Do earwigs fly or crawl?

Earwigs are interesting insects that have the ability to both fly and crawl. When thinking about earwigs, most people first picture the creepy crawling critters that may invade their homes. However, earwigs are also capable of taking flight on occasion. So do earwigs fly or crawl? The answer is – both!

Can Earwigs Fly?

Yes, earwigs are able to fly. However, they do not fly very often or very far. Earwigs have two sets of wings that are folded underneath short wing covers. When needed, earwigs can unfold their wings and take flight. However, earwig wings are not very large in proportion to their bodies. As a result, earwigs are not very strong fliers. Their flights tend to be short distances of just a few feet. Earwigs will fly to escape predators, reach food sources, or disperse to new locations.

When Do Earwigs Fly?

Earwigs are mostly nocturnal creatures, so they do most of their flying at night. During the day, they tend to stay hidden in damp, dark places. At night when they emerge to search for food is often when earwigs will take short flights. Their flights most often occur during mating season as well, when males fly in search of females. The mating flights allow earwigs to disperse to new areas and lay their eggs.

Earwig Wing Structure

Earwigs have two sets of wings that allow them to fly:

  • Forewings – These are the larger, outer wings and do most of the work during flight.
  • Hind wings – The smaller hind wings are underneath the forewings and help provide lift.

Both sets of wings have a leathery texture and are thin and translucent. When not in use, earwigs fold their wings up neatly beneath short, hardened wing covers. To take flight, earwigs simply spread their wings open. The wings can gain enough lift for these light insects to take to the air.

Why Earwigs Don’t Fly Often

While earwigs are capable of flight, they do not fly very frequently or for long distances. There are a few key reasons for this:

  • Heavy bodies – The size and weight of earwigs relative to wing size makes sustained flight difficult.
  • Low energy – Earwigs conserve energy and fly only when necessary.
  • Vulnerability – Flying makes earwigs more visible and vulnerable to predators.

With their short, broad bodies and heavy cerci (pinchers), earwigs are not built for sustained, long-distance flight. Their wings provide enough lift for short hops but aren’t efficient enough for migratory journeys. Earwigs will usually only fly a few feet at a time before taking rest.

Are Earwigs Good Fliers?

No, earwigs are generally considered poor fliers compared to other winged insects. There are a few reasons why:

  • Small wings – The wings are fairly small relative to the insect’s body size.
  • Weak flight muscles – Their flight muscles are not very developed.
  • Short flights – They can only fly briefly before needing to rest.
  • Slow speed – Earwigs fly slowly and can’t achieve high speeds.
  • Low maneuverability – Their flights lack agility and precision.

With their disproportionately small wings, earwigs simply aren’t built for powerful and sustained flight. While earwigs can briefly fly from time to time, they spend the vast majority of their time crawling on the ground.

Earwig Crawling Ability

While earwigs may be mediocre fliers, they excel at crawling. Their bodies are well-adapted for creeping along nearly any surface.

Earwigs have six jointed legs that allow them to crawl and climb quite efficiently. They can use their legs and claws to grasp onto almost any terrain as they move along. The cerci at the rear also help provide stability and balance.

In addition, earwigs have long, flattened bodies that let them fit into tight crevices and cracks. Their antennae help detect food and shelter as they crawl.

Crawling allows earwigs to easily traverse all types of surfaces:

  • Wood
  • Soil
  • Plant stems
  • Leaf litter
  • Rocks
  • Brick
  • Concrete

Earwigs are generally quite nimble and quick crawlers. They can rapidly scurry into small spaces to hide. When food is out in the open, they are quick to snatch it up and carry it back to their hiding spots.

Why Earwigs Crawl More than Fly

There are several key reasons why earwigs crawl far more frequently than they fly:

  • Less energy used – Crawling takes less metabolic effort than flying.
  • Stealth – Crawling allows earwigs to move quietly and avoid detection.
  • Maneuverability – They can easily crawl into tiny cracks and crevices.
  • Safer – Predators are less likely to spot them crawling on the ground.
  • Built for it – With their flattened bodies and legs, earwigs are adapted for crawling.

Crawling helps earwigs conserve energy as they hunt for food and shelter. It also helps keep them hidden from view of would-be predators. Since earwigs spend nearly all their time safely tucked away in narrow hiding spots, crawling is far more practical for their lifestyle than flying.

Typical Earwig Behavior

Here is a summary of typical earwig behavior in terms of crawling and flying:

  • Spend days hidden – Earwigs stay hidden in dark, damp spaces during daylight hours.
  • Emerge at night – After sunset, earwigs crawl out to search for food.
  • Forage by crawling – They use their legs to crawl from spot to spot looking for food.
  • Make short flights – Earwigs occasionally make brief flights from one location to another.
  • Return before light – By morning, earwigs crawl back to their hiding spaces.

So while earwigs are capable of flying, the vast majority of their time is spent crawling. The exceptional crawling ability of earwigs complements their cryptic, secretive lifestyle.


In summary, earwigs are insects that are able to both fly and crawl quite effectively. However, their anatomy and natural behaviors make them far better adapted for crawling than flying.

While earwigs can briefly fly if needed, they do not migrate long distances and prefer to stay close to the ground. Their wings provide enough lift for short hops between locations but are too small for migratory journeys.

Crawling allows earwigs to conserve energy as they scavenge for food at night. It also enables them to quickly hide in cracks and crevices during the day where they go undetected by predators. Overall, earwigs do far more crawling than flying in their daily lives.

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