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Why Are Earwigs Called Earwigs?

Why Are Earwigs Called Earwigs

Earwigs are small, flat insects that measure about half an inch long and an eighth of an inch in width when full-grown. Dark brown and shiny, they have banded abdomens that end in a long pair of scary-looking pinchers. If you’ve ever tried to pick up an earwig, you may have gotten pinched—but you also probably noticed those pinchers weren’t actually very powerful. An earwig’s pinch might make you yelp in surprise, but it probably won’t break the skin, and it almost always happens defensively—meaning, the earwig is frightened and trying to fight off a larger, scarier enemy (you!). So why are earwigs called earwigs, and are the rumors true—do earwigs crawl in your ear? Let’s find out more about this often misunderstood insect.

If you’ve ever tried to pick up an earwig, you may have gotten pinched—but you also probably noticed those pinchers weren’t actually very powerful. An earwig’s pinch might make you yelp in surprise, but it probably won’t break the skin, and it almost always happens defensively—meaning, the earwig is frightened and trying to fight off a larger, scarier enemy (you!). So why are earwigs called earwigs, and are the rumors true—do earwigs crawl in your ear? Let’s find out more about this often misunderstood insect.

Why Are Earwigs Called Earwigs?

The source of the earwig’s rather unfortunate name is the commonly held idea that while humans are sleeping, earwigs crawl into their ears to lay eggs in people’s brains. Yuck!

Fortunately, this story is nothing more than a myth. While it’s certainly possible, even likely, that at some point in the course of human history, an earwig has happened to crawl into someone’s ear, it was likely an accidental and isolated incident.

The good news is, this happens only rarely, and as horrifying an experience as it might be, in the earwig’s case, it probably wasn’t on purpose. Earwigs as a species simply do not make it a point to seek out sleeping humans’ ears for expeditions.

Where Do Earwigs Live and What Do They Eat?

If they don’t lay eggs in human brains or feed on our gray matter, what do earwigs eat? Their main dietary staple is damp, rotting leaves and wood, which is why they often make their homes in dead tree stumps and beneath piles of mulch or leaves in gardens. They might also occasionally consume living plants and vegetables, along with small insects like aphids or mites. But generally speaking, earwigs tend to stick to decaying plant matter as their main food source.

Do Earwigs Infest Homes or Cause Other Damage?

So now we know earwigs don’t consider humans a delicacy and they don’t seek out our ear cavities for making nests or laying their eggs. Do they cause any other type of damage or trouble that might affect humans? The short answer is no. While an earwig might enter your home by accident, it’s not likely to seek indoor shelter unless it’s especially dry outside. In that case, earwigs might explore inside your home, especially if you live in greenhouse conditions, keeping lots of indoor plants with moist, dense soil that earwigs can access easily. But unlike termites or other destructive and invasive pests, earwigs are highly unlikely to infest your home and won’t cause structural damage if they do.

While an earwig might enter your home by accident, it’s not likely to seek indoor shelter unless it’s especially dry outside. In that case, earwigs might explore inside your home, especially if you live in greenhouse conditions, keeping lots of indoor plants with moist, dense soil that earwigs can access easily. But unlike termites or other destructive and invasive pests, earwigs are highly unlikely to infest your home and won’t cause structural damage if they do.

What Should You Do if You Find Earwigs Indoors?

If you find just one or two of the little insects, it’s likely they got in by accident and want to leave just as much as you want them out. In that case, simply sweep them up and transport them outdoors, where they can continue living their lives in their natural habitat.

You can also take preventative measures to control earwig populations on your property, which will help prevent them from entering your home in the first place. These measures include the following:

  • Rake up leaves when they fall, so they don’t create damp and attractive nesting grounds for earwigs.
  • Remove rotting tree stumps and other decaying plant matter from your property and around your home, again as a way to reduce potentially attractive nesting spots for these and other insects.
  • Make sure rainwater is directed away from the house with proper grading, working gutters, French drains and the like.
  • When mulching trees or garden beds, try not to spread mulch right up to the house.

Remember, earwigs are attracted to moist plant matter. The closer they’re able to live to your home, the better able they’ll be to find their way indoors. Keeping moist plant matter away from your home is key in keeping earwigs out of your house and your life—and perhaps most importantly, to minimize the very, very unlikely possibility they will make it into your ears.

Trust ABC As Your Go-To For Pest Removal

If you regularly deal with wandering earwigs inside your home, or if you find so many earwigs that it seems they must have laid eggs or taken up residence inside, you may need to take other measures. If you find yourself in this situation, or if you need help with any other common household pest, call our professionals at ABC Home & Commercial to come assess your situation and come up with a customized plan to resolve the issue.

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