Earwigs are small reddish-brown insects, with smooth, elongated, flat bodies, and three pairs of legs. Though they rarely fly, most species have two pairs of wings: a long, membranous pair located beneath a shorter, leathery pair.
Earwigs are characterized by a pair of pincers or forceps-like appendages called “cerci”, located at the rear of their abdomen. These cerci are comparatively more curved in males than females. There are about 1,800 different species of earwigs found throughout the world, except the poles.
An earwig is a nocturnal insect, mostly inhabiting moist and damp areas such as under dead leaves, rotting branches, loose pebbles, and mulch or in flower pots during the daytime. They become active at night, coming out of their hiding spot to feed on plant shoots, leaves, flowers, and fruits as well as insects, both living and dead.
Female earwigs perform maternal care, an unusual trait in an insect. They shield their eggs and nymphs from predators and routinely clean their eggs to remove fungi.
The female earwig typically lays between 20 and 50 white oval-shaped eggs in a single brood. Depending on species, eggs hatch between 1 and 12 weeks after being laid. Earwig nymphs undergo 4 to 5 molts before becoming reaching adulthood.
How the Earwig Got Its Name
Have you ever wondered why they are called “earwigs”? Do earwigs crawl in ears, as their name suggests?
Their name actually comes from a baseless superstition that earwigs crawl inside a person’s ear and tunnel into the brain to lay eggs. None of this is true.
In fact, earwigs rarely attack humans, and then only in self-defense. They certainly aren’t out for brains. Furthermore, their formidable-looking cerci are nearly harmless since earwigs cannot squeeze very hard.
But do earwigs lay eggs in your ear?
Also, no. Earwigs dig into the ground to lay their eggs.
Do earwigs live in ears?
They do not. Similar to the myth that they lay eggs in ears, earwigs do not live in ears.
Earwigs tend to live in small spaces in gardens, woods, and within the soil in shaded fields. I live in the cold prairies where the ground is covered with snow for 6 months out of the year and temperatures can dip down to -40°C during winter. I was surprised to find earwigs even in my garden.
These insects hibernate during the winter and sometimes sneak indoors through crevices in walls and foundations when it becomes too hot, dry, or cold for them outside. They may cling to flower pots and patio furniture brought indoors for the winter. Once inside, earwigs hide under carpets, especially in basements as they prefer moist, dark hiding spots.
So, do earwigs crawl in your ear at all? Do earwigs even go in ears?
While it is technically possible for an earwig (or indeed any small insect) to enter your ear, it is highly unlikely.
How to Deal with An Earwig in Your Ear
What happens if an earwig does go in your ear or your child’s ear? What are some symptoms of an earwig in the ear?
You may feel movement, slight irritation, or mild pain if a bug enters your ear. If a bug remains in your ear, there may be swelling or difficulty hearing out of the affected ear.
Earwigs are non-venomous, but they are capable of biting humans or pets. However, earwigs rarely bite. When threatened, they use their pincers to defend themselves. They hold on as tightly to the skin as they can. Rarely, this pinch can break the skin and cause slight bleeding. The pinched area may swell up and appear reddish, with two pinch marks slightly apart from each other. In most cases, any swelling and marks disappear quickly. Discomfort is quite mild. Some species of earwigs, when threatened, spray a stinky, yellowish liquid at their attacker.
How to get an earwig out of your ear?
Do not panic. They are relatively harmless and will only cause slight discomfort inside the ear. They cannot crawl into the brain. The easiest way to remove an earwig or any bug from the ear is to tilt your head to one side and shake it. This should dislodge the insect.
Alternatively, you can get an earwig out of your ear by pouring a tiny volume of warm vegetable oil (if the bug is alive) or water (if the insect is dead) into the ear. If these strategies don’t work, visit a doctor immediately. Refrain from using cotton swabs or tweezers as they can cause internal injury and/or permanent hearing loss.
Earwigs are not dangerous. They are simply household pests. With a little care and maintenance, you can get rid of earwigs in your home.
Care and Preventive Maintenance of your home:
- Control moisture levels in and around your home: Keep the moisture levels in your home under control. Dehumidifiers are very helpful, especially for damp basements. Proper ventilation of crawl spaces will also help, as will making sure water drains away from the house instead of towards it. Make sure all spouts draining rainwater direct the flow away from the home. Set sprinkler systems to come on early in the morning, so the excess water will dry up during the day.
- Seal all possible entry points: Get any cracks and crevices in your foundation and basement fixed immediately.
- Move potential earwig hiding places away from your home: Clear your garden area of dead logs, unused planters, flower pots, etc. that are near the foundation of your home. Remove ivy, weeds, mulch, or any debris piles away from the house.
- Keep areas adjoining your foundation dry: Earwigs prefer moist areas. Completely remove any traces of mulch, dead leaves or moist soils from areas adjacent to your foundation. Refill these areas with dry soils.
- Allow sunshine: Allowing ample sunshine around your home helps keep areas from becoming and remaining moist. Trim branches that hang close to the house to reduce shade.
Seek professional help
If none of these strategies are helpful, it may be time for you to seek professional help. Approach a professional pest control firm before your problem escalates. While earwigs are not dangerous, they are a nuisance and professional pest control companies can help get rid of them.
Make sure the pest control company you approach uses integrated pest management strategies to combat the problem because such strategies tend to address various sources of the problem using a variety of tested methods.