Parasitic earwigs spend their entire lives on the bodies of their host animals. These small (0.4 inches or 10 millimeters) insects are blind and have short, bristlelike pinchers. They cling to the fur of their hosts with special claws. They feed only on bits of skin and fungus growing on the bodies of African giant rats or on the skin secretions of just one species of Asian bat. Unlike all other earwigs, parasitic earwigs do not lay eggs but bear live young.
Earwigs are active at night. They hide during the day in moist, dark, tight-fitting places under stones, logs, and bark. They also seek shelter inside cracks in the soil or deep inside flowers. Other species live in caves or actively burrow through the soil. Earwigs often live in groups of dozens or hundreds of individuals. Both males and females use their pinchers for grooming, capturing prey, and courtship. The pinchers are also used to help fold and unfold the wings.
Earwigs will defend themselves by using their powerful pinchers as a weapon. Other species have glands in their abdomens that spray a foul-smelling fluid at attackers up to 2.9 to 3.9 inches (75 to 100 millimeters) away.
After mating, females dig a chamber in the soil or leaf litter to lay their eggs. Some earwigs guard the eggs and will frequently turn and lick them to keep them moist and free of mold. After hatching, the young larvae may remain with their mother. She will swallow food and then spit it up to offer it to the larvae. Earwig larvae closely resemble the adults but lack wings. They will molt, or shed their exoskeletons or hard outer coverings, four to six times before reaching adulthood. Earwigs produce one or two generations every year.
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