In a panic after seeing an earwig or two in your home? Panic no longer and read on to get a more in-depth account of what earwigs are, the different types of earwigs commonly found in the U.S., and most importantly, how you can get rid of them.
Do you think you have gotten an earwig infestation at home and you are freaking out?
Hold your horses, take a deep breath, and relax. We are here with all the information you might find helpful if you have an earwig infestation.
Earwigs are tiny, unattractive insects that may reside in your homes sometimes. The name earwig originates from a superstition that these insects crawl into people’s ears while they are asleep. But you can relax because there is no truth to this myth! Earwigs do not crawl into people’s ears, neither are they harmful.
However, you wouldn’t want to get an earwig infestation because these insects are gross and ugly to look at and they emit a foul-smelling liquid. Who would want a foul-smelling house with ugly insects crawling around? Nobody!
Read along to know everything there is to know about earwigs.
Table of Contents
- What Are Earwigs?
- Myth about Earwigs
- Life Cycle of an Earwig
- What Do Earwigs Feed On?
- Where Do Earwigs Prefer to Hide?
- Types of Earwigs
- Signs of an Earwig Infestation
- Earwig Bites
- Getting Rid of Earwigs
Insects are a nuisance, whether they are harmful or not. Insects crawling about the floors and walls look gross, unpleasant, and extremely unhygienic. Insect infestations are a common problem. However, the problem gets serious when you fail to identify the type of infestation you have. By the time you figure it out, the infestation becomes so widespread that it’s hard to get control of it.
If you see some insects in your home and you suspect that they are earwigs, you have landed yourself at the right place, at just the right time. We have an in-depth account of what earwigs are, what types of earwigs are commonly found in the U.S., and most importantly, how you can get rid of them.
What Are Earwigs?
Earwigs are tiny, slender insects which are usually brown or reddish-brown in color. They have distinctive cerci or pinchers at the back of their abdomen that helps in their identification. An adult earwig can grow as big as 5/8th of an inch. Some species, however, can grow to as big as one inch. An adult earwig has two wigs but they very rarely fly. Even when they do, they take up their flight from elevated spots.
Myth about Earwigs
According to an old European myth, earwigs are believed to crawl into people’s ears and make their way into the brain, where they eggs. This superstition is what people freak out when they hear the name earwig. Luckily, this superstition has no scientific backing and it is utterly untrue. Earwigs do not cause any harm to humans. They are just a nuisance pest.
Life Cycle of an Earwig
An adult, female earwig can lay 25 to 30 eggs before the first frost during which it hibernates with the male earwig. The hibernation extends till spring, after which the male earwig leaves the nest first. It congregates with others of its species while they feed on insects and plants. The female earwig stays behind and looks after its eggs. After the nymph hatches, the female earwig brings them food for a period of about two months.
What Do Earwigs Feed On?
Let us tell you that earwigs do not feed on human blood if that makes you feel better. They feed on insects and plants. Earwigs may be both, beneficial and harmful for humans. Why? Because they feed on the eggs of other insects, mites, fleas, and aphids, while they also feed on garden plants including potatoes, lettuce, and other ornamental plants. Earwigs also eat lichens, algae, and moss. Thus, the largest populations of earwigs are found under decaying plant matter and mulch.
Where Do Earwigs Prefer to Hide?
Earwigs prefer dark and moist places. They are more active during the night. They do not infest a house until or unless the weather has stayed too dry for a long period of time. They can hide in the basements and in cracks from where they can make their way into your home.
Types of Earwigs
Earwigs fall under the insect order Dermaptera. There are more than 2000 species of earwigs in 12 families.
About 18 species of earwigs occur in North America. The most common types if earwigs are:
1. European Earwigs
The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) species is not native to the U.S., yet it is the most common type of earwig that people of U.S spot in their homes. They are native to Europe, northern Africa, and Eastern Asia. The forceps of male earwigs in this species are long and curved as compared to those of the female. The forceps are used for protection and mating.
Male earwigs that have shorter forceps that are highly curved are called barchylabic while male earwigs with longer and much straighter forceps are called macrolabic. European earwigs have two antennae with 14-15 segments, containing numerous important sensory organs. They have developed wings, but they rarely fly.
These earwigs are nocturnal and they hide in layers of decaying vegetation, moist soil, and other dark areas. European earwigs enter indoors in large groups. They damage the vegetation but since they enter in large numbers, their infestation can be extremely unsettling and scary.
The nymphs of European earwigs go through four stages. They do not leave their nest until their first molting. Typical European earwig lives up to 1 year.
2. Red-Legged Earwigs
Red-legged earwigs (Euborellia annulipes) are identified by the brown bands on their yellow legs. It is not native to North America but is very commonly seen in the southern region of the U.S. Red-legged earwigs are dominant in Florida. Like most of the species earwigs, this species does not have distinctive leathery wings. They have antennae and forceps. They have a body that is dark colored on the upper side and yellowish-brown on the underside. Their infestation is similar to that of European earwigs that is, they are found in large numbers in their hiding places and in homes.
