What is an Earwig?

Earwig close-up

Earwigs are also known as “pincher bugs” for a pretty obvious reason: they have a big pair of pinchers on their butts! A lot of people also know them as “Agh!,” “What is that thing?!,” and “Oh no!” Earwigs are one of the most panic-provoking pests you can encounter in Michigan. Again: they have a big pair of pinchers on their butts!

Earwig’s pinchers, along with their ominous name, have given them quite a reputation. As a consequence, the bugs tend to be much-feared and little-understood. We want to change that. Not for them really, so much as for you and your heart rate. Here’s everything you need to know about the earwigs in your garden, including why they aren’t dangerous.

So: What is an Earwig?

Earwigs are insects of the order Dermaptera. The most common species in Michigan is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia). Adult European earwigs are ⅝” long, with elongated, flattened bodies that are reddish-brown. They have segmented abdomens, medium-length, segmented antennae, and chewing mouthparts. Their antennae, legs, head, pincers may look lighter than the rest of their bodies.

Earwig’s “pinchers” are called cerci. Male’s cerci curve and resemble forceps, while female cerci are straight. Adults also have fully-functional wings, which emerge from beneath short, hard wing covers on their backs. Adults can fly for short distances competently but rarely do.

Where Do Earwigs Come From?

European earwigs were first discovered in the US in Seattle (of all places!) in 1907. Since then, they’ve spread throughout most of the US. Earwigs have been established in Michigan since the 1930s. They’re attracted to wet, shady environments, so it makes sense they’d like Michigan.

Earwigs are nocturnal and spend days nestled in dark, moist environments. They’ll huddle under wet leaves, topsoil, rocks, logs, or other cracks or crevices. At night they’ll come out of these hiding places for forage and/or hunt for food nearby. They’re common in gardens, wooded areas, and compost piles.

What Do Earwigs Want?

European earwigs feed on wet, decaying vegetation, like compost and other decaying plant life. They’re attracted to food that’s near their living environment. Many target the root systems of garden plants, weeds, and flowers, feeding on these plants from under topsoil.

In winter and summer, it might get too cold or hot for the insects to survive. When that happens, they’ll seek out shelter. Ideal shelter keeps the bugs out of freezing temperatures but isn’t so hot that they dry out quickly. In other words, they’re looking for a warm, humid, dark, and hidden place. Which brings us to…

How do earwigs get inside homes?

How Do Earwigs Get Inside Homes?

When earwigs enter buildings, it’s usually by accident. Most enter buildings either in the middle of summer or early fall. Generally, they’re looking for shelter and they accidentally slip through a crack into a building. If earwigs enter your home, then they were probably already living nearby.

Earwigs often burrow under topsoil near your home or garden. They may find cracks and crevices in the foundation or baseboard to work their way into under the soil. Like many pests, they can also squeeze through gaps around window frames. Earwigs frequently find cracks around basement window wells, in particular.

Are Earwigs Dangerous?

No. Contrary to popular belief, earwigs do not burrow into people’s ears to lay eggs. The name actually refers to their wings, which are shaped like ears when unfolded. Earwigs are completely harmless. Even if they pinch you, they won’t be able to break the skin.

Outside, earwigs can inflict damage on garden plants. They’re known to feed on the bulbs, stems, and petals of flowers. In some extreme cases, they can actually substantially damage plants by feeding on them. They may also produce a foul-smelling odor when they’re crushed. The pests may be a nuisance, but they’re not dangerous.

How Do I Keep Earwigs Away?

Re-seal and weatherproof your basement’s window well frames. Look for cracks or gaps around your basement ceiling and seal them up. Check the baseboard and trim, too. Earwigs travel into homes by finding and wiggling through small cracks. You may also be able to find these openings outside.

It’s more difficult to keep the bugs away outside, but there are still a few steps you can take. Take good care of your garden and lawn. Clear up weeds frequently, trim regularly, and remove plants as soon as they die. Be careful not to overwater your plants.

 

Earwigs aren’t dangerous and don’t inflict major damage on homes. Hopefully, this will make them a bit less scary next time you find one. But… we’d understand if it didn’t. They have a big pair of pinchers on their butts!

