Why are earwigs called earwigs? Do they really crawl into people’s ears? If they don’t then why are they called earwigs? According to a false European legend, these creepy bugs will crawl into the ears of unsuspecting, sleeping people and burrow into their brains and lay eggs. The insects would cause a person to go mad, blind or even cause death. For the most part, earwigs are harmless to humans and rarely bite, but they might pinch you if you try to pick them up.
There are over 15,000 documented species of earwig in the world. Although they are strange looking with their flattened, elongated thin bodies and giant curved pincers they are actually quite skittish. They don’t want to harm you and they have no intention of crawling into your ears.
How did the earwig get its name? The Earwig name comes from the name ear-wicga which means “ear wiggler”. If that isn’t an unpleasant thought I don’t know what is. So, if they don’t actually crawl or wiggle into human ears, why are they called earwigs? It is believed that the translation of earwig from ‘ear-wicga’ might be inaccurate. The correct translation of “ear-wicga” is believed to be ear-wing, not ear-wig. This name is believed to have been derived from the insect’s appearance, not its spine-chilling ear infesting behavior. The “wings” could possibly refer to the large pincers on the rear of the insect or to the very tiny wings located on the body. Although they have wings most earwigs do not fly. So, where do earwigs get their name? They get if from an incorrect translation. This mistake can be seen across the world. In France, they are referred to as “perce-oreille”, or ear piercer. They are called “ohrwurm” in Germany, which means earworm. And in Russia, they are called “ukhovertka”, or ear turner. This insect’s reputation seems to follow it everywhere it goes thanks to scary stories that will not go away.
So, is it true that earwigs actually crawl in people’s ears, bore into their brains and lay eggs? If you consult any old scientific journals before the twentieth century the answer would have been yes, and quite often but the fact is it is very rare. Actually, there are a lot of bugs that have been known to crawl into a person’s ear such as spiders, ticks, bedbugs, and fruit flies among others. But there is very little chance that an earwig will make its way into your ear. There isn’t anything in there that they are looking for except moisture and warmth. Those things can be easily found elsewhere and there is no food source inside your ear to sustain them. So, where did earwigs get their name? They got it from their bad reputation.
Although, there have been some documented cases where earwigs have entered into a human ear. There isn’t any scientific evidence that anyone has ever had eggs laid in their brain or have had their brain bored into with those giant pincers. These insects prefer living in moist wooded areas where there is plenty of food and cover. Also, earwig mothers are very maternal so they wouldn’t just lay eggs in someone’s ear and leave. The female is actually a very good mother and takes great care of her young. This is very uncommon in the insect world. Earwigs are known to keep their eggs clean and will protect them from predators. Once the eggs hatch the mother will spend the next few weeks gathering food and feeding the little ones. They will also take care of other babies if they wander into their nest. There are a few other insects that do that, but not many and that makes them quite unique.
Even so, earwigs can be quite startling because they always seem to appear in unexpected places and their appearance is rather creepy. They are really of no harm to you. It was once believed that their pincers were filled with poison, but that is not true. They use their pincers to hold their food and to protect themselves from other insects. It is possible for one to pinch you, but that will only happen if you are being a threat to them.
Earwigs are nocturnal and feed on insects, nectar and plant material. They live in areas where there is high moisture content such as mulch, damp basements, potted plants, and a variety of other places that provide moisture. If you are having an issue with earwigs look around your home and see what is causing the problem before you reach for the bug spray. There is usually an easy explanation for the appearance, like a wet floor mat next to your front door, or maybe a potted plant that was brought in to save it from the cold. In any case, these insects are for the most part harmless. If there is one in your residence it has wandered in by mistake and is lost. Transfer the insect back outside where it can live. It isn’t going to hurt you but it might creep you out a little bit.
With this in mind make sure that all windows and doors are properly sealed. Cracks in your foundation are also another place that earwigs and other bugs can enter. Make sure to seal all possible entrances to keep out unwanted guests. Earwigs seem to enter most homes under doors that don’t seal properly. If you are not able to seal the door correctly invest in some weather stripping. This will help keep out the bugs and it will also help with energy costs.
In conclusion, why do they call these insects earwigs? Because of old folklore. These terrifying tales have been passed down from generation to generation and don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Can earwigs crawl into your ear, of course, they can and so can many other bugs. But, they will not burrow into your brain and lay eggs causing blindness, insanity or death.