3. Striped Earwigs
Striped earwigs (Lubidura riparia) are identified by their light tan color and their modified cerci or forceps. They are called striped earwigs because they have two, dark, longitudinal stripes across their length. Males of this species have two penises which can be used interchangeably.
Found mostly in the southern region of U.S., they are not as much of a threat to outdoor vegetation as other species of earwigs. Like other species, they do not enter your home in abundance. They scurry indoors only the season has been dry for too long and they are in search of moist places to survive.
4. Maritime Earwigs
Maritime earwigs (Anisolabis maritime) live by the ocean but avoid water and come towards the coastline in search of food. This species does not swim and will die if they drown in water. However, they stay close to the coast and feed on insects found in wet sands. They hunt for insects and freshly laid insect eggs at night. They also feed on dead arthropods that the waves bring onshore. They are most commonly spotted when the tides are high.
The females lay eggs under pieces of bark on the sand and guard them till they hatch. After their eggs hatch, they feed them till they are mature enough to search for food themselves. Maritime earwigs are cold hardy creatures. They can bear temperature that is just above the freezing. They can tolerate the level of cold that other insects cannot.
5. The St Helena Giant Earwig
The St Helena Giant Earwig (Labidura herculeana) was the largest earwig that was about 8cm in length. However, it was declared extinct in 2014. Predation by rats and mice and the removal of stones from their habitat were the reasons that lead to the extinction of these giant earwigs.
The less-common types of earwigs are:
- Aborolabis pervicina
- Aborolabis mordax
- Aborolabis angulifera
- Aborolabis mauritanica
- Aborolabis tanzanica
- Aborolabis emarginata
- Aborolabis vicina
- Aborolabis nepalensis
- Aborolabis nigrescens
- Aborolabis martensi
- Aborolabis kalaktangensis
- Aborolabis rufocapitata
These species of earwigs are less common, hence not much information is available on them. Among more than 2000 species, only European earwigs, striped earwigs, red-legged earwigs, and handsome earwig (Prolabia pulchell) are common and known to infest households in the Southern parts of United States while the Maritime earwig is commonly found in coastal regions of North America. The toothed earwig (Spongovostox apicedentatus) is found in the dry habitats in the southwestern states of U.S. The little earwig (Labia minor), introduced from Europe is another species of earwigs.
6. Ectoparasite Earwigs
Ectoparasite earwigs are types of earwigs that live on their hosts. These types of earwigs are quite unusual and uncommon.
- Arixenia: It is a small, viviparous breeder. It gives birth to live young. It is an ectoparasite of the Indian bat (Cheiromeles torquatus).
- Hemimerus: It is a small, viviparous earwig native to West It is blind ectoparasite of the giant rat (Cricetomys gambianus).
Signs of an Earwig Infestation
Earwig infestation can go unnoticed majorly because they don’t harm humans. Unlike bed bugs, earwigs do not bite and make your life a living hell. However, there are certain signs of an earwig infestation which may help you get the infestation under control on the right time.
- A foul odor in your house
- Obviously bitten off indoor plants
- Fresh flowers with damaged petals
- Vegetables and fruits in the kitchen that have holes and black spots on them
- Earwig bites (not very common)
Although earwigs do not bite, they leave your house smelling bad and unbearable. If you detect the signs timely, you will be able to get the infestation treated before they make your house smell foul or increase to numbers that you can see them crawling on the floors. Different types of earwigs show different patterns of infestation, some infest in groups while some don’t.
Earwigs do not bite to feed on blood. Instead, they bite only as a means of self-defense. They won’t bite you, as long as you don’t get too close to them. An earwig bite is characterized by two red marks that are a small distance apart. Earwig bites result in a swollen area but the discomfort does not last very long.
Getting Rid of Earwigs
As discussed earlier, earwigs dwell mostly in your garden or damp places in your homes. They are harmless but are a nuisance nonetheless. Getting rid of earwigs is possible. Many home remedies are known to be effective for the treatment of earwigs which we have listed down for you.
Water and Dish Soap
Spraying a soapy mixture of water and dish soap on your plants and in damp places in your home can help kill earwigs. It is best if you spray every time you spot an earwig crawling about.
Alcohol Based Insecticide
Mix equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol and spray directly on the earwig when you spot them. Alcohol penetrates into the body of earwig and kills it immediately.
Boric Acid Powder
Sprinkle some boric acid powder in all possible places where earwig infestation might be present inside your home and garden. Boric acid is a natural insecticide that kills the earwigs as soon as it’s exposed to them.
Earwig Trap with Dish Soap and Water
Mix one part of dish soap with four parts of water in a bucket. Place this bucket outside at night and have a lamp shining over it. The earwigs will be attracted to the shining foam and will be drawn into the soapy water, where they will be killed.
Earwig Trap with Olive Oil and Soy Sauce
Mix equal parts of soy sauce and olive oil in a container. Pierce holes into the lid of the container. The earwigs will be attracted to the smell and will be drawn into the bucket.