If you’re…less-than-thrilled to have pests around your home, give Griffin Pest Solutions a call anytime. We’d be more than happy to help rid you of your problem. We can take care of any other pests, while we’re at it.

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.

Pests That Wake Up in Spring

Pests that wake up in spring

The whole world seems to come back to life in spring. Unfortunately, “the whole world” includes some things we wish would stay sleeping. Along with grass, flowers, trees, and birds, a whole host of Michigan’s most annoying pests wake up every spring.

When pests wake up in spring, they’re usually hungry, thirsty, and ready to find mates. To make up for their long winters off, they tend to pursue these activities ferociously. Their single-minded pursuits make pest problems all-too-common this time every year. Here are the pests you’re bound to run into this spring, what they’re up to, and the problems they cause.

Boxelder bugs

boxelder bugsStarting in early fall, boxelder bugs go looking for dry, warm places where they can wait out the winter. Unfortunately, those dry, warm places often include our homes. When spring comes around, boxelders become active again to seek their newly rejuvenated food sources and, eventually, to reproduce. When that happens, they vacate their winter hideaways en masse. If they were hanging out in your home over winter, you’re going to run into them again this spring.

Boxelder bugs are obviously a nuisance, but luckily they’re not a dangerous one. These pests don’t bite, spread disease, eat fabrics or stored foods, or lay eggs indoors. Instead, they simply vacate the premises to seek the seeds and flowers of acer trees like the boxelder. The nuisance part comes from how many of the gross bugs you may notice vacating. Boxelder excretions and feces may also stain window ledges and other favored areas.

Stink bugs

stink bugsStink bugs follow a similar seasonal routine to boxelder bugs, and they’re around for the same reasons. During fall, they desperately seek out any warm place where they can wait out the winter. Once they’re in position, they go dormant until outdoor temperatures rise back up to survivable temperatures. Once that happens, they wake up with one thing on their mind: mating. In their mad scramble to get back outdoors, however, they tend to get lost… or stuck.

Like boxelder bugs, stink bugs don’t reproduce or nest indoors, cause disease, or bite. They do… stink, however. When threatened or crushed, stink bugs secrete a foul-smelling substance from a special scent gland. This scent smells like rotten vegetables or coriander. The more stink bugs secrete at once, the more powerful the stench. These secretions can also leave behind a dark yellow stain on carpets, furniture, or window sills.

Carpenter ants

carpenter antsDuring spring, the infamous wood-infesters come marching in to build their nests and search for water. Carpenter ant invasions tend to be the most noticeable during the start of the season. Starting in mid spring, the reproductive carpenter ant castes swarm in order to seek mates and start new colonies. After mating, queen ants seek good places to lay their eggs. These eggs hatch into workers, and the infestation begins in earnest.

Carpenter ants are a problem because they make their colony nesting grounds by boring through wood. The tunnels they carve compromise the structural integrity of wood products. Carpenter ants don’t actually eat the wood they infest. Instead, they have to hunt for sources of protein and sugar. You may find foragers in your kitchen, basement, or garden. Keep a close eye out for swarmers, in particular. If these flying ants get trapped in your home, chances are their nest is also inside your home.

Pavement ants

pavement antsUnfortunately, carpenter ants aren’t the only ants reproducing and foraging in the spring and summer. In late spring, the brief but very active pavement ant mating season begins. During this time, you may notice swarms of larger-than-average, reddish-black ants flying in large clusters. After mating, pavement ants lay eggs in tight crevices (hence their association with pavement, and the cracks in it). When young pavement ants emerge, they start looking for food almost immediately.

Pavement ants are most often encountered in groups in your kitchen. They break down and carry off all sorts of stored food, especially grains and sugars. When they find food, they tend to stick around. It’s not uncommon to find ants infesting cabinets, pantries, cupboards, and anywhere else they could find food. They’ll attack any scraps they can get their mandibles on. Unlike other pests on this list, they can stay active as long as they’re warm and they have food.

