If you are familiar with the old wives’ tales of ‘earwigs’ creeping into ears and feeding on human brains, you must brace yourself for some truth is going to be unraveled. These small, flat insects which are known by the name ‘earwigs’ can grow up to 2 inches in length. They have forceps-shaped pincers to capture prey. Earwigs have thread-like antennae with no less than 10 segments.
You will very rarely see an earwig catching a flight even though they have wings. Earwigs have incomplete metamorphosis and so are known as hemimetabolous. There you go! That’s some science thrown at you. Another fact about their stages of development is that the stages between their molts are called instars and they have such 4 to 6 molts to reach the fully developed stage.
Why are earwigs called ‘earwigs’?
Over the ages, these small insects have earned a bad reputation. It has been documented as well passed over old wives’ tales that earwigs creep into human ears and cause acute pain leading to eventual death.
“It appears to be a common belief almost everywhere that the Earwig creeps into the ears of persons sleeping in the open air, passes thence into the brain, and causes death.” — A Natural History of the Animal Kingdom, William S. Dallas, 1856.
A lot has been investigated and a lot has been written on the etymology of ‘earwig’. Unlike the conventional wisdom of earwigs crawling into ears of people, some language experts posit that the name earwig is derived from old English ‘eare’ and ‘wigca’ meaning wings. But later the ‘wigca’ was corrupted for wiggler which translated the term as ‘ear-wiggler’.
In Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia, which was written in the first century A.D, the earliest known mention was found of the earwig and a remedy for such insect intrusion was to spit into the ear and in no time would the pest come out.
Well, now we at least have some idea, how it all started and whom to be blamed for this popular urban myth.
What do earwigs eat in the house?
Being omnivores these little insects eat other smaller insects, pollen, some plants, decayed leaves, etc. Among bugs that an earwig likes to prey upon are, snowbug, mites, eggs of other insects, aphids. However, once they are inside the house, their diet includes a wide range of other food like stored cookies, flour, bread, etc. A common doubt among most people is if earwigs eat wood. No such evidence has been found yet of earwig chomping on wood.
Even though not a big threat to humans, still it is quite not possible to harmoniously co-exist with earwigs if you own a greenhouse or if you have a lot of houseplants. Earwigs are notorious opportunistic eaters. They don’t just stick to decayed leaves but also seedlings, soft fruits like apricots and many other houseplants. They can create a big nuisance in your greenhouse too, eating up all those leafy vegetables.
Frequently asked questions about earwigs
Do earwigs eat plants?
Yes. Earwigs do eat plans. Plants such as dahlias, butterfly bush, hollyhock, lettuce, cauliflower to strawberry, blackberry, peaches, sunflowers, celery, plums, grapes, potatoes, roses, seedling beets and beans, and roots and tender grass shoots.
Do earwigs eat bedbugs?
No such specific evidence has been found of earwig eating bed bugs. However, earwigs eat a lot other smaller insects. SO, it won’t be a shocker if they eat bed bugs too.
Do earwigs eat wood?
No. Earwigs do not eat wood.
Can earwigs eat clothes?
Yes. Like I have mentioned above, earwigs are notorious opportunistic eaters. They eat a wide range of food as soon as they enter houses. So, as their food range expands, they can definitely eat clothes.
Do earwigs eat termites?
Earwigs do eat other smaller insects depending on the species. However, no such mention has been made anywhere of earwig feasting on termites.
How to get rid of earwigs?
Earwigs can be a nuisance to the house or to your greenhouse. The easiest way to get rid of earwigs is to keep the place free of excess moist. You can also try dimming the lights outside your house, as earwigs tend to get attracted to light. Clearing off decaying leaves is another way to keep these pests at bay. Also, keep checking your drainage system. Don’t let the drains get blocked. And, the best way is to contact pest control professionals to help you with the riddance of earwigs.
Earwigs earned a bad reputation of being fatal to humans. Those old wives’ tales about earwig causing death to human could be untrue but it’s not untrue that it causes harm to human lives. Earwig infestation can cause a nuisance of a serious kind for greenhouse owners or even to farmers. It can do serious damage to field crops. They build their communes around foundations of houses. Next time you see those creeks and crevices, try and close the openings for there could live seemingly evil earwigs.