A common misconception is that earwigs can enter a human body through openings such as ears and find their way to the brain. Once there, they lay eggs, continue multiplying, and even feed on the brain. All this is not true as the insect has nothing to do with the human body.
Although its name may suggest something like having an ear for its habitat, there is no relationship. Interestingly, the insect is attracted to moist areas, mostly outdoors, where they get their food. Also, if your home has crevices, it can attract this insect.
So, What Are Earwigs?
These are bugs with dark red-brown color and pale yellow legs and wings in appearance. They have a distinctive tail that takes forceps shapes (cerci). When young, the bugs are 5mm long and can reach 50mm in adulthood. They have tiny and weak wings that are almost invisible, making them not good at flying.
But, they ran very fast and preferred climbing at high points while hunting their prey. Despite being feared to enter the human body, these insects are harmless and do not feed nor live in the human body.
Compared to other insects, earwigs have an outstanding characteristic for caring for young ones. Unlike other female insects, the mother earwigs have maternal instincts. Instead of leaving the eggs after laying, these females stick around, taking care of the eggs until they hatch.
They continue caring even after hatching for some time until the young ones are strong enough. For this reason, most of the hatched earwigs survive because they are protected from external attacks. So, when they start breeding at your place, get ready to deal with an invasion!
To distinguish between a male and a female earwig, you check their cerci. The rest of their body parts, such as color, look alike. With the males, their cerci are large and more curved than that of the females. So, the males carry a bigger prey than the females since their cerci are also more robust.
Often, earwigs are active during the night and can be found in areas with mild moisture. They mainly feed on other insects but can also feed on vegetation with insufficient insects to sustain them. That is when you start noticing holes in your plants. When other insects are a bother in a garden, earwigs are considered essential because they have no reason to feed on plants and help with eliminating the pests.
But, these bugs can become a nuisance when they infest your garden. How? When there is not enough food, they communicate by signaling that there is food where they are. When excreting, they release a pheromone that others can sense from far. This gesture is enough to create an invasion in your plantation and can lead to killing off your bountiful plants.
Main Areas Where Earwigs Live
We have pointed out that earwigs love living in mildly moist places. Let us look at specific areas where you can find these insects so you can be on the lookout:
Piles of Leaves
It is recommendable to sweep your compound after fall. It is because piling leaves become excellent habitats for insects. As nocturnal insects, they take refuge under these piles and use their cerci to carry their prey there, mostly insects after killing them.
Piles of leaves also create a good breeding place for earwigs. So, a clean sweep can help prevent creating a habitat for the bugs.
Of course, your plants will need some moisture for proper growth. When you allow the soil to remain moist for long, it attracts earwigs. To prevent their presence, ensure your pots are filled with well-draining soil. This ensures your plants get enough moisture while not retaining long enough to create a habitat for the bugs.
Another reason soil can be moist is because of poor drainage. When gutters are broken or obstructed, they fail to drain the water as they should. This makes the area around your home’s foundation wet, and these bugs find an excellent hiding place.
Damp and Dark Cracks
Although these insects are found outdoors, they find their way inside the house when the conditions outside become unbearable. That is, when it gets too hot or overly damp, they seek better living areas.
If your house has dark and damp cracks, that’s where they make themselves comfortable. Sometimes, they go unnoticed as they can be mistaken for cockroaches. Common areas are the basements where controlling humidity is a bit challenging.
When trees and other vegetation are left to grow into dark and unkempt bushes, they become suitable habitats for earwigs. Such vegetation creates a dark and relaxed environment that these bugs love. They will live there until they become distracted when clearing the bushes and look for another place they will be comfortable.
Before then, they hide in different parts of these bushes, such as the barks, where it is easy to hide at a slight movement.
The Reproduction of Earwigs
Earwigs start reproducing during fall and early winter. That is why it is vital to keep your compound free from debris and piling leaves.
They reproduce by laying eggs that later hatch to baby earwigs.
Fertilization takes place externally and happens when the male and female adults mate end to end. After mating, the female can carry the sperm for some time before fertilization takes place. When ready, she looks for a suitable location such as dark cracks, unkempt bushes, and others mentioned earlier and lays the fertilized eggs.
They lay eggs in significant numbers in clusters of 20-80. With their maternal instincts, the female earwigs take care of the eggs until they hatch. Some of the practices involved in the care period include cleaning and turning the eggs.
Interestingly, even though the mother earwig protects her young ones, she is also their greatest enemy. She guards them for about 2-3 weeks when they start hatching. She keeps watching them until they become vital to find their ways. If they fail to locate other habitats, she starts eating them the way she eats other insects.
