Monday, June 28, 2010

Salted earwig

A pair of earwigs were foraging around the logs at the top of Oyster Bay beach. But these were like no earwigs I had seen in my garden. They were twice the size, and sturdily built:

They ran away from us, very fast. Laurie chased one; I went after the other. I took a few photos of sand where an earwig had been a second before, or of a blurred set of pincers, then tried to head her* off before she scooted under a log. I was not too comfortable with handling her - those pincers (forceps, they call these) look vicious! - so I pushed a handful of sand around her. And then, by some fortunate accident, I dropped a bit of sand on her head. Didn't hurt her, as far as I could see, but she froze in her place. I got this photo.

Then she started to run again. I salted her with sand, and she lay still. Wonderful! (Like that old chestnut about catching a bird by putting salt on its tail. But this actually worked.)

After a minute or so, she roused herself again. I added more sand. Oops! She had a new response this time:

Waving forceps at me, wide open.

Looks like she means business. Grievous bodily harm, most likely. I took this one photo and backed off.

Laurie was kinder to his earwig, so he never got as close. But he got one tiny shot that shows the creamy neck of the 'wig.

These earwigs are twice the size of our common garden one, and unlike most other earwigs, they have no wings. (See "normal" earwig, here. The wings are obvious.) Our garden earwigs are scavengers, eating particles of organic debris; this giant is a predator.

It lives under drift logs, seaweed and other debris near the high water mark where it feeds on small crustaceans and insects. It can capture prey with its forceps and holds the captive while it is devoured. (From E-Fauna BC article.)
*Females have straight pincers; those of the male are curved inward. And yes, they are capable of giving a good pinch.


  1. I want to see photos of you chasing the earwig!

  2. I'm so glad you clarified his diet ... I was almost afraid to go back into the water! I never did like the little ones!


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