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Earwig: 4 Necessary Details & How to Control Them

Earwig isolated on green leaf.

Basic information about earwig

Reddish-brown colored and scary looking insect is known as Earwig. It belongs to the order Deraptera. There are almost two thousand species of earwig is present in the world. They have been divided into 12 different families and is one of the smallest insect orders found in the globe. These insects can be found all around the world except the Antarctica continent. They look considerably flat, elongated and frightening because of their unique feature. There are few myths about earwig roaming in people for an extended period, making people get scared. Here in this article, we will discuss all necessary details about earwig and the reality behind the myths.

1. Appearance and size

Earwigs are small sized insects with the body length measures from 5-25 mm or half to three inches long. The size of earwigs varies from species to species. Like all other insects, earwigs also possess three partitions of the body named head, thorax, and abdomen. Their bodies are flat, long and slender with dark colored shades. The bodies might have dark brown, black, yellow, tan or reddish color and it varies from one insect to another. Same like many other insects, earwigs also contain a pair of the antenna attached to their heads, and they serve the purpose of smelling and feeling. Earwig includes two pairs of wings, one at the front and the other on the back side. The back wings are thin and help in flying. Front wings are thick and leathery that does not support in flying. Rather they support back wings through protecting them by making a tough cover. Though they possess two pairs of wings, most earwigs’ species cannot fly.

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Few earwigs contain strips on their abdominal and thorax regions. All species of earwig contain the pair of three legs that are curved in shape. A unique feature of earwig is the presence of pincers at the back side of their bodies. It is also known as cerci. The cerci of both male and female earwig differ in shape. Male possess curved cerci while female possess the straight one. Most probably earwig has got their scary look because of these pincers as these pincers are also used for a defensive purpose. These pincers can also be used for grabbing a food item. Few species of earwig produce a stinking smelling liquid. The liquid is yellow-brown in color and used for a defensive purpose. Additionally, they also secrete pheromone. It is a scent that keeps earwigs together in large groups.

2. Diet, behavior & habits

Earwigs are omnivorous in nature; they can eat both plant parts and insects. Because of the presence of cerci, it seems like earwigs can also prey large sized insects like cockroaches. Forceps are their primary tool helping them in catching and grabbing their food. When it comes to eating, Earwig does not bother if it eats dead or alive food. The majority of earwig species consume rotting pants like rotten leaves and other plants parts that can be found beneath the mulch. Few species of earwig also feed on small insects and arthropods. They are predators and can be seen in a very few number as compared to those earwigs feeding on vegetation. Few earwig species are also be seen damaging useful plant parts like small seeds and the roots. Their feeding can end up with a plant being unproductive and useless.

Earwigs are nocturnal in nature, therefore, found active during nights. During the whole day, they stay hidden inside the cracks located in moist areas. Their preferable habitat is dark, wet and narrow places. They even also prefer to lay their eggs in dark places. These creatures are easily seen underneath rocks, logs, in flower beds and mulch. They are also scavengers in nature that is they tend to enter homes in search of their food. They are a big fan of lightings and can get highly attracted towards lights. Therefore, they can also be found in patios and porches during summers nights.

3. Life cycle and reproduction

As we know, there are different species of earwig present around us. Therefore, their reproductive process may vary as well. There are few differences in a life cycle of various species of earwigs. Unlike other few insects, earwig experiences incomplete metamorphosis stages making them hemimetabolous. While developing, they undergo four to six molts during development. The total lifespan of earwig is one year from hatching. The pair of earwigs starts mating in autumn and stays together in winter and autumn. They make a chamber to stay which is almost 1 inch deep and made up of soil, debris, and other rotten material. The sperm stays inside female bodies for a longer period after mating. In the start of the spring or mid-winters, male left her female and female starts laying the eggs. They lay 20 to 80 eggs within the period of two days. In the start, eggs are creamy white in color and become brown with a kidney shape before the hatching.

