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Earwigs


Legend has it that this creature was once thought to be a parasite that would lay its eggs in a persons ear and the larvae would bore into their brain.  This belief was so common that there is medical literature as recent as the 1800’s that outlines treatments for them.

There are about 20 species of earwig in North America but the   European Earwig is the most common.

The European Earwig is not a parasite.  In residential landscapes with lawns and mature shrubs they are mostly beneficial because they feed on mites, aphids and other small insects and their eggs. 

It also feeds on dead and living plants and can do significant damage to fruit and corn crops when their populations get high. 

The first thing most people notice about the earwig is the prominent pincers at the rear of the insect. These organs are called cerci and are actually sex organs but they are frequently used for grasping prey.

Though it rarely happens, the earwig is capable of biting but its bite has no venom.  The bite is defensive only and is inflicted with its mandibles (jaws), which are on its head, and not with the cerci, which are on its tail.

Earwigs prefer moist areas and rarely find suitable conditions to survive indoors.  Usually when they are found indoors it is because a population has gotten established outside and is forced to move by changing environmental conditions.  When conditions become too hot, dry or cold they can move indoors but they eventually die for want of food and water.

If you find you are getting large numbers of earwigs in your home it is likely because of the landscaping immediately against the foundation.

Flowers like roses, zinnias, and marigolds are highly attractive to earwigs as food.  Because of the regular watering these plants get they also provide the moisture they require.

Mulch bins are attractive because of moisture and decaying organic material.

Fire wood also holds moisture, provides shelter and often contains insects they can feed on.                         Continued...

To reduce the likelihood earwigs will be driven indoors, these elements, including flower beds, should be kept away from the foundation.

A vegetation free zone of crushed rock or pea gravel should be maintained against the foundation.  Only woody shrubs should be placed in this zone and they need to be pruned away from walls and up from the ground to allow the soil to dry.

The use of pesticides is seldom necessary if the environ-mental conditions are modified to eliminate food, water, and shelter. ■