Earwig Control and Prevention this Spring

Earwigs this spring

You’ll probably never forget the first time you encountered an earwig. Or the first time you learned what they were. Or even the first time you heard the name “earwig”. We don’t blame you. Earwigs are creepy even for bugs. They have big, upsetting butt-pincers. They sneak around just beneath the surface of the soil, like they’re waiting to pop out at you any second. And then there’s the name. Just… very upsetting, all around.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t already encountered an earwig or five this season, you might be overdue. Spring and early summer are prime time for earwigs, and this year looks like no exception. We do have some good news, however: like most pests, earwigs aren’t as scary as they seem. Here’s everything you need to know about how to handle these pesky pests during the warmer months.

What they are

what european earwigs areThe most common earwig in Michigan is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia). Earwigs are elongated, flat insects that are about an inch long fully-grown. Their bodies are reddish brown with lighter yellow-brown antennae and legs.

Earwigs’ most distinctive feature are the forceps-like pincers they have on the end of their abdomens. Earwigs use this forceps to hunt prey and defend themselves. Some European earwigs have two pairs of wings encased in beetle-like shells and are capable of rudimentary flight. The name “earwig” refers to these wings, which uniquely resemble a human ear when unfolded.

Where they came from

Earwigs are a cosmopolitan species of insect. They’re not native to the US, but they’ve been common here since being discovered in Seattle in 1907. Earwigs proliferated through the US primarily by inadvertently hitching rides from the inside of bags, boxes, and planter pots. They naturally find places where they’ll be transported because they love hiding in dark, confined places. Earwigs remain motionless for most of the day and emerge to hunt and forage at night.

Starting in late fall, earwigs mate and establish subterranean nests beneath the frost line. They remain in these nests through the winter, so they can survive freezing temperatures. In spring, male earwigs dig their way back out to forage for food. Earwigs remain active at night through spring and summer. They’re at their most prevalent soon after hatching, when they have to eat constantly to grow and molt.

What they want

What earwigs wantEarwigs are opportunistic hunters and foragers, meaning they feed on just about anything they can find. They usually feed on and tend to be attracted to decaying plant material. They’ll also eat healthy plants, moss, algae, pollen, other arthropods, and pantry foods.

Earwigs need to live in damp, cool, sheltered places, preferably near a reliable food source. They particularly like sources of cover and darkness where they can hide during the day. Since earwigs dig subterranean nests to lay eggs, they’re particularly interested in finding damp, loose topsoil. The ideal earwig environment combines all of these interests. Outside, they’re often found under mulch, damp leaves, rotting logs, or decaying plants.

Are they dangerous?

No. The pervasive myth that earwigs like to crawl into people’s ears at night is just that: a myth. In fact, earwigs want very little to do with people. When encountered, earwigs usually attempt to scuttle away from people and under cover. They may nip with their pincers if you attempt to pick them up or they feel threatened. Fortunately, this isn’t a major problem, because earwigs don’t have enough strength to break your skin.

Other than a slight pinch, earwigs can’t really endanger you or your family in any way. They don’t damage property, transmit diseases, or sting. Unless they’re present in large numbers, earwigs don’t even necessarily inflict significant damage to plants or trees. Earwigs are the quintessential “nuisance” pest – they’re not dangerous, just annoying.

What to do about them

What to do about earwigsThe best way to prevent earwig infestations is to practice moisture control. Earwigs require damp or humid environments to stay active. If you can limit their access to places like these, they won’t be able to stay in your home. Keep an especially close eye on crawl spaces, basements, and first floor or basement bathrooms. Clear away sources of cover earwigs could use, patch up pipe and fixture leaks, and find and fix drafts.

When earwigs enter structures, it’s usually an accident. They crawl into topsoil, mulch, or fertilizer and find their way in through cracks or gaps in the perimeter of a home. Earwigs are attracted to places by wet, dark places like damp soil, compost, wood piles, or mulch. They feel comfortable getting closer to homes when they have cover like fallen branches, piles of leaves, or other lawn debris. If you can make your propertyless attractive to earwigs, fewer will end up in your home. Then, if you restrict their access, you’ll be able to prevent them entirely.

Hopefully, our earwig info has de-mythologized the (admittedly) freaky pest for you a little. They’re really not nearly as terrifying as they seem, and they’re not dangerous at all. That being said, we can’t blame you for not wanting them around.