Earwig comes in those non-social insects that show extreme care and love towards their eggs. They show the astonishing behavior of maternal care. Female earwig pays tremendous attention towards the requirements of the eggs. She provides them warmth and protection. Female earwig also cleans it eggs regularly to keep them protected from fungi. After almost the period of seven days, eggs hatch and nymphs eat their egg shells. They persist living with their mother and look like their parents. Mother earwig continues to take care of their juvenile and nymphs eat food provided by their mother or their molts. After passing 5 to 6 growth stages, nymphs develop into adults. On growing, they grow a pair of forceps and dark colored bodies which were lighter in the shade previously.

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4. Predators and parasites

The major predators of earwigs include birds. However, like all other insects of Animal Kingdom, they are preyed and consumed by insectivorous mammals, centipede, assassin bugs, amphibians, spiders, and lizards. In some cases, bats can also be seen consuming earwigs to fulfill their needs. However, few living beings are primary predators of earwigs, and they assist a lot ecosystem by maintaining earwig populations in balance. The top of the list is parasitic species of Tachinidae. Tachinid flies’ larvae are parasites of an earwig. Among all other species of tachinid fly, the species Triarthria setipennis has been considered triumphant in controlling the population of earwigs. Similarly, other predators of earwigs include Ocytata pallipes, Vespula maculifrons, and Mermis nigrescens (occasionally). Furthermore, 26 species of parasitic fungus that belongs to the order Laboulbeniales consume earwigs.

Top 10 surprising earwig facts

Besides basic description, there are few interesting facts about earwigs. Here we will discuss ten most surprising facts about earwigs:

  • The most significant interesting fact about earwig lies in the myth behind their name. There is a superstition about earwig that they enter into the ears of people and starts laying their eggs inside. That is why they have been named as an earwig. However, there is no truth behind.

  • Earwigs do not show unconditional motherly love. The reason is mother earwig sniff their babies and gets a signal about babies’ health through chemical indication. In the result of these signals, mommy starts putting more attention towards healthier and robust baby rather than the weak one.
  • Besides having wings and ability to fly, earwigs do not prefer to fly usually. Rather they use other modes to roam around. However, they can also be seen taking short flights.
  • Many people would be unaware of this thing. However, it is a fact that many earwigs hibernate in winters inside our homes without us knowing about it. They get inside through cracks in the wall and usually hibernate in moist places like kitchen, bathrooms, and basement areas. They often dig holes of 6 inches depth to prevent cold.
  • Another interesting fact about earwig is that they are famous for their hiking. As we know, they do not fly frequently and can not even crawl for longer distance. Still, these tiny creatures manage to travel through other means. They crawl and hide inside different things at night, and during the morning they automatically get transported to far off areas.
  • As these insects make great hitchhikers, still the interesting fact is they are unaware of moving to new places. All credit for this great traveling goes to their nocturnal nature.
  • They serve an important role in our ecosystem. As most species of earwigs feed on decaying and dead plants, resulting in cleaning our environment.
  • They are not dangerous for humans despite having very delicate forceps as they usually don’t harm people.
  • Earwigs usually prefer to live in a cluster of a large group together, and they identify each other through creating foul smell liquid.
  • To protect themselves from predators, they usually secrete a foul smelling liquid that keeps predators away from them, as they taste bad as well.

Relationship with humans

Contrary to the myth that earwig travels from ears towards the brain and they lay their eggs inside, earwigs are not dangerous for humans at all. They usually hardly interact with humans because of their nocturnal nature.

Although the presence of dangerous looking forceps make earwigs look scary for humans. However, in fact, there is not anything to worry. In a case of facing any danger, they can hold their assailant through their strong forceps. Otherwise, they do not usually disturb humans. Additionally, as they do not contain toxic chemical or venom, so they are not dangerous for humans. Unlike all other insects, that can insert their venom through stinger; earwig cannot sting a human as they lack stinger in their bodies. There is not any serious case registered regarding human injuries caused by earwigs until now.

