Adult earwigs are ¼ to 1 inch long, dark brown to black, with a red head and pale yellow-brown legs. The body is long and flattened. Earwigs usually have two pairs of wings, the hind wings being fully developed and folded beneath the short, leathery front wings. The thread-like antennae are half as long as the body. The most notable characteristic are pincer-like appendages at the end of the abdomen, the forceps.
The female lays several batches of approximately 50 eggs in a nest like shallow depression beneath a board or stone. Those laid in the winter hatch in about 72 days; those laid in the spring hatch in 20 days. The nymphs look much like the adults and molt four to five times before becoming adults, which takes about 56 days.
Earwig females are interesting because they display mothering instinct, protecting the nest and the nymphs until they have reached their second molt. Earwigs usually live outdoors and feed on plant material. They are very general feeders and seldom do a great deal of damage to any particular plant. They are active at night, hiding during the day under stones and other objects.
Earwigs are outdoor insects, which become household pests when they invade structures, usually in the fall or at night. Indoors, they are usually found in cracks and crevices and under furniture and carpeting. They are considered pests because of their presence and because they have a foul odor when crushed. Some species of earwigs are attracted to lights.