The scientific name for earwigs is Dermaptera. This name comes from the Greek words "derma" meaning skin, and "ptera" meaning wings, which refers to the wing-like structures found on the earwig's body.
What is an Earwig?
An earwig is an insect belonging to the order Dermaptera, which includes about 2,000 species worldwide. Earwigs have elongated bodies, usually brown or black in color, with a pair of pincers or forceps-like appendages at the tip of their abdomen, which they use for defense and capturing prey. They have two pairs of wings, but only the hind wings are functional, and they fold neatly beneath the forewings when not in use.
The name "earwig" comes from a folk belief that these insects crawl into people's ears while they sleep and lay their eggs, but this is a myth. While earwigs are capable of climbing and sometimes enter homes, they do not target human ears. Earwigs are nocturnal and feed on various insects, plants, and decomposing organic matter. Some species are considered pests of crops and ornamental plants, but others are beneficial as natural predators of garden pests.
"Pincher bugs" is a common name for earwigs, which are insects that have pincer-like appendages on their abdomen. The name "pincher bugs" likely refers to these distinctive appendages, which earwigs use for defense and mating.
Earwigs are not actually bugs, but are classified as insects in the order Dermaptera. They are nocturnal insects that are typically found in damp environments, such as under rocks, logs, or in leaf litter. They can also be found in gardens and crops, where they feed on a variety of plant material, including fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Earwigs can be identified by their elongated bodies, usually brown or black in color, with a pair of pincers or forceps-like appendages at the tip of their abdomen. These pincers are usually curved and can be up to half the length of their body. They have two pairs of wings, but only the hind wings are functional, and they fold neatly beneath the forewings when not in use.
Earwigs range in size from 5 to 50 millimeters, depending on the species, with most species being between 10 and 14 millimeters long. They have six legs and antennae that are segmented and thread-like. Their bodies are flat and have a distinctive shape, with a somewhat flattened and elongated appearance.
Earwigs are also known for their unique behavior of caring for their young. The female earwig lays her eggs in a nest, which she guards and tends until they hatch. The mother earwig will continue to care for her young even after they hatch, providing food and protection until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Behaviour and habits of earwigs
Earwigs are primarily nocturnal and are active at night. During the day, they hide in moist, dark places such as under rocks, logs, and leaves. They are also known to enter homes, especially during periods of drought or heavy rain, in search of food and shelter.
Earwigs are omnivores and feed on a variety of insects, plants, and decomposing organic matter. They are known to be scavengers and predators and will feed on other insects, mites, and small animals.
One interesting behaviour of earwigs is their use of their pincers, which they use for defence, capturing prey, and helping them fold their wings under their forewings. Male earwigs also use their pincers during courtship displays, where they will grasp the female's pincers or antennae and lead her to a suitable nesting site.
Earwigs are also known for their exceptional maternal care. The female earwig lays her eggs in a nest, which she guards and tends until they hatch. She will continue to care for her young even after they hatch, providing food and protection until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Overall, earwigs are fascinating insects with various interesting behaviors and habits. While some species are considered pests of crops and ornamental plants, others are beneficial as natural predators of garden pests.
Damage caused by earwigs
Earwigs are generally considered nuisance pests, and while they may not cause significant damage to humans or animals, they can cause damage to crops, ornamental plants, and flowers.
Earwigs feed on a variety of plants, including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants. They are known to chew on leaves and flowers, leaving holes and damage in their wake. Earwigs are also attracted to decaying plant matter, which they will feed on, and can cause damage to fruits and vegetables that are close to the ground.
In some cases, earwig infestations can become severe enough to cause significant damage to crops and ornamental plants. In these cases, taking steps to control or eliminate the infestation may be necessary.
However, it is important to note that not all earwig species are pests, and some are beneficial as natural predators of garden pests. For this reason, it is important to properly identify the species of earwig before taking any action to control or eliminate them.
Are earwigs harmful to humans?
Earwigs are not generally considered harmful to humans. While they have pincers or forceps-like appendages on the end of their abdomen, they are primarily used for defense and capturing prey and are not strong enough to cause significant harm to humans.
