What is an Earwig?
“What’s that creepy bug with pincers on its tail?” Imagine relaxing at home when you see a weird-looking bug with pinchers on its butt; what the heck is it? If it has pincers, a forked tail, two pointy tails, or however you want to describe it, it’s likely an earwig. Earwigs are also known as “pincher bugs” because their most notable feature is a pair of pinchers protruding from their rear.
Those pinchers, along with their ominous name, have given them quite a reputation. In fact, in the Middle Ages, it was believed that earwigs would burrow into peoples’ ears while they slept and lay eggs in their brains. Lucky for humanity, this is only a myth. Earwigs are mostly harmless. Still, if you encounter these little-understood and panic-provoking pests in your home, you’ll probably want them out. Read on to learn all about earwigs, including how to prevent earwigs in the spring and summer, and what you can do if you find them on your property.
How Do You Prevent Earwigs in the Spring and Summer?
Earwigs are attracted to wet, shady environments, so it makes sense they’d like Michigan.
They’re commonly outside, huddled under wet leaves, topsoil, rocks, logs, or other cracks or crevices. At night they’ll come out of these hiding places to forage and/or hunt for food nearby. They’re common in gardens, wooded areas, and compost piles.
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, they were probably already living nearby.
With that in mind, here are some effective ways to prevent earwigs in your home:
- 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.
- 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.
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Are Earwigs Dangerous?
Not really. Outside, earwigs can damage plants in your garden. They’re known to feed on the bulbs, stems, and petals of flowers. In extreme cases, they can substantially damage plants by feeding on them. They may also produce a foul-smelling odor when they’re crushed.
They can’t really hurt you either. Earwigs can bite or pinch people, but they rarely do. Even if they pinch you with their intimidating pincers, it’s unlike they’ll break the skin. Other than inflicting a mild pinch, earwigs won’t endanger you or your family in any way. They don’t damage property, transmit diseases, or sting. Except 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.
They spend their days in hiding and typically come out at night to look for food and mind their own business. Earwigs 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.
Where do Earwigs Come From?
Earwigs have been common in the U.S. since being discovered in Seattle in 1907. Proliferated throughout the country by inadvertently hitching rides inside 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.
Earwigs are considered a seasonal pest because they’re most active in warm months. 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.
10 Fun Facts About Earwigs
It’s natural to feel uneasy about earwigs. We get it–just look at those pincers! To counteract that impulse, here are ten facts you should know about them.
- They aren’t dangerous – The most damage an earwig’s pincer could do is pinch your skin, which may create a small welt. Earwigs aren’t aggressive or poisonous, don’t transmit diseases, and can’t inflict significant structural damage. They might be a nuisance, but they’re not dangerous.
- They don’t crawl in your ears – Despite their name, earwigs do not crawl into your ear and lay eggs in your brain. Put that worry to rest.
- They will pinch defensively – Earwigs are not dangerous, but they will use their pincers on humans if threatened, startled, or if you try to pick them up and handle them. These pincers probably aren’t strong enough to break your skin, but the pinching might hurt a little. Don’t pick up the earwigs you find with your bare hands and you probably won’t get pinched.
- They love hiding in dirt – The most common place you’ll find earwigs is under thin layers of topsoil in your garden or yard. Earwigs love to burrow through soil to stay hidden, damp, and cool. They’ll also eat subterranean plant life and dig out small nests for their eggs. You may frequently encounter earwigs while digging in your garden.
- They’re considered invasive pests – Earwigs aren’t native to the US but have been firmly established for over a century. The most common earwig in North America, the European Earwig, thrives throughout the US. They might not be native, but it’s normal to find earwigs around your home. Don’t be alarmed if you see one in your garden.
- They’re attracted to rotting plant material – Earwigs are attracted to rotting plant material because it’s a damp, moist food source they can rely on. In some cases, earwigs may burrow into or near the rotting plant material to hide and continue feeding. They’ll also eat healthy plant material, particularly if it’s nearby.
- They’re omnivores – Earwigs are omnivorous foragers. Though they prefer rotting plants, they’ll eat pretty much anything they can. Earwigs often hunt and feed on smaller insect pests. They use their forceps to catch and hold their prey before eating them. Earwigs will eat whatever they can find in and around your home.
- They have wings and may use them to limited effect – Earwigs aren’t good fliers, but they do have usable wings. The European earwig may use these wings to jump small distances, break falls, or escape danger. Unfolded earwig wings are shaped like human ears, which is where some people think the name actually comes from.
- They often get inside homes via hitchhiking – Earwigs are attracted to darkness, humidity, moisture, and shelter. When they find ideal locations, they love to dig in (sometimes literally). These factors make them highly mobile accidental hitchhikers. Like bed bugs, they often make their way into different bags or boxes. Then, when you bring those bags or boxes inside, you’re also inadvertently bringing in earwigs. Earwigs are especially likely to infest bags of dirt, fertilizer, or seeds.
- Their pincers are called “cerci” – Male earwigs’ cerci curve and resemble forceps, while female cerci are straight.
Have Questions About Earwig Prevention in Michigan?
If you see a strange insect with pincers sticking out from its rear, don’t be afraid. It’s most likely just an earwig and, no, it’s not interested in burrowing into your brain when you go to sleep. It probably just wants some dead plant matter to eat.
At the same time, we understand if there’s no place for earwigs on your property and you want them gone. If that’s the case, follow the above earwig prevention tips to make sure they don’t come back. If you still have questions or just want an earwig pest control specialist to come take care of the problem for you, give us a call today!Back to Seasonal Pest Control | Exterminators