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Earwigs are mostly scavengers, but some are omnivorous or predatory. The abdomen of the earwig is flexible and muscular. It is capable of maneuvering as well as opening and closing the forceps. The forceps are used for a variety of purposes. In some species, the forceps have been observed in use for holding prey, and in copulation. The forceps tend to be more curved in males than in females.
Earwigs are among the few non-social insect species that show maternal care. The mother will pay close attention to the needs of her eggs, such as warmth and protection, though studies have shown that the mother does not pay attention to the eggs as she collects them. The mother has been shown to pick up wax balls by accident, but they would eventually be rejected as they do not have the proper scent. The mother will also vigorously defend the eggs from predators, not eating unless an egg goes bad. Another distinct maternal care unique to earwigs is that the mother continuously cleans the eggs to protect them from fungi. Studies have found that the urge to clean the eggs persists for days after they are removed; when the eggs were replaced after hatching, the mother continued to clean them for up to 3 months.
Earwig are hemimetabolous, meaning they undergo incomplete metamorphosis, developing through a series of 4 to 6 molts. The developmental stages between molts are called instars. Earwigs live for about a year from hatching. They start mating in the autumn, and can be found together in the autumn and winter. The male and female will live in a chamber in debris, crevices, or soil 2.5 mm deep. After mating, the sperm may remain in the female for months before the eggs are fertilized. From midwinter to early spring, the male will leave, or be driven out by the female. Afterward the female will begin to lay 20 to 80 pearly white eggs in 2 days. Some earwigs, those parasitic in the suborders Arixeniina and Hemimerina, are viviparous (give birth to live young); they would be fed by a sort of placenta. When first laid, the eggs are white or cream-colored and oval-shaped, but right before hatching they become kidney-shaped and brown. Each egg is approximately 1 mm (0.04 in) tall and 0.8 mm (0.03 in) wide.