There is a common myth that earwigs crawl into human ears and lay their eggs, but this is not true. Earwigs do not target human ears, and there are no documented cases of earwigs causing harm to humans in this way.
However, it is possible for earwigs to pinch the skin with their pincers, which can be painful but does not typically require medical attention. Additionally, some people may be allergic to earwig bites, which can cause redness, itching, and swelling.
Overall, while earwigs may be a nuisance if they enter homes or damage plants, they are not considered harmful to humans.
What attracts earwigs in your house?
Earwigs are attracted to moist, dark environments and are often found in outdoor areas such as gardens, compost piles, and under rocks and logs. However, earwigs can also enter homes in search of moisture and shelter, especially during periods of drought or heavy rain.
There are several factors that can attract earwigs into your home, including:
- Moisture: Earwigs are attracted to moist environments, so areas of your home with high humidity levels, such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens, may be more prone to earwig infestations.
- Light: Earwigs are nocturnal and are attracted to light. Outdoor lighting near doors and windows can draw earwigs into your home.
- Cracks and crevices: Earwigs can enter homes through small cracks and crevices in the foundation, walls, and windows. They may also enter through doors and windows that are not properly sealed.
- Plants: Earwigs are attracted to decaying plant matter and may be drawn into your home by potted plants or cut flowers.
To prevent earwig infestations in your home, it is important to eliminate potential attractants by reducing moisture levels, sealing cracks and crevices, and minimizing outdoor lighting near doors and windows. Additionally, removing decaying plant matter and sealing exterior doors and windows can help to keep earwigs out of your home.
Why you shouldn’t kill an earwig?
While earwigs may be considered a nuisance by some, they are actually beneficial insects in many ways, and there are several reasons why you should avoid killing them unnecessarily:
- Natural pest control: Earwigs are natural predators of many garden pests, including aphids, mites, and other small insects. By preying on these pests, earwigs help to keep the garden ecosystem in balance.
- Decomposers: Earwigs also help to break down and decompose decaying plant matter, which is important for maintaining healthy soil and preventing the spread of plant diseases.
- Food for wildlife: Earwigs are an important source of food for many animals, including birds, small mammals, and other insects.
- Unique characteristics: Earwigs have a fascinating appearance and interesting behaviors, such as their maternal care of their young and their use of their pincers for defense and courtship displays.
While earwigs may sometimes be considered pests in gardens or homes, it is important to remember that they play an important role in the ecosystem and should not be killed unnecessarily. If an earwig infestation is causing damage or becoming a nuisance, there are non-lethal methods of control that can be used to manage the problem without harming the insects.
Should I be worried about earwigs?
n general, there is no need to be overly worried about earwigs. While they may be a nuisance in some situations, earwigs are not harmful to humans, and most species do not cause significant damage to plants or crops.
However, if you have an earwig infestation in your home or garden, it is important to take action to manage the problem. Earwigs can multiply quickly and can become a nuisance if left unchecked.
To manage an earwig infestation, you can take several steps, including:
- Eliminating moisture: Earwigs are attracted to moist environments, so reducing moisture levels in your home and garden can help to deter them.
- Sealing cracks and crevices: Earwigs can enter homes through small cracks and crevices, so sealing these openings can help to prevent them from gaining entry.
- Removing decaying plant matter: Earwigs are attracted to decaying plant matter, so removing dead leaves and other plant debris from your garden can help to reduce their numbers.
- Using non-lethal control methods: There are several non-lethal methods of controlling earwig populations, such as trapping, vacuuming, and removing them by hand.
Overall, while earwigs may be a nuisance in some situations, they are generally not harmful to humans and can be managed with proper control methods.
Should I kill earwigs?
There is no need to kill earwigs unless they are causing damage or becoming a nuisance in your home or garden. As beneficial insects, earwigs play an important role in the ecosystem by preying on garden pests, decomposing plant matter, and providing food for other animals.
