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Earwigs are some of the most misunderstood and demonized insects out there, which is largely thanks to old European folklore that paints a terrifying, and completely untrue, tale about these creatures. These bugs are actually extremely beneficial for the natural environment and the ecosystem because of how they assist in the process of decomposition. Despite their helpful role in nature, however, earwigs can still wreak havoc if they decide to shack up in your garden, greenhouse, or home, making them more of a nuisance instead.
By learning key facts like what exactly earwigs are, what they look like, and where they live, you can make more informed decisions that effectively prevent them from infesting your property.
Earwigs, sometimes referred to as pincher bugs or ear wigglers, are nocturnal insects that feed on live or dead plant matter, other insects, and decaying animal matter in nature. When they take up residence in a building or home, however, they typically eat sweet foods, indoor plants, and greasy foods. Their spine-chilling name can be attributed to the old myth that, while people are asleep, these bugs would crawl into their ears and eat their brains. This superstition has since been proven untrue, but the scary and mysterious nature surrounding the earwig is relatively unchanged.
Earwigs don’t transmit diseases and are not venomous, but their scent glands do release a foul-smelling, yellowish-brown liquid as a defense mechanism that can be irritating to the senses. Additionally, their most notable feature, their pinchers, can be used to ward off perceived threats from humans and other insects alike.
In the United States alone there are over 20 different species of earwig, meaning that some of their physical characteristics can vary slightly. They have slender, flat bodies, and six legs, and they can range from anywhere in between 1/4 and 1 inch in length, with antennae that are about half as long. Earwigs are typically dark brown, but they can also appear light brown, black, or even more reddish.
Much of the fear about earwigs is thanks to the frightening pinchers located at the rear of their thorax. Though not all earwigs can fly, and even the ones that do are only capable of flying short distances, they have two sets of wings.
Earwigs aren’t actually native to the United States, but they have been here since the early 1900s. Since then, they have made their way across the country, thriving in every region. They are most commonly found in wet, cool, and undisturbed areas where there is easy access to abundant food sources. More specifically, they often live in gardens, patios, and greenhouses. Some of their most common outdoor nesting places include:
They usually live in large numbers, which can inevitably result in earwigs finding their way indoors. If and when they do make their way inside, they’ll seek shelter in damp areas of the house, such as potted plants, laundry rooms, kitchens, and basements, traveling along the baseboards to get around. Earwigs can really only thrive in damp environments, so unless a house or building is especially humid, the earwigs that do come inside usually only survive for a few days.
Whether they’re inside or outside, the only real damage that earwigs can inflict is on live vegetation. Because they feed on live and decaying plant matter, earwigs have been known to wreak havoc on greenhouses, gardens, and indoor plants. When they eat decaying or dead plant matter, it can actually be beneficial for garden beds, but the difficulty lies in the fact that they unavoidably move on to seedlings and mature plants for additional nourishment.
Even though earwigs aren’t really a threat to humans or their homes, their defense mechanisms can inflict some discomfort. They excrete a non-poisonous but foul-smelling liquid that can be irritating to the senses, and their pinchers are sometimes used to pinch threats as a way to protect themselves, their young, or their eggs. These pinches can be a little painful, but they almost never break the skin. The worst reaction you might have is a tiny welt where the pinch occurred.
Earwigs are naturally occurring in outdoor areas, but you can discourage their presence by eliminating some of their favorite dwelling places and sources of food. Removing the vegetation around your home, like compost piles or large piles of leaves, is a great place to start. You can also reduce the amount of moisture in your soil by keeping your mulch and landscaping covered. Typically, to prevent earwigs from wandering into your home, you want to have a dry perimeter around your house that extends anywhere between 6 and 12 inches from your foundation.
Earwigs love taking shelter under things that cover the ground, so another great way to limit their presence on your property is by getting rid of large debris, like decorative stones, firewood piles, landscape timbers, and logs. Trimming the tree limbs and shrubs surrounding your house can also help eliminate pests like earwigs. Since they also enjoy burrowing in a home’s exterior cracks, sealing up any crevices in the walls can keep them from getting in or nesting.
If even after all of these preventative measures you feel overwhelmed by the number of earwigs in and around your home, it can be beneficial to seek the expert guidance and experience of a professional pest control agency. The trained professionals at Bulwark Exterminating can help you determine the issue, address it, and develop a plan that allows you to avoid any future infestations.