Bats and Earwigs

The earwig collection at Manchester Museum contains a vast number of species and may be one of the most important in the world. It contains 276 type specimens, which is extremely rich for a collection that is housed in 3 cabinets. I am currently databasing and researching the collection.

Earwigs are perhaps best known for the myth that they crawl into people’s ears and lay eggs in there. In actuality, the name “Earwig” may come from a mistranslation of “Ear-wing” as the insects have small ear shaped wings that are rarely used.

Indeed, earwigs will not invade your ears or any part of your body…unless you are a species of Malaysian bat.


The collection contains a genus of earwig that is extremely unique. Most earwigs are omnivorous. They feed off decaying vegetable matter and dead or dying insects. But the genus Arixenia has evolved into a parasitic insect. It feeds exclusively off the bodily secretions of the Naked Bulldog Bat (Cheiromeles torquatus and C. parvidens).

Arixenia is often found in the pouches of these bats and the folds between their skin.

So the story of earwigs crawling into your ear canal is a myth. Unless, of course, you’re a Naked Bulldog Bat.


About Gina Allnatt

I have just finished a year long traineeship as a Biology Curator at Manchester Museum. I am currently a research and curation volunteer in the Entomology and Botany departments. -Gina Allnatt
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