Earwigs undergo five stages in their cycle until maturity. When they hatch into the first nymphs, these insects are often fully developed. You can almost mistake them for adults, were it not for color and size.
After hatching, the insects are 5mm long and have a pale color that darkens as they mature in the other four cycles.
Do Earwigs Cause Injuries to People?
Not really. These insects are harmless, but like any other creature, they defend themselves when they detect danger. If you disturb them, they can react in two ways.
Firstly, they can remove a foul-smelling liquid. The smell will put you off, and you would not want to touch the insect again. Although the drink has a bad smell, it does not react with the human skin. You can remove the odor by cleaning the area with soap and water.
The other mechanism is by pinching. Besides carrying their prey, earwigs use their cerci to defend themselves. They will pinch you if they suspect an attack. These insects rarely bite, but when they pinch, you will feel itchy on the area.
The pinches are not harmless since earwigs do not have venom in their cerci. Often, when people get pinched by these insects, they do not require medical attention unless they have susceptible skins.
Like any other insect bite or sting, your skin becomes red and swollen on the attacked area. Because the insect is not venomous, a simple first aid at home should work. Use warm water and soap to clean the pinched area, and you will be okay. In case of bites that pierce your skin, consider using antibacterial ointments to prevent infections.
When not properly cleaned, earwig bites can cause serious infections. Not because there is venom, but because the insects are unhygienic. Looking at where they live and feed on other insects and vegetation, both decaying and fresh, explains why there can be severe infections. Also, if fragments remain in your skin after being pinched, they can cause an infection.
In the two scenarios, a visit to a clinician is recommended. The professionals help treat the infection and remove the fragments safely.
Top 6 Ways To Get Rid Of Earwigs
Sometimes, it is challenging to get rid of dampness in a compound because some areas rarely get inspected. Since the earwigs have many places they can survive in, as seen earlier, the best way to manage them is by dealing with their food sources and habits. Let us see how:
Traps can be placed near earwigs habitats in the evenings when the insects start becoming active. Fish and vegetable oils are great attractions to these insects when infused with other smells such as cat food and bacon grease.
These bugs come out of their hiding places at night to feed and get trapped by the oil. The method is effective, and the trapped insects can be removed from the trap and be crushed. The trap is then re-used.
Crushing involves using a stone or a solid stick to kill the insect on-site. It is a tedious and traditional method of getting rid of bugs. It may not be as efficient as other methods since it only deals with the visible ones, and they are good at hiding slight movements.
3. Sealing Cracks
Look for cracks around doors, windows, and walls and use a proper sealant for the surface. Covering the damages will ensure the insects do not have a place to live and move away from your compound, searching for another habitat.
4. Clearing Debris and Leaf Piles
It is a brilliant way of complementing the trapping method. Keeping your compound clear from debris and leaves ensures the earwigs do not have a place to hide.
Always trim your trees to ensure they do not create dark bushes where these insects can hide. If your trees are tall, maintain a clear base. That is, get rid of vegetation at the bottom because it provides a refuge to the insects.
If the trees in your compound are old, ensure you remove the old barks carefully. Earwigs will hide in the old barks since they provide dark cracks, an environment these bugs love.
5. Drying Moist Areas
We have seen that the area around your house’s foundation can have moist soil due to poor drainage. To control this, make sure your gutters and drains are working correctly. They should channel the water away from your house, not towards it. When you correct this fault, the soil around your house’s basement remains dry and won’t attract these bugs.
6. Chemical Control
It is an aggressive method of managing earwigs in a compound. Control chemicals are available in a variety and should be selected carefully since some of them contain toxins. When these chemicals come into contact with fruits or vegetables in the garden, they can negatively affect the consumers.
Using chemicals without toxins is safe for both humans and the environment. Although this should be the last option after all the others have failed, it is effective. Chemicals kill not only the bugs but also their eggs, preventing further infestations. Be sure to follow the instructions for use from the manufacturer.
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Get A Professional
It is the best way to deal with these insects. If you suspect you have these bugs on your property and are unsure how to handle them, contact professionals in your area to help you deal with the problem.
These people bring in their expertise and experience to deal with insects. They know where to find them and how to handle them without destroying anything.
There is a lot to learn about this nocturnal insect. Even though we have seen it love living outdoors in moist and dark places, it is always good to keep an eye inside our homes. There are dark and damp spots inside where they will rush when the external environment no longer makes them feel comfortable.