Feature Contributors

Earwigs - Misunderstood Insects

Earwigs just can’t get past their reputation of being evil even though it is unfounded. I am sure you have seen them in the home or outside on occasion in leaf piles or around decaying wood or mulch. An earwig is one of those ugly insects that appear light brown in color and seem to have long pinchers on the end of their body. These misunderstood creatures normally spend most of their lives outside, in basements or crawlspaces; however sometimes they are found inside the home gaining entry through cracks and crevices in the foundation or around loose trim around windows or baseboards.

Most of their activity is at night so it is advised that outside lighting be reduced as to not attract them to the structure. Homeowners can help themselves by eliminating damp crawl areas and by trying to keep a dry attractive border around the home. Over mulching year after year promotes the growth of fungus which is a great food supply for earwigs along with some vegetation.

During the winter months earwigs outside may burrow into the soil below the frost line however overwintering in crawl areas, basements and under slabs is very common and convenient. 

The name earwig comes from the old English words meaning “ear wiggler” or “ear creature”. It is mistakenly believed that these creatures crawl into the ears of humans while sleeping and attach with the pinchers and feed on the human brain.  I admit that this story makes for some good science fiction writings or movies, but it just is not true. 

Those pinchers or forceps are used to hold their insect prey to feed on but are near rubbery in nature and cannot pierce human skin. Earwigs are good mothers, but the young of the humpback earwig does not return the kindness to mom.  When it is time to leave the nest, the young turn to mom for a meal. Mom pays the ultimate price. The practice of eating the mother is called matriphagy. This sounds gross I know, but nature finds a way for survival of the species. 

Earwigs are quite harmless to humans.