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Insect Identification Key
Order Dermaptera: the earwigs

An earwig
This earwig has has a pair of large claw-like cerci at the end of its abdomen. The large cerci are a characteristic of this order. Photo credit: Amanda McCreless. Click here to see examples of more earwigs!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Dermaptera!

Members of this order include: earwigs.

Etymology: Dermaptera comes from the Greek words derma, which means skin, and ptera, which means wings. This refers to the leathery forewings, which are typical of earwigs.

General characteristics:
• sturdy pincer-like cerci, which are known as forceps in the earwigs, located at the end of the abdomen (no other insect group has forceps, so this is an excellent identifying feature)
• hard, elongate body
• dark-colored
• winged (although some are wingless)
• winged earwigs have short, veinless forewings, which are known as tegmina, with large, semicircular, rear flight wings folded into pleats and stored beneath them
• long, multisegmented antennae
• biting mouthparts (chewing mandibles)
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

Click here to see examples of more earwigs!

Number of recognized species worldwide: about 1,800


Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Dermaptera

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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