but they can also eat and store small insects.
Pincers are used to grab small insects which are then taken back to their nests. Bull Ants nest underground so their pincers help carry insects a few yards deep underground.
These ants are also known to use pincers against humans. Their bites are highly painful.
Typical treatment of Bull Ant bites involves applying ice and cold compresses after cleaning the wound with soap and water.
Numerous species of termites live in North America and across the world. Many of these are destructive to wooden structures.
Termites have some of the most efficient long mandibles or pincers which they use to eat through wood.
Studies on the pincers of various termite species show just how different these are between the species.
Asymmetric pincers are more efficient than standard pincers of a similar length when it comes to eating through wood.
Soldier termites are a group of termites known for doing all the hard work in a colony.
Research shows these soldier termites are related to stag beetles in the way elongated jaws are efficiently used daily.
13. Lacewing Larvae
Lacewing larvae are among the few beneficial larvae species with long front pincers.
You can identify this larva by its off-white to yellow color with light brown spots and an irregular shape that resembles bird droppings.
Lacewings are among the beneficial insects in gardens as they eat aphids on vegetables. Lacewing larvae have the same diet which involves eating the eggs of lacewing larvae.
The pincers on the larvae are rather short but adapted to either eating small insects such as small aphids or small aphid eggs.
Lacewing larvae have a positive role in the ecosystem. The role of the larvae is often compared to the role of ladybugs against aphids.
14. Fishfly Larvae
Fishfly Larvae are some of the most common aquatic larvae with pincers. Adults might live next to the water for a few days but the larvae of the species mainly live in slow-moving waters such as shallow streams.
The larvae have short pincers. Different types of Fishfly larvae feed on different types of prey and food.
Some are omnivores which means they can also consume algae. Most Fishfly larvae feed on various species of water insects and eggs.
They use their strong pincers to chew prey or to scrape off vegetation such as algae.
These feeding habits are all based on the long pincers of Fishfly Larvae.
Once turned into adults, Fishflies do not eat.
However, Fishflies can spend up to a few years in their larvae stage underwater. They can rely on pincers for underwater feeding anywhere between 1 and 3 years.
15. Stag Beetles – Black Beetles With Pincers on Head
Stag beetles (family Lucanidae) have long curved pincers. These pincers resemble those on stags, which inspired the name of the species.
Only male Stag Beetles have long front pincers as females don’t have any types of pincers. Males used them in fights.
Common fights over territories between males rely on front pincers.
Some of the most common fights between male Stage Beetles are seen in Europe. The highest populations of Stag Beetles are native to Europe.
Males can also fight each other over scarce food. Fruits are one of the foods male Stag Beetle larvae like to fight over.
Stag beetles use their pincers to grasp and break the claws of the opponent.
These beetles aren’t very dangerous to humans.
16. Prionine Beetles
Prionine Beetles (subfamily Prioninae) are present across the world in hundreds of species. They all share front pincers as a distinguishing characteristic.
Species such as the Hardwood Stump Borer (Mallodon dasystomus) and the Palo Verde Root Borer (Derobrachus hovorei) use front pincers to fight amongst them.
This is only the case for males, as with Stag Beetles.
Prionine Beetles use front pincers to fight over food resources. Males take on each other for mating success as well.
You may not easily see Prionine Beetles fighting each other as these bugs are nocturnal. They might only be seen fighting around homes and light sources at night.
17. Giant Water Scavenger Beetle Larvae
Giant Water Scavenger Beetles (genus Hydrophilus) are some of the largest water bugs in North America.
This species has distinct larvae with front pincers which are used against a wide range of small vertebrates and invertebrates.
Small insects are frequently killed by the larvae of these large blackwater bugs.
Tadpoles and even small fish are killed by its pincers. These larvae aren’t as good at chewing as they are at killing these water insects and fish.
However, the larvae of the Giant Water Scavenger Beetle are adapted to finding these small prey and killing them underwater.
Only surfacing for a breath of fresh air rarely, these yellow larvae can look for food even at the bottom of a body of water.
Once adults, these bugs become scavengers often consuming decaying fish and decaying vegetation.
Pincers are some of the most versatile body parts in the world of bugs and insects. Many bugs have back pincers but there are plenty that has them in the front.
Even caterpillars or larvae can have front pincers which are used to catch and eat prey.
The larvae of many bugs are predatory species.
Larvae use pincers for food but adults can also use pincers against each other when fighting for food or for the chance to mate with more females.
Most species with front pincers are only known to have them on males, which need to fight over resources and mating success. Female bugs may lack front pincers even if males have very long pincers, as seen with bugs such as Stag Beetles.