Earwigs have smooth, slender, flattened bodies and beadlike antennae. Where other insects have wings, most earwigs have two leathery, budlike covers (tergites). Some species fold wings under these covers; others lack wings, tergites, or both. The pair of large pincers at the abdomen tip are modified cerci (SUR-sigh; singular cercus, SUR-kuss) and function to repel predators. (They are anatomical equivalents to the two filaments at the end of a cricket’s body, which function like antennae.) The shape and size of male earwigs’ pincers help identify species. Females’ pincers don’t vary so much.
The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is one of our most common earwigs. It is reddish brown, has functioning wings, and can fly. The teeth at the base of its cerci distinguish it from other earwigs. The native ring-legged earwig (Euborellia annulipes) is dark brown, with light yellow legs with dark, ringlike marks. US members of this species lack wings and budlike tergites.