Looks can be deceiving and no one understands that better than earwigs. Earwigs (also called pincher bugs) can be found almost anywhere on Earth, save for the poles where the climate is just too cold for them. And they look positively dangerous.
Being called earwigs, pincher bugs often induce horror in the minds of people who believe they will crawl into their ear and pinch them (hence the name). Rest assured – this rarely ever happens. They are generally harmless. Let’s learn more about these alien-looking insects.
What are earwigs?
Earwigs are from the Dermaptera order and have been around for over 200 million years. This ancient order has walked among the dinosaurs and now serves to strike terror into the hearts of mammals with its minute size and (relatively) big pincers.
Australia offers a fantastic climate for pincher bugs to grow and thrive. They are plentiful here and can be quite a nuisance, especially during the summer months. Avid gardeners, you can often find them tending to your plants when you’re not looking.
Since earwigs love humidity and dampness, you can almost certainly find them wherever there’s rotten wood (which seems to be a delicacy for them).
Couple that with the fact that darkness is their ally, and it wouldn’t be too inconceivable to imagine why they’ve infested that wooden pile you’ve been meaning to clear out for a couple of years now (we’re not judging, btw).
When they’re not too busy munching on your botanical experiments at night, earwigs delightfully share a lovely meal comprised of maggots, earthworms, aphids, or other insects. Those pincers that look so dangerous are harmless to you, but they’re a handy tool for dispatching smaller, weaker creatures that didn’t have the foresight to escape in time.
Pincher bugs are not territorial, meaning they can share nests which is why they can quickly rise in numbers. Having a hospitable environment is a recipe for disaster.
What do earwigs look like?
To most people, earwigs look like little pieces of nightmare crawling around. Because of the pincers in the posterior portion of their bodies, they seem like a real threat. Their size can vary from species to species, but in most cases, they are crimson-brownish in colour, with elongated bodies.
Distribution and habitat
There are only about 85 species of earwigs in Australia (out of over 1800 worldwide, so we assume there’s more yet to be discovered here). Some of them are native and some are introduced.
Even though European pincher bugs are an introduced species, they are quite abundant in numbers, especially when the environment is just right. This species is the most likely to become a garden pest.
Earwigs are most widely distributed in warm, humid climates. Their habitat includes dark and damp environments. They literally live under rocks. They can live in leaf piles during the fall season, inside and under tree trunks, barks, or fallen branches. Your basement is a safe, family environment for earwigs as well. Think about it as a pincher bug suburban area.
The earwig lifecycle begins in the form of an egg, like typical insects. However, what is atypical is the fact that the female looks after the eggs even after they hatch. This is not standard behaviour for solitary insects.
A female can lay 40 to 50 eggs at a time in tunnels she has created and designated for this specific purpose. They take a week to hatch.
Earwigs do not go through a full metamorphosis. When the nymphs are hatched, they resemble an adult, save for a few characteristics. Their pincers are noticeably smaller and more underdeveloped, as compared to the adults. Young pincher nymphs also lack wings and there’s a noticeable line going through their entire heads and bodies where they moult.
Nymphs go through 4 or 5 moults before they reach adulthood. The mother stops caring for them by the third, at which point they can even become her lunch.
What attracts earwigs inside your house?
Like with many other insects, the main offenders are rubbish or food leftovers. If there’s any leftover food that is greasy, sweet, or oily, you can be sure it’s going to attract a lot more than pincher bugs. But they don’t mind sharing.
Throwing organic materials in the rubbish and not disposing of them immediately can also provide a lucrative environment for these little buggers. Finally, any source of cellulose or rotting wood (like boxes in your damp basement). Expect more earwigs inside during dry weather periods as they’re looking for shelter.
Outside in your garden, rocks and debris are their best friend. Wood piles, leaves, or anything that offers darkness and dampness, they can use to settle down and procreate, meaning your garden is about to suffer.
Do earwigs transmit diseases?
Earwigs don’t seem to transmit any diseases. They are completely harmless, aside from giving you a scare. Their pincers aren’t powerful enough to produce a strong pinch, so don’t worry – they will not be performing any Vulcan nerve pinches on you.
They can bite, but the bites only cause minor irritation. Pincher bugs really look more dangerous than they actually are. Their reputation is mostly made up. The idea that it will do any harm to you is mostly folklore and pure nonsense. That doesn’t mean your garden is also safe, though.
How is earwig pest control conducted?
General pest control is applied when it comes to earwigs – they’re in no way special. The pest controller performs an inspection in an attempt to locate the nest. This would make it easier to kill the eggs, as well. The premises are then sprayed with the treatment which does it’s magic and reduces their populations significantly.
Sometimes, if the nest isn’t located, the eggs survive. This makes earwigs more difficult to control, and may require a second treatment.
Where can you find earwig inside your home?
You can find earwigs inside your home where they feel the most safety – dark, damp, and cluttered places. Having a source of food would indeed be a bonus. The basement or the kitchen would be the most likely interior habitat for these nasty creatures.
Signs of an earwig infestation
If you find you have more than a few individual pincher bugs, you probably have an earwig infestation, so the sooner you call – the better. Because they are not social animals, this would be highly unusual. But it would also be quite unusual to have more than a few individual bugs without having an earwig infestation.
How to prevent an earwig infestation?
Dealing with earwigs at home
- Tidy your home.
If you have no clutter and provide no safe environment for them, pincher bugs would have no reason to enter your home and infest it.
- Don’t leave food lying around.
If you spill something, clean it up immediately.
- Fix leaky faucets.
- Get a dehumidifier for humid areas or ensure proper ventilation.
Dealing with earwigs in the garden
- Declutter your yard and garden.
Don’t decorate with rocks and other objects that can be used as a hiding place for earwigs. Remove all organic rubbish from your yard. Don’t leave piles of rubble or wood anywhere in the garden. Remove leaf piles.
- Create earwig traps
Put part olive oil and part soy sauce in a plastic container, poke a small hole in the lid and bury it in your garden. Change the mixture every few days and adjust if it seems ineffective.
- Trim your grass regularly.
Do earwigs get inside people’s brains?
There is a common myth that earwigs can infest the human brain. Some people even believe that’s where the insect got its name. In case it hasn’t become clear enough in the article so far, people are not very fond of earwigs. Pincher bugs have quite the reputation, the first recorded source of which originates in the 17th century.
The idea was that earwigs had an unnatural propensity for infesting human ears. A common propose remedy was spitting in the person’s ear until the insect got out.
To this day the belief persists. Along the way, it has evolved to involve an infestation of the brain. Clearly, with basic knowledge of anatomy, you would know how ludicrous the idea is.
There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that earwigs get inside people’s ears. The notion that they can somehow get to your brain through your ear is even more ridiculous. The only scientific consensus is earwigs do not harm people. So sleep well!
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