Mating With Earwigs



Earwigs are known for their distinctive cerci that resemble and are called “forceps”. Earwig forceps are handy tools for a variety of tasks. Male earwigs will use their cerci in competition with other males and in their courtship of females. In the European earwig, Forficula auricularia, the female must choose whether to mate with a courting male. The male courts a female by tapping and stroking a female on the abdomen with his forceps and presenting them to the female. Females nibble the forceps, presumably receiving some chemosensory input to help them decide. Females are not quick to a decision. The average courtship lasts over ten minutes. If the male is accepted, a female will close her forceps and raise her abdomen in a mating position. The acrobatic male must twist his abdomen 180 degrees so that the bottom of his abdomen is facing up to complete the coupling. After all the effort, the earwig couple spend several hours completing the mating.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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8 Responses to Mating With Earwigs

  1. Cool! Do you have a reference describing earwig mating? I wonder if the mating really takes so long, or part of it is (postcopulatory) mate guarding.

    • jjneal says:

      There are numerous studies of mating and interest in the forceps as males are dimorphic for shape.
      A useful reference is:
      Forslund, P. 2000 Male-male competition and large size mating advantage in the European earwigs Forficula auricularia. Animal Behaviour 59, 753-762.

      Mating in the lab is commonly interrupted; females typically mate more than once.

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