Earwigs are named for the old wives’ tale that they burrow into people’s ears at night. There are more than 20 species of earwigs in the U.S. and, while they are nocturnal, none of them burrow into ears.
Earwigs are medium size insects with flat bodies that are long and narrow. They are usually black or brown. Some have stripes or reddish coloring on their heads and limbs. They can be anywhere from one-fourth to one and a fourth inches long. They have pincher looking forceps and wings, but they don’t normally fly.
Females lay between 30 and 50 eggs, but it depends on the species. Females look after the babies, or nymphs as they are called after they hatch. This kind of maternal behavior is unusual in insects. After the nymphs hatch, they molt four or five times before they become adults. They look like adults except they don’t have wings.
Earwigs like wet, cool, undisturbed places. They are active at night and hide during the day, under rocks and logs, and in flowerbeds. They will come inside with the changing temperature or during extended dry periods.
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Earwig infestations are rare, but their food supply general consists of live and decaying plant life, so they can be garden pests. Mostly they just scare people because of misconceptions about them and their large pincers.
Earwigs are nocturnal, they move around fast, and they can show in any area of the home, so they can be hard to control with pesticides. There are several prevention techniques to keep them out of homes in the first place. Outside, they are attracted to damp dark places under logs or rocks or organic debris. Ways to make a yard less attractive to them include not decorating with stones they can hide under, not laying mulch more than two inches deep, leaving a barrier of about a foot between landscape and walls or foundation, tidying the yard, cleaning out rain gutters, and not leaving pet food out at night.
Inside, they are attracted to decaying cellulose like old boxes or left out food, especially if these food sources are in a cool, dark area like a basement. Ways to keep them out include sealing up cracks, cleaning up spills, setting up dehumidifiers, and fixing leaky plumbing.
If earwigs still make their way in, call a pest control service.