Any of about 1,100 insect species (order Dermaptera) characterized by large membranous hind wings that lie hidden under short, leathery forewings. Species vary from 0.2 to 2 in. (5 to 50 mm) long, and all are flat, slender, and dark, with a shiny outer covering and simple biting mouthparts. Several species can shoot a foul-smelling liquid, formed in abdominal glands, as far as 4 in. (10 cm). Earwigs have a pair of forceps-like tail pincers (cerci) at the back end of the abdomen that may function in defense, capturing prey, folding wings, or fighting courtship battles.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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