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Darwin Correspondence Project

To Robert Scot Skirving   16 November [1861–8]1

Down, Bromley, Kent, S.E.

Nov. 16

My dear Sir

I am sorry to say that I know nothing of the habits of earwigs.2 Mr. Newman3 with whom I am slightly acquainted is I believe a good sort of man, and certainly a good entomologist, and he may be trusted I should think on the point in question. The Forficula or Labia minor is a good flier and excepting in size would not be distinguished from the common earwig.4 It is certainly strange that an insect, having wings, should not fly; but even if this is the truth yet I should not be surprised at the occasional appearance of a flying earwig on the same principle that the bug occasionally has been known to possess wings. In answer to your kind inquiries I am sorry to say that my health still keeps very indifferent.

Believe me my dear Sir | Yours very faithfully | Charles Darwin


The date range is established by the address, which is a form that CD used between May 1861 and April 1869.
No letter from Skirving on this subject has been found.
Edward Newman.
Labia minor was originally named Forficula minor by Linnaeus (Linnaeus 1758–9, 1: 423). Labia and Forficula are both genera of the order Dermaptera, earwigs. Forficula is now a monospecific genus; Forficula auricularia is the European earwig (referred to by CD as the common earwig). Labia minor is the lesser earwig. Newman thought that F. auricularia did not fly, but the point was disputed (Zoologist 8 (1850): 2695, 2759, 2831; Entomologist 3 (1866–7): 154).


Knows nothing of the habits of earwigs. Thinks Edward Newman may be trusted on the point [as to whether or not earwigs can fly].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Robert Darwin
Robert Scot Skirving
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 147: 481
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4673,” accessed on 6 May 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 18 (Supplement)