Paying lip service to earwigs

Recently going through a couple of year’s worth of specimens, having the usual clear-out of duplicates and spares, I came across this.

Not your average earwig.

Not your average earwig.

The lesser earwig is mostly famed for producing some unusual results when googling images using its scientific name, Labia minor. Quite what the labia (lip) it is named for, I have been unable to ascertain; never mind, this didn’t stop me punning my title here. Sorry.

Anyway, it’s an interesting beast. Since Britain’s earwig fauna is sadly inconsequential, anything that is not the common earwig, Forficula auricularia, is worth a second look. It’s much smaller (4–7 mm) than the familiar garden species (12–15 mm), narrower, and with the tail forceps straighter and slimmer. It flies readily, and although there are rare reports of Forficula taking to the air, Labia is almost always found flying — it regularly flies into moth traps, and this specimen was attracted to a mercury vapour light put outside the kitchen door.

It’s widespread, but not common; I’ve only found it a few times, and it’s certainly not as common as it once was. My informant for its previous abundance is, of course, my father, who recounts that it was very frequent in the London area, when he was a boy in the late 1930s. And this seems to fit with the reports that it is a denizen of manure heaps, because in the days of greater horse-drawn transport, there was always horse dung to be found strewn across the metropolitan roadways.

Tidiness, it seems, has done for the lesser earwig as it has done for so many critters from our unhygienic and unsanitary past. A sad loss.

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One response to “Paying lip service to earwigs

  1. Simon Springate

    Well, if you’re going to lower the tone with regards to earwigs..
    http://www.konchukan.net/pdf/kiberihamushi/Vol36_1/kiberihamushi_36_1_20-22.pdf
    …puts our etymological confusion in the shade (no translation yet, sorry)

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