Earwigs are among the most misunderstood insects. Many people think that they are dangerous and can bite us. The name is misleading and is related to the old wives’ tale that earwigs enter our ears, burrow in our brains and lay their eggs.
The common earwig was introduced into North America in 1907 from Europe and they are generally found in the southern and southwestern parts of the United States. Out of about 1800 species, about 25 occur in North America.
Where Are Earwigs Generally Found?
Earwigs are found in all continents except Antarctica. As there are numerous species, their biology and habits also vary. Most species of earwigs generally prefer wet areas, which are cooler and undisturbed. Earwigs can be annoying garden pests if conditions are right. They thrive in places that have an adequate ground cover, wet soil, and food.
They enter our homes from the garden and prefer damp places like bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. If you have plants inside your house, they may be spotted there as well. Homeowners generally find them in areas where there is water. Though they can be seen in almost every part of the house, infestations are rare.
Earwigs are relatively fast moving. They escape quickly when the ground litter is moved, uncovering them. Earwigs are mostly nocturnal and often hide in small, moist crevices during the day, and are active at night.
As a self-defense mechanism for protection from predators, some species of earwigs can squirt jets of foul-smelling yellow liquid from scent glands. Earwigs also produce a pheromone (scent), which entomologists believe is the reason why earwigs cluster together in large numbers.
What Do Earwigs Eat?
Earwigs typically feed on live sprouts or decaying vegetation and, in rare cases, some species are predators. Generally, they feed on a wide variety of insects and plants. However, they do not feed on human blood like mosquitoes or bedbugs. So, humans are not part of their preferred diet.
Are They Dangerous To Humans?
Earwigs have a pair of forceps-like pincers on their abdomen. Their pincers are commonly believed to be dangerous, but in reality, even the dangerous-looking curved pincers of male earwigs cause little or no harm to humans. Their pincers are primarily used to capture prey, help in reproduction, and for defense. Some people may mistake mosquito bites to be earwig bites. There is no evidence that they transmit diseases to humans or other animals.
How To Get Rid of Earwigs?
The most important step towards controlling earwigs is eliminating their hiding places. If the earwig’s hiding places are not cleaned or removed, then even using insecticide may not be effective in controlling them. Here are certain things you can do to keep them away.
- Remove landscape timbers, logs, decorative stones, and firewood piles away from the foundation of the house.
- Ensure that the area next to the foundation is free of moist soil, mulch, dead leaves, and other organic material.
- Trim trees and shrubs that cause damp, shady areas near the house.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Earwig Bite?
If you pick an earwig up, they can get agitated and will try to retaliate with their pincers. However, these are not stings or bites, which are terms used for insects with stingers or biting mouthparts. Even in extreme cases, the pinch from the large forceps of adult males can be painful but there is no venom and the pinch rarely breaks the skin.
Earwig Bite Treatment
Although very rare, if the pinch does break the skin, the best treatment is to use the same first aid that you would for a minor scratch. But, since earwigs typically live in the soil, germs or bacteria can possibly enter into the cut from the pincers. If the earwig pinch breaks the skin, apply a lotion or cream that has antiseptic, antibacterial or antibiotic properties.
If you notice swelling or experience a pricking sensation, use an anti-inflammatory cream or apply an anti-itch treatment cream. There is no unique earwig “bite mark” as such since they do not hurt people. In case of any medical concerns, speak to a doctor.