If you have an earwig problem in your home, or any other pest problem for that matter, give Griffin a call anytime. Our experts know just how to throw unwelcome arthropods out and keep them from coming back. Have a great and earwig-free spring!

Boxelder Bugs in Spring

Boxelder bugs in spring

When is it not boxelder season? It seems like these gross red-and-black bugs are everywhere, all the time. Around this time of year, however, you may notice they’re around even more than usual. Boxelders wake up and start moving around starting in early spring. Unfortunately, they often wake up and start moving around in your home.

But why are boxelders around your home so much this spring? Where are they coming from? What do they want? Most importantly, how can you get them to go away? Here’s everything you need to know about boxelder bugs in spring.

What they are

What boxelders bugs areEven if you don’t know boxelder bugs by name, you almost certainly know them by sight. These bugs are extremely common in the fall and spring, when they swarm around windows, porches, and door frames. Boxelder bugs are a type of “true bug” in the Hemiptera order, similar to stink bugs. Like stink bugs, they can also release a foul-smelling scent if threatened or crushed. Despite these similarities, however, boxelder bugs are not considered stink bugs.

Boxelder bugs have .5 inch long black bodies with distinctive bright red or orange ‘X’-shaped markings on their backs. They tend to congregate on warm, heat-reflecting surfaces such as windows or porches in large groups. Boxelder bugs feed almost exclusively on the flowers, leaves, and seeds of boxelder trees. These bugs enter reproductive season in mid-spring or early summer, shortly after re-emerging from winter hiding places. Homes with southern or western exposure might be particularly attractive to boxelder bugs.

Why they’re back

why boxelders return in springLike stink bugs, boxelder bugs never really leave Michigan. Instead, they overwinter in hidden, secluded places where they can survive the cold. Boxelders survive winter temperatures by bunching together and squeezing into tight nooks and crannies. They seek out warm, dark places where they can remain unnoticed and dormant for months at a time. Unlike stink bugs, they don’t fully enter diapause. During warm enough winter days, boxelders may temporarily re-emerge.

Boxelder bugs re-emerge from their winter hiding places as soon as they can survive outdoor temperatures. In other words, the boxelders you find in your home in spring were probably there all winter. Boxelders are very temperature-sensitive and crave warmth, so they’re commonly found around sunny windows and reflective surfaces. The bugs congregate in large swarms in order to keep one another warm and exchange information via pheromones. These swarms may sometimes get trapped or lost inside homes as they try to find their way out.  

What they want

what boxelder bugs wantWhen boxelder bugs re-emerge from the overwintering sites, their top priority is food. Remaining inactive for long periods is very taxing to boxelder bugs, so they need to recharge quickly. During this period, adult boxelders are usually encountered on the ground, where they eat low vegetation and fallen seeds. Boxelders seek out female acer trees for their plentiful fallen seeds and flowers. Boxelders don’t begin mating until they’ve acquired enough energy from feeding, which can take weeks.

Once boxelder bugs find their way outside and acquire sufficient energy, they usually move to a nearby acer tree outside. From there, they lay eggs, eat, and prepare to begin the whole cycle again. Like stink bugs, boxelder bugs do not eat, mate, or reproduce indoors. They only enter buildings in order to stay warm, and they’re only interested in leaving come spring. Boxelders aren’t dangerous, but their stench and sheer number can make them a serious nuisance.

What you can do

what you can do to prevent boxelder bugsThe most important thing to remember about boxelders control is that when they die, their bodies attract other pests. Don’t kill the boxelders you encounter in your home, especially if they’re in your walls. Instead, vacuum or sweep up the boxelders you encounter and dispose of them outdoors. You could also use soapy water to kill the boxelders, as long as you remove the bodies after they die. Scrub down any areas where boxelders congregated with soapy water, too.

After you’ve cleared out the existing boxelders, you have some time to make sure they don’t come back. Boxelders won’t try getting back into your home until early fall, when they need to overwinter again. Before this happens, try to find and seal off the ways they get in. Boxelders usually find cracks and crevices near window sills, door frames, and baseboards. Use caulk to re-seal these openings, and you should be able to keep boxelders from getting in next season.

 

Don’t beat yourself up for having boxelders in your home this spring. Those little pests are as tricky and resourceful as they are smelly. There’s a reason there are so many of them.

