Earwigs are related to crickets, grasshoppers, and stick insects. They are long, slender, flattened insects that come in various shades of brown or black, sometimes with patterns of light brown or yellow. A few species are metallic green. Most earwigs measure between 0.16 to 3.2 inches (4 to 78 millimeters) in length, without the pinchers (PIN-churs), or grasping claws. The head is distinctive and has chewing mouthparts that are directed toward the front. The antennae (an-TEH-nee), or sense organs, are long, thin, and threadlike. The compound eyes, eyes with many lenses, are usually well developed. However, simple eyes, those that have only single lenses, are absent. Most adult earwigs have four wings. When present, the forewings, or front wings, are short, thick, and leathery and cover a pair of tightly folded, fanlike flight wings that are shaped like the human ear. Their long, flexible abdomen ends in a pair of strong pinchers. The pinchers of the adult male are larger and thicker than those of the females and young earwigs or larvae (LAR-vee).
The young earwig, or larva, resembles the adult except that the larva may not have wings. Larvae of wingless species are distinguished from the adults by their smaller size. Their pinchers are nearly straight and are similar to those of the female.
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