If you have an earwig infestation in your home or garden, there are several non-lethal methods of control that can be used to manage the problem without harming the insects. For example, you can try reducing moisture levels, sealing cracks and crevices, removing decaying plant matter, and using traps or vacuuming to remove the earwigs from your home or garden.
If you do need to kill earwigs, it is important to use a humane method of euthanasia. For example, you can place the earwigs in a sealed container and put them in the freezer for a few hours, which will euthanize them without causing unnecessary suffering.
In summary, killing earwigs should be avoided unless necessary, and non-lethal control methods should be used whenever possible to manage earwig infestations.
What scent keeps earwigs away?
There are several scents and natural remedies that can help to repel earwigs and deter them from entering your home or garden:
- Essential oils: Some essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint, and tea tree oil, have been shown to repel earwigs. You can mix a few drops of these oils with water and spray the mixture around doors, windows, and other entry points to deter earwigs.
- Citrus: Earwigs are repelled by the scent of citrus. You can use citrus peels or essential oils to create a natural repellent. Simply place citrus peels around doors and windows or spray a citrus-infused water solution in areas where earwigs are known to be present.
- Diatomaceous earth: Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder that is made from the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms. It works by dehydrating and killing earwigs and other insects. Sprinkle a thin layer of diatomaceous earth around doors and windows or in areas where earwigs are known to be present.
- Cedarwood: Cedarwood has natural insect-repellent properties and can be used to repel earwigs. You can use cedarwood essential oil or place cedarwood chips around doors and windows or in areas where earwigs are known to be present.
Earwig life cycle
The earwig life cycle consists of several stages, including egg, nymph, and adult.
- Egg: The earwig female lays her eggs in underground burrows or in crevices in soil or other dark, damp places. The eggs hatch in approximately 7-10 days, depending on temperature and humidity.
- Nymph: The newly hatched earwig nymphs are pale and resemble small adults, but without wings. They go through several molts, shedding their skin and developing more prominent features with each stage, such as larger pincers and wings.
- Adult: After going through several molts, earwig nymphs develop into adult earwigs with wings and pincers. Adult earwigs mate and lay eggs, completing the life cycle.
The length of time it takes for earwigs to go from egg to adult varies depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, and food availability. In general, earwigs can complete their life cycle in one year, but in warmer climates, they may reproduce more quickly, resulting in multiple generations per year.
Where are Earwigs commonly found?
Earwigs are found in many parts of the world, particularly in temperate and tropical regions. They are most commonly found in moist and dark environments, such as under rocks, in soil, or in tree bark crevices. Earwigs are also often found in gardens and agricultural fields, where they feed on insects and plants.
In urban areas, earwigs may also be found in and around homes, particularly in damp areas such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. They may enter homes through cracks and crevices in the walls, windows, and doors, and may also be attracted to outdoor lights at night.
In general, earwigs prefer damp and dark environments, and will seek out these conditions when they are present. Understanding where earwigs are commonly found can help with prevention and control efforts, such as sealing cracks and removing moisture sources in and around the home.
The European earwig (scientific name: Forficula auricularia) is a common earwig found throughout Europe and in many other parts of the world. It is a medium-sized earwig, with an average length of around 1 inch (2.5 cm). The European earwig is easily recognizable by its distinctive pincers, which are curved and have teeth-like projections on the inside. The body of the European earwig is brownish-red in color and has a flattened, elongated shape.
Forficula auricularia Linnaeus is the scientific name for the common European earwig, which is a species of earwig that is found throughout Europe, Asia, and parts of North America. This species is known for its distinctive pincer-like appendages on its abdomen, which it uses for defense and mating.
The European earwig is an omnivorous insect that feeds on various food sources, including other insects, plants, and decaying organic matter. It is also known to occasionally feed on crops and ornamental plants, which can make it a pest in agricultural and horticultural settings.
The European earwig is typically active at night and prefers moist, dark environments such as under rocks, logs, and debris, as well as in crevices in trees and buildings. It has a life cycle that includes eggs, nymphs, and adults, and can produce multiple generations per year in warm climates.
