Earwigs

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Order Dermaptera

Overview

What is an Earwig?
There are more than twenty species of earwigs in the United States. Some species produce a foul smelling liquid that they use for defense. Earwigs also produce a pheromone (scent).  Scientists believe that this pheromone is the reason that earwigs cluster together in large numbers.

There is a superstition that earwigs burrow into the ears of people while they sleep. This is a myth and without any scientific basis. Earwigs frighten many people because of the pincers on the back of their abdomens. Earwigs use these pincers for defense and for sparing with rival earwigs.

Appearance

Earwig
Earwigs are odd looking insects which have pincers or forceps protruding from the abdomen. These are somewhat intimidating looking but they are not poisonous, and they do not spread disease.

Depending on the species, adults range in size from 5-25 mm. They are slender insects with two pair of wings.  Dermaptera means “skin wing” due to the leathery appearance of the wings. The hind wings typically fold under the front wings. Immature earwigs (nymphs) resemble the adults except they do not have wings.

Habitat

As with any other type of insect with multiple species, biology and habits vary. Most types of earwigs generally prefer wet areas which are cooler and undisturbed. Earwigs can be a serious garden pest if conditions are right. If there is adequate ground cover, wet soil, and food, the earwigs will do well.

Diet

Earwigs typically feed on live sprouts or decaying vegetation and, in rare cases, some species are predators. Read more about what earwigs eat.

Behavior

Earwigs are relatively fast moving. They run away quickly when the ground litter is moved, uncovering them.

As with any other type of insect with multiple species, biology and habits vary. Most types of earwigs generally prefer wet areas which are cooler and undisturbed. Earwigs can be a serious garden pest if conditions are right. If there is adequate ground cover, wet soil, and food, the earwigs will do well.

Earwigs are active at night. During the day they hide in cracks in damp areas. They live under rocks and logs and in mulch in flowerbeds. Earwigs eat plants and insects.

Outdoors, earwigs spend the winter in small burrows in the ground. In spring the female lays eggs in the burrow. She tends the eggs until they hatch. Then she cares for the nymphs until they can find their own food.

Earwigs are attracted to lights.  They can become a nuisance on porches and patios on summer evenings. In the morning they will be gathered under things like cushions that were left outside overnight.

Earwigs move into homes to find food or because of a change in weather.

Do earwigs fly?

Reproduction

Females typically lay between 30 and 50 but actual numbers depend on species.  After hatching, the nymphs undergo four to five molts until they become adults. Read about the earwigs life cycle.

Earwigs Signs

Homeowners often find them in areas where there is water – kitchens, bathrooms, and laundries. Earwigs can also find their way into bedrooms and family rooms. They turn up in almost every part of the house, but infestations are rare.

How to Get Rid of Earwigs

The most important part of controlling earwigs is eliminating their hiding places. If the earwig harborages are not addressed, insecticide application will probably not control earwigs very well. There are a variety of things that can be done.

Landscaping

  • Clean Up – Move landscape timbers, logs, decorative stones, and firewood piles away from the foundation.
  • Eliminate Moist Soil – Create a zone next to the foundation that is free of mulch, dead leaves, and other organic material. The “dry zone” should be 6” to 12” wide so that earwigs will avoid it.
  • Trim Overhanging Branches – Trim trees and shrubs that cause damp, shady areas near the house.

Around the Home

  • Proper Drainage is Key – Examine gutters and downspouts to make sure they drain away from the foundation. Set irrigation systems so that they water in the morning and allow the landscape to dry during the day.
  • Switch Up Exterior Lighting – Adjust outdoor lights to shine from the yard onto the house – insects will be attracted away from the house. If moving outside light fixtures is not practical, consider changing light bulbs to yellow bulbs since white lights are more attractive to insects.
  • Secure Possible Entry Points – Repair screens on crawl space vents and make sure the vents are not blocked.
  • Dry Out Moisture-Prone Areas – A dehumidifier might help in a damp basement.

Call for Professional Assistance With Earwig Removal

The best way to prevent earwigs is to utilize Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM is a holistic approach to pest control. The basic steps of IPM include Inspection, Identification and Control.

Earwigs can infest many different areas in a home. Because of that, it may be necessary to use several insecticide products to control them effectively. A pest control professional will have the products and equipment to control earwigs effectively.

More Information

Earwigs vs Other Bugs

In the Home

FAQs:

Biology