Earwigs may look eerie, but they’re harmless


Another creature right out of “Jurassic Park” is beginning to invade homes. This intimidating, creepy and somewhat scary insect is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia).

Folklore adds to this terrifying insect because, based on superstition, the earwigs crawl into the ears of sleeping persons for the purpose of burrowing into the brain to lay eggs. Of course, there is no truth to these tales.

Earwigs are relatively easy to identify by the prominent pincers or forceps on the end of the abdomen. On females, the pincers are for the most part straight, while male pincers are more curved and caliper-like.

These pincers are used as both offensive and defensive weapons. Though they may try to pinch if captured and handled, they do not harm people. This common earwig is about 5/8-inch long and dark brown with a reddish head and pale, yellow-brown legs.

Earwigs are considered a beneficial insect and are found outdoors. Usually, they are found in damp areas, such as under mulch, dead leaves, logs, piles of firewood, boards and rotted wood where they feed on the moist, decaying larger plant material.

This decaying larger plant material passes through the earwig’s digestive tract and ends up in their frass or bug poop. The frass contains smaller particles that microbes feed on that will eventually recycle the nutrients back to the earth.

Like boxelder bugs, crickets and lady beetles, the earwig is a household pest and an accidental invader. They enter houses either by accident or when seeking shelter, during periods of hot, dry weather. Earwigs inside the house do not cause any harm or destruction. They are an annoyance or nuisance because of their presence. If disturbed, earwigs may produce a noticeable foul odor.

To prevent earwigs from coming indoors, preventative measures begin outdoors. If possible, reduce outdoor lighting that attracts earwigs around doors and windows .

Earwigs need and are very attracted to moisture. Eliminate damp, moist conditions near the house such as around faucets and air-conditioning units. Channel water from rain gutters and spouts away from the house foundation.

Consider removing landscape mulch from against the house. Finally, prevent entry by using caulking compound, putty and weather stripping around doors, windows, pipes and other entry sites, especially at ground level.

As a last resort, an insecticide can be applied around the house to stop or limit earwigs from getting indoors. Treat a 3 to 6-foot band around the house adjacent to the foundation and nearby flower beds.

Granule products generally are more effective, than sprays. To be effective the granules need to be watered into the soil. The water carries the chemical into the soil, as earwigs can move far into the ground.

Apply insecticides in the early evening, which is just before the earwigs become active. Use products containing the active ingredients such as bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, permethrin or carbaryl.

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