Maritime earwigs (scientific name: Anisolabis maritima) are a species of earwig that are found in coastal regions of the western United States, from British Columbia to California. They are also commonly known as "seaside earwigs" or "beach earwigs".
Maritime earwigs are a larger species of earwig, with an average length of around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). They are dark brown or black in color, and have a flattened, elongated body shape with prominent pincers. The pincers of maritime earwigs are straighter and longer than those of other earwig species, and are used for defense and capturing prey.
As their name suggests, maritime earwigs are often found in coastal habitats, such as sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, and salt marshes. They are also known to inhabit dunes, driftwood, and other debris along the shore. Maritime earwigs are active at night and feed on a variety of food sources, including insects, decaying plant matter, and even small vertebrates such as dead birds or fish. They are not considered a significant pest species.
New Zealand earwigs
In New Zealand, the most common species of earwig is the native New Zealand earwig (scientific name: Rhipidura fuliginosa). This species is found throughout the country and is known for its distinctive flattened body shape, which allows it to easily hide in tight crevices and cracks.
New Zealand earwigs are typically dark brown or black in color and have short, curved pincers. They are a small species of earwig, with an average length of around 0.5 inches (1.3 cm). New Zealand earwigs are generally considered to be beneficial insects, as they feed on other insects and are not known to cause significant damage to crops or gardens.
There are also a few introduced species of earwigs in New Zealand, including the European earwig (Forficula auricularia) and the striped earwig (Labidura truncata), but these are not as common as the native New Zealand earwig.
Benefits of Earwigs
Despite their reputation as household pests, earwigs can actually provide several benefits to the environment and garden ecosystems. Here are a few examples:
- Predators: Earwigs are natural predators of other insects and pests, such as aphids, mites, and insect eggs. They can help control the population of these pests and reduce the need for chemical insecticides.
- Decomposers: Earwigs are also important decomposers of organic matter, such as dead leaves and plant debris. They break down this material into smaller pieces, which can then be used as nutrients by other organisms in the ecosystem.
- Soil aerators: As earwigs move through soil, they help to aerate it and improve drainage. This can benefit plant growth and reduce the risk of soil-borne diseases.
- Pollinators: While not all species of earwigs are known to be pollinators, some are known to feed on flower nectar and may inadvertently transfer pollen from one plant to another.
Overall, while earwigs may not be the most popular insect, they do play an important role in the ecosystem and can provide several benefits to gardeners and farmers.
Natural ways to control Earwig infestation
Here are a few natural ways to control earwigs:
- Diatomaceous earth: This is a natural powder made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, which are microscopic algae. When sprinkled around plants or areas where earwigs are found, the sharp edges of the diatom particles can damage the earwig's exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die.
- Traps: You can create simple traps for earwigs using items like rolled up newspapers, cardboard boxes, or pieces of bamboo. Place the traps near areas where earwigs are present, and they will often seek shelter inside. You can then dispose of the traps and the trapped earwigs.
- Beneficial insects: Introducing other beneficial insects, such as ground beetles or predatory mites, can help control earwig populations by preying on them.
- Natural repellents: Certain scents, such as cedar oil or essential oils like peppermint or lavender, are known to be effective at repelling earwigs. Spraying these scents around areas where earwigs are found can help deter them from coming back.
- Habitat modification: Earwigs prefer moist and dark environments, so reducing moisture levels in your home or garden can help deter them. Fixing leaks and reducing irrigation can help dry out the soil, while removing debris and piles of leaves can eliminate potential hiding spots for earwigs.
Soapy water is another natural way to control earwigs. The soap can interfere with the earwig's breathing and cause them to drown. Here's how to use soapy water to control earwigs:
- Fill a bucket or large container with water and add a few drops of dish soap.
- Place the container near areas where earwigs are present, such as near plants or in areas where you've seen them crawling.
- Earwigs will be attracted to the water and will crawl in, but the soap will make it difficult for them to breathe and they will drown.
- Check the container regularly and dispose of any dead earwigs.
While this method can be effective at controlling earwigs, it may not be practical for larger infestations or areas with a lot of earwig activity. Additionally, it's important to avoid using too much soap, as this can harm plants and other beneficial insects in the area.
