New Year’s Babies — Maternal care in earwigs

31 Dec
An earwig mother guards her clutch of eggs (Forficulidae).

An earwig mother guards her clutch of eggs (San Diego, California).

 When most people think of earwigs–if they think of them at all–they think of them as creepy little bugs that turn up in leaf litter, along the foundations of houses, or occasionally in bathrooms or basements.  Few people realize that these insects can also be excellent mothers.  Female earwigs in the family Forficulidae (latin for ‘earwig’, originating from the word for scissors) carefully tend their clutch of eggs, guarding and caring for the youngsters after hatching. 

In the extreme example of the hump earwig, these mothers make the ultimate sacrifice, allowing their children to kill and eat them at the end of their care.  This phenomenon is giving the charming name of ‘matriphagy’ and increases the offsprings’ chance of survival.  A mother’s love?

A mother earwig watches over her eggs.

A mother earwig (Forficulidae) watches over her eggs.

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