Can Earwigs Fly?

They creep, they crawl, but do earwigs fly? There are 22 identified species of earwigs in the United States. Of those, only about five are common. With long, pincer-like cerci that extends out from their abdomens, earwigs are easily identifiable. But what you may not notice is that earwigs also have wings.

The flying earwig

The reason why these insects’ wings often go unnoticed is because they are usually hidden below hard wing covers. But if they do have wings, can earwigs fly? The answer is not so simple. Although earwigs have the ability to fly, they rarely do. Instead, they prefer to travel by hitching a ride on flowers, luggage, newspaper and even fruits or vegetables.

An exception to the rule

Although common earwigs like the European earwig and ring-legged earwig rarely fly, there is a less common group of earwigs that has picked up the habit. They belong to the family Labiidae. This group contains eight different species that are found in North America. Although none are commonly encountered, when they do infest a home, they can form large ranks.

This small insect earns its name because it is only 4 to 7 millimeters long, compared to many common earwigs that are about 16 millimeters long. These type of earwigs fly short distances and can often be seen hovering around a light source, either inside or outside. One species, Labia minor, uses its pincers or forceps to comb out its wings each time it takes flight.

While you are unlikely to come across a flying earwig in your home, these insects do carry an aggregation pheromone that causes them to collect in large groups, much like cockroaches. When this happens, they can become a major pest problem and may require the help of a pest management professional.