Earwigs and house plants
Earwigs can sometimes be attracted to houseplants, especially if the plants are located in areas with high humidity or moisture. Earwigs can feed on plant material, such as leaves or flowers, and can sometimes cause damage to the plant.
Here are some tips for preventing and controlling earwigs in houseplants:
- Keep the area around the plants clean and free of debris, as earwigs like to hide in dark, moist areas.
- Avoid overwatering the plants, as this can create a humid environment that is attractive to earwigs.
- Use a well-draining potting mix to help prevent moisture buildup in the soil.
- Inspect the plants regularly for signs of earwig activity, such as chewed leaves or flowers.
- Use natural control methods, such as diatomaceous earth or beneficial insects, to control earwig populations.
- If necessary, you can also use a commercial insecticide labeled for use on houseplants, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully and avoid using excessive amounts of the product.
By taking these steps, you can help prevent and control earwig activity in your houseplants and reduce the risk of damage to the plants.
Natural Predators of Earwigs
There are several natural predators of earwigs that can help keep their populations in check. Some of the common predators of earwigs include:
- Birds: Many species of birds, such as robins, sparrows, and blue jays, will feed on earwigs. These birds can be attracted to areas with high earwig populations, and can help reduce their numbers naturally.
- Ground beetles: Ground beetles are predatory insects that feed on a variety of insects, including earwigs. These beetles are often found in gardens and other outdoor areas, and can be encouraged to thrive by providing habitat and food sources.
- Spiders: Spiders are natural predators of many insect species, including earwigs. Common spider species that prey on earwigs include wolf spiders and cellar spiders.
- Praying mantises: Praying mantises are predatory insects that are known for their ability to capture and eat a wide variety of insects. While not all mantis species will prey on earwigs, some are known to do so.
- Other insects: Some other insect species, such as lacewings and ladybugs, may also feed on earwigs.
By promoting the presence of these natural predators in your outdoor areas, you can help reduce the population of earwigs and other pest species in a natural and sustainable way.
Here are some tips to prevent earwigs from entering your home and garden:
- Remove debris: Earwigs love to hide in dark, damp places, so make sure to remove any debris or clutter from your yard, including leaves, woodpiles, and other organic matter.
- Fix leaks: Earwigs are attracted to moisture, so make sure to fix any leaky faucets or pipes around your home.
- Seal cracks: Earwigs can enter your home through small cracks and gaps in walls and foundations, so make sure to seal these areas with caulk or weatherstripping.
- Use yellow light bulbs: Earwigs are attracted to bright lights, so using yellow or amber light bulbs outside your home can help keep them away.
- Use a barrier: Create a barrier around your home and garden using diatomaceous earth or crushed eggshells, which can help deter earwigs and other crawling insects.
- Keep plants dry: Water your plants in the morning, and make sure to avoid getting the foliage wet, as this can create a moist environment that earwigs will love.
By following these tips, you can help prevent earwigs from becoming a nuisance in your home and garden.
Indoors and Home
Earwigs are primarily outdoor pests, but they can occasionally find their way inside homes, especially during the fall and winter months when they are searching for warmth and shelter. Here are some tips to prevent earwigs from entering your home:
- Seal entry points: Earwigs can enter your home through small cracks and gaps in doors, windows, and walls. Make sure to seal any entry points with caulk or weatherstripping.
- Use screens: Use screens on doors and windows to prevent earwigs and other insects from entering your home.
- Keep your home dry: Earwigs are attracted to moisture, so make sure to fix any leaks and keep your home dry.
- Clean up: Earwigs are attracted to clutter and debris, so keep your home clean and free of clutter.
- Vacuum regularly: Vacuum your home regularly to remove any earwigs or other insects that may have entered your home.
- Use traps: Place sticky traps or bait traps in areas where you have seen earwigs, such as around windows and doors.
- Use natural repellents: Certain essential oils, such as lavender, lemon, and peppermint, are natural repellents for earwigs. You can place cotton balls soaked in these oils around your home to deter earwigs.