Earwig Impailed: This one for the Birds!!!

Hi, and thank you for taking the time to read this email.
I noticed a small (maybe 1/4") insect on the tip of a thorn of a small cactus in my back yard a couple weeks ago. I didn’t think much of it, but decided to take a close-up photo of it last Sunday; after reviewing the photo, I was shocked to see that the insect was in fact impaled! Since that time, I’ve wondered how this could have happened. I sent an email, including the same attached photos (two different cameras), to an entomologist at a local university and received the following response: "The earwig you see impaled could have been blown by the wind. They have been very strong lately. I see this with winged male ants after a mating flight. Great photos!" With all due respect to the PhD. who replied to my question, I still don’t see how this could have happened, even in a high-wind environment (in my estimation, the winds haven’t been THAT strong in So. Cal.). Also, notice that the earwig is impaled on a vertical thorn, meaning that the wind gust which led to its demise had to be strong enough to lift it off the ground then pound it down on the thorn with sufficient force to pierce its hardened thorax… incredible. I’m totally perplexed. I would be interested to hear whatever thoughts or opinions you may have about this. As I told the PhD. at Cal Poly Pomona, this is not a joke or an altered photo, and no one goes into my back yard other than me. Thanks again for your time,
Richard Marr
San Dimas, CA

Hi Richard,
First of all, we don’t think our art degrees can stack up to a PhD in Entomology, but we do have another thought. The wind or some other freak accident of nature could be responsible, and I doubt if you have the resources to call in the CSI to see if foul play could be afoot. Our theory is a bird. Some birds, including we believe jays (and shrikes), are known to impail insects on thorns and return for a meal later. That is the best we can offer.

Update (03/29/2006)
Hi bugman. The SHRIKES- either Loggerhead or Northern – frequently impale insects on twigs and thorns as a way of “putting food aside for later”. Both species can be found in CA in winter.

Leave a Comment