If you need a little help beating back your black-and-red nemesis, don’t hesitate to give Griffin a call today. We can drive the bugs out, seal up your home, and make sure you get back to enjoying your spring.

Why Do Boxelder Bugs Come Back in Spring?

Boxelder Bug swarm on wood

Starting in early spring, boxelders re-emerge from their overwintering sites to feed and mate. The bugs re-appear so quickly every spring because they often find their overwintering sites around homes and neighborhoods. Adult boxelders begin reproducing immediately after they wake up from winter dormancy, triggering population growth all season long.

Although “boxelder season” is generally considered to be fall, you may find boxelders are equally prevalent in spring. You probably find them a little too prevalent. Unfortunately, if you have boxelders in spring, you’ll probably have them in fall… and next spring. Fortunately, you don’t have to have them in either season! By learning about why boxelders come out in spring, you can learn to keep them away from your home for good. Here’s what you should know about the other boxelder season, and what you can do about it:

boxelder bug

Why They’re Back

Technically, it would be more accurate to say they never left! During the winter, boxelder bugs sneak into the nooks and crannies of homes, where they can stay safe and warm while they hibernate. Unfortunately, boxelders are great at getting into walls, attics, basements, crawl spaces, or floorboards. Once inside, boxelders hunker down in out-of-the-way places and stay there all winter. They’re so quiet and un-intrusive, you may forget they’re there!

Unfortunately, even if you forget about them, the boxelders are still there. In spring, boxelders wake up waiting two things: food and… uh… companionship. Boxelders mate in early spring, so their offspring will be ready to survive when next winter rolls around. Thing is, boxelder bugs have to get busy to… get busy, which means they come out in force looking for places to eat and court mates. Honestly, their spring behavior isn’t all that different from ours.

Boxelder bugs entering home through a gap

Where They’re Coming From

(Cue the horror movie music) The bugs are coming from inside the house! Any adult boxelder bugs you see this spring hibernated through the winter. Unfortunately, if you see some boxelders hanging around your place, it’s probably because they spent all winter squatting. Don’t feel bad about it–it’s more common than you’d think.

Boxelder bugs exploit even the tiniest breaches in a home’s defenses. They’ll crawl through floor cracks, squeeze through insulation, or creep under gaps in a window frame. Look in dark, warm, humid, hidden spaces. You might find them under boxes, in walls or insulation, near corners, or on window frames. 

Boxelder tree seeds

What They’re Looking For

Like we said above, when boxelders wake up they’re looking for food and mates. They’re interested in food first (priorities). Boxelder bugs got their name from their affinity for boxelder trees and other trees in the acer family, but they’re not picky. They’ll will eat just about anything, especially in early spring when they’re at their hungriest. They cling to trees, leaves, developing seedlings, or low vegetation.

After mating, boxelders want to find a place to lay eggs. The best places to lay eggs are places where the newly hatched offspring will have a plentiful food source readily available. Acer trees like boxelder, ash, and maple trees satisfy every one of the boxelder home requirements, which is why they’re so particularly appealing to the lazy little bugs.

A stack of window screens

How We Can Stop Them

It’s tough to stop boxelder bugs in spring, after they’ve already infested your home or surroundings. There are a few ways you could make your yard or building less attractive to them, however. First, perform regular lawn maintenance. Mow your lawn, trim your hedges, make sure branches or leaves don’t touch the home. If you have an acer tree, clear seed droppings regularly. If your problem is really bad, you may consider having the tree removed.

Inside, you could vacuum, sweep, and clean boxelder bug-prone spaces frequently. Vacuum the bugs up directly when you encounter them. Boxelders don’t hatch eggs inside homes, so you don’t have to worry about that. Look for places where they might be getting free food and moisture. Seal up cracks in the floor, insulation, or foundation. Consider replacing window screens annually.

 

Boxelder bugs are annoying and a little distressing, but they’re not dangerous. The best way to keep them away in spring is to keep them away in fall, too. Look for ways they get in and take away the things they want, and you’ll find it’s completely possible to significantly cut down or even eliminate the boxelder presence around your home.

Finally, just remember: if you’ve tried everything and you still can’t seem to deter your red-and-black nemesis, give us a call. We’ve got plenty of experience skirmishing with the vengeful “bug from beneath the basement”, and we’re happy to play your sidekick. Have a happy spring!