You can simply vacuum away a large population of earwigs when you spot it. Vacuum thoroughly to make sure earwig eggs have been sucked up too. Once done, either throw any the sealed vacuum bag or empty it in a bucket of soapy water.
Draw Birds to Your Garden
Birds are earwig predators. Install a birdbath or a bird feeder in your garden that will attract birds who will feed on earwigs and help you get rid of them.
Many pesticides are available that kill earwigs. Simply spray the pesticide 6 to 10 feet away from the foundation of your home, over the grass in your garden. Immediately spray the grass with water so that the pesticide seeps well into the soil which is where the earwigs lay their eggs.
You can prevent an earwig infestation altogether by taking some preventive measures such as repairing any holes or cracks in the windows and walls that may make way for earwigs into your house. You should get any leaking faucets fixed. Using sodium lights instead of regular lights outside your house can help keep earwigs away.
Earwig infestation is not unhealthy or harmful but it sure is unhygienic, which is a good enough reason to actively treat the infestation. Identifying the types of earwigs will greatly help you understand what to expect from an infestation and how bad it can get.
Can earwigs fly?
Earwigs are classified in the Dermaptera insect order, which has more than 2,000 species. All earwigs have common physical traits, such as short forewings that cover larger wings. Despite having wings, most earwigs do not fly. The earwigs that do fly usually only do so for very short periods.
Are earwigs invertebrates?
Invertebrates are living creatures that do not have a backbone. Like all other insects, earwigs are invertebrates.
Are earwigs in decline?
The Saint Helena earwig, which was one of the largest earwig species, was formally declared to be extinct in 2014. However, there are many other species that continue to thrive in warmer and relatively moist environments around the world.
They are particularly prevalent in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Fossils of various earwig species have dated back to the Middle Jurassic and Late Triassic periods. While many species have gone extinct over the years, others have emerged. The longevity of earwigs is a testament to their resilience.
Can earwigs bite?
Earwigs have pincers that look like forceps mounted on their abdomen. These are known as cerci. With their cerci, earwigs can bite. However, this only occurs rarely. More commonly, earwigs will use their pincers to hold onto a person’s skin. In some cases, their grasp may be firm enough to break through the skin and to cause minor bleeding.
Through this grasping action, a person can develop a small welt that resembles a bite mark. However, this is not a true bite mark because earwigs do not feed on blood. In rare cases, the welt may turn into cellulitis, and medical attention may be needed. The cerci are used for grooming and to sense movement in the environment. They also may be used as a defensive mechanism and to capture other insects that they prey on.
Can earwigs climb walls?
Earwigs typically hide in tight, dark crevices that are somewhat moist in the day. At night, these insects are very mobile. When they are not flying in short bursts, earwigs may be seen climbing up walls. Generally, earwigs can climb straight up vertical surfaces that are textured. Smooth vertical surfaces may be more challenging for earwigs to navigate across.
What do earwigs eat?
Earwigs can be beneficial to have in your garden, but they can also cause damage to your flowers and some crops. For example, they will eat aphids, which may otherwise damage many types of plants. However, earwigs also feed on the plants themselves. This includes potatoes, roses, beans, dahlias, strawberries, squash, lettuce, and many other popular plants. Because of this, it is generally not ideal to have them in many gardens. Earwigs can also eat decaying organic material, mold, and even small food scraps or crumbs.
When do earwigs come out?
Earwigs are nocturnal insects that are found on all continents except Antarctica, so you may not be aware of their presence in your home or yard until after they are present in large numbers. They may hide under rocks and in other narrow crevices outdoors. They also may hide indoors under carpeting, near potted plants, near the sink cabinets, under the baseboards, and in other similar areas. They are active throughout most of the night.
When do earwigs lay eggs?
Earwigs are active in the late spring and summer months because they thrive in warmer weather conditions. They mate in the fall, and both the male and the female will remain together throughout the fall and part of the winter season. After the male leaves the nest in the middle of winter, the female will lay her eggs a few inches underneath the soil.
Up to 80 eggs are laid in chambers or burrows. Females may lay eggs once or twice per year. Approximately seven days after the eggs are laid, the nymphs will hatch and will feed on their egg casings. Notably, earwigs are one of the few insects that will remain with their young until they are able to fend for themselves. The nymphs will molt several times before they reach full maturity. Full maturity is achieved in approximately 50 days.
Where do earwigs come from?
Earwigs make a home where conditions are conducive for them to thrive. This means that the area has a suitable environment that is both moist and warm. It also means that there is a safe hiding place for them to nest in and that there is a food source. Earwigs prefer to live outside, but they may work their way into a home through small gaps or cracks when outdoor weather is too cold or too dry for them to thrive.
Why do earwigs have pincers?
Earwigs’ pincers, or cerci, serve multiple purposes. When earwigs feel threatened, they may raise the pincers over their body in a defensive stance. The pincers are also used to hold onto objects or surfaces and to capture prey.