The legend of the Earwig

Earwigs get their name from a false European superstition. According to legend these tiny bugs would crawl into the ears of sleeping people and bore into their brains. In reality earwigs rarely bite and are for the most part harmless. Still in the age of fairness I thought I’d include this picture so you can see how the lore lives on. You can see the ‘queen’ lodged into the brain while the two ‘guards’ ( highlighted in red ) stand ready in the ear canal to protect the nesting site. Oh the magic of photo shopping and the legend lives on.

Earwigs are nocturnal insects feeding on a wide variety of plant material, nectar and some insects. They populate areas of high moisture such as potted plants, mulch, wet welcome mats or under a variety of things that may keep them cool while providing moisture.

Earwigs grow via ‘gradual metamorphoses, in other words the babies look like the adults. Female earwigs will lay 50 to 60 eggs either while in hibernation or early spring. Generally just one new generation per year for these guys’. Earwigs have wings but rarely fly. They are easily recognizable by the forceps which look menacing but pose no threat to you or I.

As stated earwigs feed at night and it is not uncommon to find them in your home. No real spray measures are needed for the occasional pest but sometimes outside numbers are so high that homes may get many more than desired in living areas. Since earwigs hide during the day a thorough crack and crevice treatment might be in order. Such sprays as Demand CS or Suspend SC will work nicely for baseboard hiding spots. For void areas such as where plumbing pipes are you could use Delta dust. It has some ability to hold up under moist conditions making it ideal for theses spots.
Your best bet is to alter the exterior near your home since this is where they’ll be coming from. If possible elevate potted plants, remove wet ‘welcome’ mats or alter any such thing that allows moisture to be contained under or in it. Rake mulch turning it to allow for some drying, point sprinklers away from home and regulate them so you are not over watering. In areas where it’s not possible to alter use Talstar PL granular insecticide, simply lift up the mat or pot and sprinkle the area. The same can be done in soil or mulch around the foundation of the home creating a barrier. Niban bait is also a good choice and should be used as the granules.

If you should experience a sudden influx of earwigs do a little investigation before you reach for the sprays. It may be a wet rug, a trim board on your door frame that is constantly soaked and perhaps rotting. Maybe it’s been cold so you’ve brought some plants inside. Look for the moisture source first and you’ll find your earwigs. Remove the source a maybe a touch of spray at the entry point and your problem will be solved.

There are rare occasions of mass earwig invasions and if you find this is happening to you please leave a comment with some details of your situation and I’ll see if I can help.

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.
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  • paul stoddard

    I seem to have earwigs in my bath drains. They come out at night. What should I do?

  • Most likely not in your drains for living purposes—just thirsty…….check the sink or tub overflow… You can use an aerosol in there to kill any hiding earwigs

  • SyncOrSwim

    Likely Methyl Bromide

  • Hey Sync….not sure about that but they did use some pretty stiff concoctions back in the day….

  • Mare

    Yes, they can. Once when my son was about 7, he had a bad ear infection that had ruptured his ear drum. I was doing laundry very late one night while he slept on my bed as I folded so I could keep an eye on him. He suddenly woke up, complaining of a rumbling sound. I told him to go back to sleep, thinking it was his ear infection draining (which it was). He woke up again and insisted I look in his ear. I turned on brighter lights and started swabbing the infection from his ear. As I removed the q-tip from inside his ear (never put q-tips inside ears, btw), out rolled an earwig that had been trapped inside his ear canal! I was horrified and grabbed a tissue and flushed it before he could see it. I told him, and he just sleepily said, “Thanks, Mom; that was it,” and fell back to sleep. Our laundry room was an open out-building. I believe it was in the laundry basket and because of the putrid smell, found its way into my sons ear. So yes, they can crawl into ears. The egg-laying thing is a myth.

  • Eddy Zavala

    Ok, N=1