 

Spring should be a wonderful, refreshing time of year–especially after a brutal Michigan winter. Don’t let pests ruin that for you. If you need some help fighting back an infestation so you can enjoy the nice parts of spring again, give Griffin a call. We can deal with the dirty work so you can enjoy the rest.

Rainy Day Pests to Watch Out For

Rainy day pests to look out for

Rain is a welcome change of pace in spring time, especially since it helps push away the winter grey. As you might expect of any meteorological change, however, rain can also be disruptive. Spring is a already a transitional time of year. Flora and fauna are struggling to adapt to the changing season. When rain disrupts this process, it can create some awkward circumstances.

The most unwelcome of these awkward circumstances would have to be the pests. When rain disrupts their behavior, all kinds of pests may end up in places where they wouldn’t normally be. Places like your home. Here’s what to expect from pests after a long rain, why, and how to react.

Cockroaches

cockroachCockroaches need moisture and humidity to stay alive, so they’re naturally attracted to moist and humid places. The problem is, the moist and humid places where they naturally congregate also tend to be vulnerable to flooding. Millions of cockroaches live in sewers, gutters, or drain pipes. When we get heavy rainfall in the spring, these places flood. Flooding forces cockroaches out of their homes and into new places – like your home!

After periods of heavy rain, it’s common to find cockroaches in your kitchen, bathroom, or basement. These roaches are probably flooding refugees that snuck up your drains or through cracks in sills or frames. Once inside, roaches look for food, shelter, and moisture. They love to squeeze under tight hiding places like boxes and furniture, where they can hide until night time. Unfortunately, once cockroaches get inside, they’re in no hurry to leave. They’ll stick around as long as they have access to food and shelter.

Snakes

snakeSnakes tend to come out after rain for several reasons. First, most snakes naturally live close to water. When rainfall floods the banks of rivers and streams, the snakes are forced to seek higher (and drier) ground. Snakes also have to come out after rain to warm back up. As cold-blooded reptiles, snakes rely on sunlight to keep their internal body temperatures up. After days of clouds and rain, snakes get desperate to get warm.

Particularly severe rainy conditions may even force snakes into your home. As dry shelter becomes less and less available, snakes have to get creative if they want to survive. They’ll twist and contort themselves to fit through small cracks and crevices to enter basements and attics. They may even follow other pest-refugees while they’re hunting and stumble into your home inadvertently. Unlike cockroaches, snakes don’t typically stick around after the rain stops, but you might find them in your yard nearby.  

Spiders

spiderFor most pests, heavy rainfall is a nuisance. While it can be a nuisance for spiders, too, it can also be an opportunity. The busiest insect hunters in the world aren’t about to stop their grind for a little rain. After all, the itsy bitsy spider wins out in the end, even in the nursery rhyme. They go where their prey goes, no matter what. That means, when it rains, they’ll follow their prey into your home.

Spiders want to build their webs wherever they think they can catch prey. They’ll find the places where other pests get into your home – window sills, baseboard cracks, etc. – and set up shop there. Often times, spiders already living nearby during rain will move inside to follow prospective prey. Other times, their homes will get wiped out by flooding, just like their prey. Either way, expect to see more spider activity when it rains.

Termites

TermitesEveryone knows termites eat wood. What fewer people know is, ironically, termites are more attracted to moisture than they are to wood. When you think about it, it makes sense: eating wood has to be thirsty work. Termites need moisture to survive, just like everything else. If they get too dried out while they’re munching away at wood, they’ll die. Termites prefer to strike at wet food, so they can keep hydrated while they work.

Obviously, all wood is wet when it’s getting rained on. During rainy periods, termites may seize the opportunity to attack wood sources that are normally dry. The wetter the wood, the easier it is for termites to chew through it. Rain is a great deal for termites–as long as they can survive it. Just like other pests, termites can easily drown in flooding. They may also target wood that lets them avoid this danger.

 

We know this is probably kind of a bummer. You were just looking forward to being done with winter, and now you have all this to worry about? Maybe April really is the cruelest month! Well, the good new is you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Give Griffin Pest Solutions a call any time you’re worried about a pest infestation. We can make sure your home stay pest-proof this spring and beyond. Rain or shine, Griffin has your back.

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!