“Can you identify this fast-moving, worm-type bug?” asks this reader in California who found such a bug on her white linen bed sheet when she was making the bed. The bug is brown in color, with six legs, antennae, and a pair of pincer-like appendages at its long, segmented rear.
Our reader is concerned about her dog, who is a small, healthy Maltese that shares our reader’s bed. The dog “has been doing some butt dragging”, despite being vaccinated and taking regular heartworm and worm medications. Our reader thanks us in advance for any suggestions we have for the identity of this bug, and to this we say, don’t thank us just yet. In fact, this bug has been very difficult for us to identify, and we still have not landed on a concrete answer. Do we have ideas as the most likely type of bug it could be? Yes. Do we have the exact species nailed down to discuss with our reader? Unfortunately, no.
At first, we thought it might be an earwig. Its coloration, number of legs, antennae and rear pincers all point to this being a likely identification. However, it nonetheless does not look exactly like an earwig; the pincers on an earwig tend to be much smaller, the segmented lower part of its body wider and its legs longer. Now, it might very well be an earwig; there are over 2000 species of earwigs, so we cannot necessarily rule this out completely, as there is not one standard physical description for any insect that has thousands of species to its name. Earwigs are garden pests and prefer any damp, out-of-the-way environment where they will remain hidden. One such environment that earwigs can be found in is air vents, and this might be how this creature ended up in our reader’s home and on her bed. They use their pincers for self-defence, as well as a pungent liquid they can secrete. Additionally, there is a timeless myth about earwigs that they crawl into people’s ears at night to feed on their brain, but this still remains a myth and there is no scientific backing for these types of claims. Earwigs will not harm bigger animals unless threatened, so it could be that our reader’s dog irritated the earwig and it pinched the dog’s rear. That said, we do not know if this would be cause for butt-dragging; usually the pinch is not that painful and will not cause long-term pain.
Alternatively, it could also be some species of beetle larva. Besides the common grub (the chubby, white larva most people associate with a beetle larva), some beetle larvae already look like full-grown insects in their own right, such as the scarlet malachite beetle or the ground beetle; these larvae already have legs, as well as pincer-like appendages on their rears. Out of these two, we would be more prone to suggest that the bug our reader found is some type of ground beetle larva. Funnily enough, ground beetles have a lot in common with earwigs. First of all, they too secrete a nasty-smelling liquid to ward off predators, and secondly there are also around 2000 species of ground beetles (at least in North America). The difference between ground beetles and earwigs is that a ground beetle larva’s pincers are on its head, and for that reason we doubt this is a ground beetle larva. However, we still think it could be a different species of beetle larva! In that case, most species of beetle larvae are completely harmless, and could not cause any harm to an animal as big as a Maltese.
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To conclude, we are not exactly sure what this bug is. It could be an earwig, or it could be a beetle larva of some sort. Either way, if our reader thinks her dog needs medical attention, then we recommend that she take her dog to the vet and show the pictures she sent for this article. But it is our opinion that this bug is not a threat to our reader’s dog, given that it is an earwig or beetle larva. Of course, we do not know that for sure, so if any of our other readers have any ideas as to what this critter could be, please feel free to share any information in the comments section below!