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EARWIGS: THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

July 25, 2017

Categories: Common Pests, Residential and Urban Services, Commercial Services, Earwigs

We all know someone who thinks earwigs are ugly, and shrieks at the sight (and thought) of them. That person may even be you.  

Their grotesque appearance, from head to pincers, combined with the spine-chilling folklore surrounding them, makes earwigs almost as feared as much as spiders (who also are often misunderstood).

A picture of earwigs

Let's face it - earwigs have a bad reputation.  They are blamed for everything that goes bump in the night. But why?  Is there any truth to the tales, or are they just myths?

Hundreds of years ago the early Europeans shared terrifying stories about earwigs, which have been passed along through the centuries. Taken straight from a horror scene, it was said (and believed) that earwigs intentionally crawled into people's ears while they slept, to lay their eggs, or far worse, to bore into their brains with their fierce pincers. The poor victim would be driven to insanity, and even to death. These stories really have stood the test of time, as they are still shared today. They are also still believed.

Despite earwigs being the center of horrific folklore, entomologists say that there is no scientific truth to validate these tales. Earwigs come from the order Dermaptera or 'skin wings', which refers to the leather-like texture of the insects forewings. Earwigs also have hind wings that share a resembelance to the shape of a human ear. While the term 'earwig' orginated from the old English term 'ear-wicga' or “ear wiggler”, some believe that this name was the result of a mis-translation of the term "ear wing".

The truth is that earwigs are garden pests. They don't intentionally seek out human ears or attack humans. Even more inportant, they are not capable of causing real harm to people. Their pincers are used for mating, reproducting and hunting thier next meal.  Any bug is capable of accidently flying or crawling into a person's ear given the right circumstance. And just because a bug mistakenly enters your ear, does not mean that they will cause harm.

Even more interesting, earwigs can be a beneficial pest to have outside your home. Being omnivorous, they eat other bugs and plants. They are predators to other insects, including their eggs and larvae, feeding on mites, aphids, slugs, nematodes, spiders and other soft bodied insects. Earwigs will even eat other earwigs. They also eat decaying organic matter. If they cannot find these to feed on, this is when they become more of a garden pest, as they will feed on living plants, often causing unwanted damage.

So, if you see an earwig in your home or business, rest easy that it will not harm you, nor does it want to. It either wandered in bymistake, or it may be dry outside, and it is seeking moisture.

If you have an issue with earwigs, or want to do your part to help make sure they stay outside your home, check out our pest library for how to get rid of earwigs.

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