Earwigs

Earwig! (ewwww), don’t worry, they don’t actually crawl into your ears.

One of the most disliked insects that invade homes are earwigs. Perhaps this stems from the old European superstition at they crawl into the ears of sleeping people and then bore into the brain. Sounds like something out of a Steven Spielberg vie – ‘attack of the ear creatures’. The general dislike probably stems more because of the pincer-like appendage on their back end and the way they come scuttling out from under objects and find their way into the home. One lady had an earwig get behind the glass in the thermostat in her hallway and we had to leave it there as it couldn’t be taken apart.There are numerous species of earwigs, but the European earwig is the main one that we encounter. It was first observed on the West Coast of the United States in the early 1900’s. It has since spread to many of the North Eastern and North Western States as well as Canada. Often as these insects move into new areas, their population size can be very high but will then gradually level off.European earwigs are about 16mm (5/8 inch) long, are dark reddish in colour and have a flattened body. They have prominent forceps on the back end with those of the male being large and rounded while those of the female are smaller and straight. They are nocturnal and do most of their foraging for food at night, hiding in cracks and crevices during the day. Adults have wings but are poor fliers.

Earwigs are primarily a nuisance insect. They will crawl into homes under doors or through open windows. They can be carried in on cut flowers or vegetables or clothing that has been left outside to dry. They have chewing mouth parts and can bite if caught against tender skin. The forceps on the back end are used for defense and grasping prey but are not strong enough to hurt if they pinch humans. Earwigs feed on a wide variety of plant material as well as other insects. They can do damage to plants, leaving holes similar to those caused by slugs. Heavy infestations can consist of numbers in the thousands.

Control of earwigs should be concentrated on the outside. Remove debris, wood and other unused items away from the foundation of the house. Don’t mistake earwigs for cockroaches. One customer prepared her entire house, which included emptying all kitchen cupboards and drawers for a cockroach treatment, only to find out that she had earwigs, not roaches. Chemical treatment should be aimed at cracks and crevices around the exterior of the house especially where fences and decks attach to the house. Concentrate on the foundation, windows and doors, porches etc.

(and no it’s not true, pest control technicians do not wear earplugs when doing earwig treatments).

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