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Spine-chilling Facts About Carnivorous Earwigs

Chandramita Bora Apr 19, 2019
Earwigs are often associated with the myth that they crawl into the human ear at night, and then reach the brain. Find out more facts about earwigs and how to get rid of them, in this article.

Did You Know?

Female earwigs have been observed to possess such a strong urge to clean their eggs, that they continue to do that for up to 3 months after the eggs hatch.
The 'earwig' is the common name for any insects that belong to the order Dermaptera. The order Dermaptera includes about 12 families and almost 2000 species of insects, which are known as 'earwig bugs' or 'pincerbugs'. They are distributed throughout the America, Eurasia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
An average earwig is usually 0.2 to 2 inch long, and light to dark brown or black in color. Some species of earwigs are scavengers, whereas majority of them are omnivorous, and feed on both small insects or arthropods, as well as plant leaves and fruits.
Earwigs are mainly known for the myth that they can creep inside the human ear, and then enter the brain and damage the nerves.

More about Earwigs

✦ As mentioned already, the earwig bug is an insect of the order, Dermaptera, which can be identified by its peculiar horny, forceps-like pincers at the end of its abdomen. The pincers are known as 'cerci', and they give this insect a fierce look. Carnivorous earwigs are by and large, nocturnal insects with a small, elongated, and flattened body.
✦ Earwigs use their pincers mainly for capturing and holding their prey, and also during copulation. Occasionally, they can use the pincers to defend themselves, when they feel threatened. The pincers of the male earwigs are usually curved, while those of the females are straight.
✦ Many earwigs are winged insects, containing two pairs of wings - fore wings and hind wings. The hind wings are membranous, and they lie under the tough and leathery fore wings. However, these insects rarely use their wings for flying. Earwigs also possess thread-like beaded antennae with 10 or more segments.
✦ Earwigs live for about a year from the time of hatching. They usually undergo incomplete metamorphosis, and develop through 4 to 6 molts. On an average, they undergo 5 molts till they reach adulthood. They generally mate in autumn and winter.
After copulating, the eggs remain inside the female for months before they are fertilized. A female earwig lays about 20 to 80 pearly white or cream-colored eggs, which usually hatch within 7 days. Some earwigs on the other hand, give birth to live young.
✦ Unlike other insects, earwigs display maternal care, with mothers paying close attention to the needs of their eggs by maintaining the required warmth, protecting them from the potential predators and cleaning them continuously to prevent fungal infections. The female earwigs also take care of the young earwigs, called nymphs, until their second molt.
✦ Earwigs are more commonly found in tropical regions. The moist areas, like decayed bark of trees, and small and damp crevices are some common places where you can find these insects. Earwigs are observed to have a special liking for a damp and moist environment.
In the night, they come out of their habitat in search of food. Their main foods are, small insects, arthropods, eggs of snails and slugs, plant leaves, flowers, and fruits.

How to Get Rid of Earwigs

The moist areas of your house are more likely to be infested by these insects. The garbage bins, as well as the debris around your house can hold a special attraction for earwigs. Let's find out how you can repel these insects, and make your house and its surrounding free of them.
✦ First of all, you need to clean up the foundation around your house, and keep it free from damp debris, as these insects are known to have an affinity for moist and damp places.

✦ They usually enter your house through the small cracks and openings present around the door thresholds and window frames.
Check for such cracks, and seal them off immediately with caulking or weather stripping. Ground level windows can often serve as an entrance for earwigs. So, secure properly fitting window screens.

✦ Check the outdoor faucets for any leakage. If you find one, then be sure to fix it as soon as possible. If you can't fix it, then take the help of a plumber.
✦ Certain home remedies, such as vinegar, cayenne pepper, and citrus oil can also prove beneficial. You can sprinkle these products in the areas infested by earwigs, and the places that can serve as the entry points for these insects.
✦ Certain herbs, like mint, basil, and lemon thyme are repulsive to earwigs and a host of other insects. So, growing them can be a good idea to keep these insects away from your garden.
✦ You can also make a trap to draw the earwigs out their hiding places. For this, you will need a shallow pan or tin can, which you can fill up with vegetable oil. Now, place the oil-filled pan in the area where these insects take shelter in the day. The earwigs will crawl into the pan, and get drown in the oil.
A pan or a shallow container filled with fish or vegetable oil can be placed in the garden as well.

✦ Another trap can be made with an old newspaper. All you have to do is to roll the newspaper, and place it on the ground, near the potential hiding places. The earwigs will use the newspaper to hide.
At the end of day, you can take the newspaper and dump the hiding earwigs into a pan of oil or soapy water. This trap can also be used to get rid of the earwigs residing in your garden.

✦ Many birds feast on earwigs. So, it won't be a bad idea to add a bird feeder or a birdbath to attract birds to your garden, and thus eliminate these insects from there.
✦ Diatomaceous earth is great for getting rid of a number of pests. Just sprinkle it in the cracks and crevices of your house, which are more likely to harbor these insects.

✦ Just like diatomaceous earth, boric acid and salt can also be used for getting rid of earwigs.
It can be sprinkled in the small cracks and holes inside your house, where these insects reside.

✦ If you find a large group of earwigs gathered in an area of your house, then vacuum the area and empty the content in a sealed bag or container. Be sure to dispose the content of the bag as soon as possible.

Are Earwig Bugs Dangerous?

In general, earwigs are not found to be dangerous or harmful to humans.
One popular urban legend is that these insects burrow into the ear at night, and then make their way to the brain. Once in the brain, they are said to damage the cranial nerves, and lay eggs in the brain. After hatching, the larvae are believed to eat the brain tissues.
However, there is no scientific evidence to back this myth, though some anecdotal reports of finding them in the ear do exist. Moreover, these insects usually do not enter the bedroom. Rather, they prefer to live in dark, damp, and moist places, and lay their eggs under a stone or in a crevice.
Occasionally, they can use their forceps-like pincers in order to defend themselves. However, their pinch is found to be mild, and not cause any major trouble, as these insects lack venom. So, those apprehensive about the entry of an earwig in the ear canal can relax, as this is an extremely rare condition.
Though not considered as harmful to humans, earwigs can do a lot of damage to your garden plants, especially dahlias, zinnias, butterfly bush, hollyhock, roses, cauliflower, strawberry, plums, lettuce, and potatoes. If you find these insects in your bedroom and other places of your house, then it is better to take the necessary steps to get rid of them.
For this, you can try the aforementioned pest control measures. If these measures fail to eliminate them, then you can apply pesticides and insecticides. But be sure to use them carefully, as they can be toxic to humans and pets. If you opt for this method, then it is better to follow the manufacturer's directions or take the help of a professional.