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Expedition Seeks Giant Earwig on South Atlantic Isle

September 21, 1993

LONDON (AP) _ British scientists are renewing their quest for the world’s largest earwig on the remote south Atlantic island of St. Helena.

A two-man expedition will set off Thursday from London, hoping for more success than searchers had in 1988, when they found only a pair of pincers from the 3-inch-long insect.

The giant earwig, a reddish-brown insect with fearsome-looking pincers on its abdomen, then was written off as probably extinct. The last few were captured by a Belgian expedition in the 1960s and ended up dead in museums. The nocturnal insect is unknown anywhere else and was believed to have been wiped out on the island by mice that infested a garbage dump near its only known habitat.

″Now we are acting on a recently received report that the earwigs were seen in the 1970s on a plain in the northeast of the island which we did not visit,″ Paul Pearce-Kelly, who runs the insect house at London Zoo, said in an interview Tuesday.

″If we find any earwigs we want to bring them back alive to start a captive-breeding program at the zoo,″ he said.

The earwig gets its name from the myth that it crawls into human ears.

Pearce-Kelly will be accompanied by Graham Drucker of the World Conservation Monitoring Center in Cambridge, England.

St. Helena, a British colony famed as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile and death, has a population of about 5,500.

The volcanic island, just 47 square miles, is 1,140 miles west of Africa and 1,800 miles east of South America.

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