Signs of an earwig infestation

There are no such signs of earwig infestation, rather than seeing earwig itself. Furthermore, cases of earwig infestation are also very rare. The reason is their habit of usually living outdoor areas rather than inside. If anyone sees earwig inside the home, then it must be few earwigs roaming around the home in search of the food. Also, as earwigs are not a social creature, that is why like bees and termites, they will not depict king, queen, and colony-wise culture. Therefore, no such sign of accumulated infestation can be seen in a case of earwigs. Like in the case of bees, termites, and other insects, we can see the signs through their nests. However, earwigs do not show such behaviors.

With diverse species, the habitat of earwigs also varies. Like few consume decaying plants and other prey on insects. However, if there is a home, fulfilling all survival conditions for earwigs like humidity, decaying vegetation, and the presence of insects, then such a place can become a favorite residence for earwigs. In case, these conditions are super perfect for them, in that case, the only earwig can be seen in a large number of populations.

Earwig control

Earwigs are usually not dangerous for humans and have few benefits for your garden. As they consume all decaying plants and other harmful insects from your garden, therefore, they just leave behind an insect-free clean garden. However, in few cases, especially with few earwigs’ species, they can be dangerous for your garden. As few species of earwigs feed on seedlings, flower buds, and other developing plants and even on fruits. This thing can severely affect the health of your plants and other vegetation. Therefore, it is necessary to keep a check on their population. Furthermore, as their population increase tremendously, and within no time you would see plenty of earwigs in your area rather than fewer earwigs. If you see any infestation of earwigs around your place, it is important to take steps to control them immediately. Here we will discuss few methods to control earwigs:

1. Remove garden debris and excessive mulch

It has been already mentioned, the most favorable place for the majority of earwig species is the places where there are plenty of decaying vegetation and mulch is present. Therefore, the first step to preventing them from entering your home is to remove debris and excessive mulch from your area. Removing their favorable things from your area will leave them with no choice other than saying you a goodbye.

2. Use a sticky band around the trunks of trees, shrubs and wody plants

This trick can also help in keeping earwigs away from your plant. Covering tree trunks, shrubs and other woody plants with some sticky band will not allow these insects to reach your vegetation. In this way, they will be forced to consume only decaying vegetations or to leave your garden. 

3. Apply food-grade diatomaceous earth for long-lasting protection

This is a useful ancient method of storing food and protecting them from insects. Putting diatomaceous earth inside the large bag of food grains will keep it free from bugs, and it would also keep it free from humidity to prevent molds. This product is available in a powder form and contains some attractants that make insect mistaken them for their foods. This method can work significantly for earwigs, as they love places having a dump and moist atmosphere. Therefore, taking steps to remove humidity and to repel insects can control the earwigs’ population.

4. Apply commercial insecticides

Besides using natural tips and tricks to control earwigs’ population, there are many other insecticides and products available in the market that can control earwigs and prevent them from entering your territory for a longer period. Few commercial products include Malathion, Sevin, Pyrethrins, and many others. These insecticides are available in the market in all liquid, powder and spray forms.

Do earwigs bite?

Earwigs are not dangerous creatures. They normally don’t prefer to irritate humans without any reason. However, in a case, they are nervous, scared or alarmed because of any human’s intervention or activities, then they can bite or hit with the help of their strong piercing forceps. They can hurt humans by giving stinging bite through their cerci. However, still, such bites are not much dangerous or harmful to humans. Earwigs’ bites are neither infectious nor poisonous. They do not possess any toxic material or venom in their forceps that can cause long-lasting effects. In a case of getting bitten by earwig, it is advisable to wash affected area properly with soap and water. As their bite can only break a skin or create a small wound, that can heal easily with time.

Conclusion

Earwig is a tiny nocturnal creature belongs to insects groups. It is not much dangerous for humans, but, it can create particular problems for your plants. If you do not control these species on time; they might end up in making plants unproductive. Therefore, it is imperative to control them by taking necessary steps that are merely related to maintaining proper hygienic condition inside your home and gardens.

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