The name " earwig " originates from the superstition that earwigs crawl into the ears of sleeping persons and bore into the brain. Although earwigs appear somewhat dangerous due to their forceps, they are practically harmless to man.
Earwigs may cause alarm to homeowners when discovered indoors. They have a frightful appearance, move rapidly around baseboards at the ground level, and may emit a foul-smelling, yellowish-brown liquid from their scent glands. These creatures, active at night while hiding during the daytime, normally live outdoors and do not establish themselves indoors. They are harmless to humans and animals, although if handled carelessly, the earwig can give a slight pinch with the forceps.
Serious feeding damage may occur on flowers, vegetables, fruits and other plants, giving the leaves a ragged appearance with the numerous, small, irregular holes. Also, decomposing organic matter is consumed. They are considered temporary pests in spite of the fact that they sometimes occur in large populations.
There is no evidence that they transmit disease or otherwise harm humans or other animals, despite their nickname pincher bug.
Earwigs rarely fly and they are unable to crawl for long distances, yet they have spread rapidly through the eastern and western United States. This is because they are accomplished "hitch-hikers". They wander about at night and crawl into any available hiding place before dawn. Thus they may be carried long distances in bundled newspapers, luggage, cut flowers and produce, crated merchandise, lumber and building supplies, automobiles and even the mail.
Facts About Earwigs
Earwig is the common name given to the insect order Dermaptera characterized by membranous wings folded underneath short leathery forewings (hence the literal name of the order�"skin wings"). The abdomen extends well beyond the wings, and frequently, though not always, ends in a pair of forceps-like cerci. With about 1,800 recorded species in 10 families, the order is relatively small among Insecta. Earwigs are, however, quite common globally.
The name earwig comes from Old English eare "ear" and wicga "insect". It is related to the fanciful notion that earwigs burrow into the brains of humans through the ear and therein lay their eggs. his belief, however, is false. Nevertheless, being exploratory and omnivorous, earwigs probably do crawl into the human ear; even if they are only looking for a humid crevice in which to hide, such behavior provides a memorable basis for the name.
Most earwigs are elongated, flattened, and are dark brown. Lengths are mostly in the 10�14 mm range, with the St. Helena earwig reaching 80 mm. Cerci range from nonexistent to long arcs up to one-third as long as the rest of the body. As in other orthopteroid insects, mouthparts are adapted for chewing. When earwigs have wings (are not agnathous), the hindwings are folded in a complex fashion, so that they fit under the forewings.
Earwigs are omnivorous, feeding on a wide variety of food. They will eat live or dead insects as well as live or decaying vegetation.
Earwigs are nocturnal. During the day they will be found in moist shady places, under wood piles, stones, boards, compost piles, flower beds, and other secluded locations. When earwigs migrate indoors, they hide in cracks and crevices around baseboards and other locations. They may be found in potted plants and cut flowers.
Tips for controlling Earwigs
For best control indoors, one must first control earwigs outdoors. Since they are attracted to lights, reduce lighting around doors, windows and other potential entry sites. Use good night light discipline and special sodium vapor yellow lights (less attractive to insects) instead of white, neon or mercury vapor lights.
During dry, hot weather, earwigs sometimes migrate indoors. They are easily killed by residual insecticide treatments in cracks and crevices, along baseboards, beneath cabinets, along door and window sills and other hiding places during the day. Unfortunately, control will be short-term due to new earwig entry from outdoors.
Earwigs need and are very attracted to moisture. High populations, practically invisible during the day, may be present around foundations, in landscaped yards, in mulch, under boards, etc. Be sure to eliminate damp, moist conditions in crawl spaces under houses, around faucets, around air-conditioning units and along house foundations. Rain gutters and spouts should carry water away from the house foundation. Use caulking compound, putty and weather stripping around doors, windows, pipes and other entry sites, especially at the ground level. Change landscaping by creating a clean, dry border immediately around the foundation wall. Gravel or ornamental stones can make an attractive barrier against earwigs and other pest invaders.
Earwigs can be trapped outdoors in cardboard boxes baited with oatmeal or bran with pencil hole size entry sites punched in the sides near the bottom. Place burlap bags, canvass, boards, newspapers or other cover material in mulch, shrubbery and similar habitats to collect individuals the following day. Shake specimens into hot, boiling water or burn trapped earwigs in newspaper rolls. Indoors, remove with broom and dustpan or by vacuum cleaner.
There are many insecticides labeled for earwig control. Indoor treatments should supplement outdoor treatments since earwigs do not become established indoors. Dusts and residual sprays are effective when applied to baseboards, beneath cabinets and other hiding places at the floor level.
Treating the exterior with products such as Dragnet, Cy-Kick Cs, Demon Max, Demon WP or Niban Granuals will help stop the crickets on the ouside before they infest the inside.