The Earwig – Are They Really Ear Invaders?

The earwig is a fierce looking insects, yet misunderstood. The facts: Here’s the story of the earwig, the fact verses the myth. Earwigs are from the insect order of Dermaptera and are found throughout the world except for the northern and southern polar regions. There are about two thousand different species. The earwig has a pair of forceps pincers on their abdomen called cerci and this is what gives it it’s fierce appearance. Earwigs rarely use their ability to fly even though they have membranous wings folded underneath short fore-wings. The earwig is mostly nocturnal(meaning they are active at night) and often hide in small, moist crevices during the day. They feed on a wide variety of insects and plants. They can damage foliage, flowers, and various crops. Uncommon among the insect world some species of earwigs show maternal tendencies caring for their eggs, even after they hatch and often until their second molt.

Identifying the Species & Conducive Conditions - The earwig

The myth: Earwigs are the victim of urban legend. The story goes that earwigs are so named because they crawl into sleeping people’s ears and eat their brains, causing madness and/or death.  This story is absolutely false. Another belief due to their menacing looking pincers is that they can sting you, or envenomate you, or somehow harm you with their ceri. Other than an occasional light pinch, the ceri are harmless, making them harmless to people in general.  Now, with that stated, some smaller insects do, occasionally, crawl into people’s ears, however apart from some discomfort and alarm they usually don’t cause any great harm when it happens. I myself have witnessed a victim of this while I was paying a visit to the emergency for my gallbladder. A women had a small cockroach in her ear. It was a very scary experience for her but they were able to easily remove the invader.

The reality: Even though we have established that earwigs are basically not going to do you any psychical harm, they are still considered a pest especially in the case of infestation. They usually infest damp areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundries, especially if there is an area where there is a lot of condensation, humidity, or a small leak. In these cases treatment is going to be necessary. The source of the problem must also be addressed if one is to maintain complete control but there are some things the homeowner can do to prevent an infestation, or to deter the earwigs. Move logs, decorative stones, and firewood piles away from the foundation. Clear an area next to the foundation free of mulch, dead leaves, and other materials that may hold moisture or obstruct the area. This dry zone should be between six and twelve inches. Trim back trees and shrubs that cause damp, and/or shady areas near the home. Make sure gutters and downspouts drain away from the foundation. Set automatic watering systems so that they water in the morning only so the landscape has time to dry during the day. You can also change outside light bulbs to yellow since white lights are more attractive to insects while adjusting the outdoor lights to shine from the yard onto the house. If you have a basement you might want to consider getting a dehumidifier.

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The Earwig – Are They Really Ear Invaders?

So there you have it. Please note that we at Meryl’s Termite and Pest Control can help you deal with an infestation of earwigs and that while they are indeed considered a pest, it’s not to the extent that they would do you physical harm to the point that they would be crawling in your ear to gain access to your brain. Many urban myths are out there about all kinds of insects and arachnids.