How to Tell Silverfish & Earwigs Apart

Earwigs sometimes are compared to silverfish. They do have some similarities, including the preference for moisture and the fact that they are relatively fast and mostly nocturnal. For both insects, most are not predaceous, but some earwigs are predators, preferring small insects and other ground-dwelling organisms.

Earwigs may have wings; however no silverfish have wings. So, some earwigs can fly, whereas no silverfish fly. Silverfish are common in basements and attics, two humid areas of homes; earwigs prefer even moister grounds such as beneath wet mulch or decaying leaves.

Earwigs are insects with appendages protruding from the abdomen opposite the antennae. These appendages appear to be pincers and look rather dangerous. These appendages, called forceps, are not dangerous to humans, except that these forceps can latch on when the earwig is disturbed and cause a painful pinch. They are not poisonous.

While both earwigs and silverfish are insects and in the taxonomic class Insecta, earwigs belong to the order Dermaptera, while silverfish belong to the order Thysanura. Earwigs have the two appendages protruding from the abdomen, whereas the silverfish have three straight appendages protruding. These appendages are softer and are hairlike. Earwigs have a hard body of chitin, whereas the silverfish have an additional coating of scales. If you rub a silverfish, these scales will leave a mark on paper, just as a moth’s scales would. Silverfish have softer bodies compared to earwigs.

Earwigs prefer food of live or decaying vegetation for most species, although some are hunters and feed on small insects and other arthropods. Silverfish feeding includes very diverse sources of carbohydrates and proteins. There is documentation available which shows that silverfish will eat dried beef, rolled oats, paper, fabric and other lower-moisture foods.