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Got Earwigs in Your Ears?

By Chris Williams on March 11, 2011.

Q. Okay, I know this must be an old wives’ tale, but my friend says earwigs really do get into people’s ears! Please answer because we sometimes see earwigs in our downstairs. Should I be worried?

earwigA. Not to worry; earwigs don’t crawl into ears, at least not in this day and age. But maybe they did accidentally end up in ears 500 years ago when people slept on a dirt floor, in a corner of a one-room thatched cottage, on a bed of straw. This isn’t too far removed from where we find earwigs today, which is outside scavenging in mulch (straw is an excellent mulch). They’re active at night (when our ancestors were sleeping). They forage at ground level (just where our ancestors slept), and they hide in cracks and crevices (an ear canal could make an excellent substitute). If an earwig did end up in an old wife’s ear, it was just as surprised as she was!

The old wives’ tale is further reinforced because earwigs are rather scary looking, with those long pincers at the rear of their abdomens (you can see a picture in our Pest Library under Occasional Invaders). They look like they could give you a good pinch if you handled them, but they rarely use their pincers against people and if they try to, it doesn’t hurt.

The normal habitat for earwigs is outdoors, usually around foundations, hiding under mulch or stones or other materials. Earwigs are scavengers, feeding on plants, decaying vegetation, and occasionally on other insects. They will sometimes move indoors (if they can find an opening) when their outside sites dry out too much, or when they are attracted by lights at doors and windows. They also end up indoors when they are accidentally carried in on plants, newspapers, or firewood. Earwigs don’t survive long in the drier indoor conditions.

To control earwigs in your home, you must first control them outside around the foundation of your home. You can cut down on the number of earwigs around the foundation by moving materials that earwigs like to hide in, like wood piles, debris piles, stones, leaf litter, heavy mulch, compost piles, and heavy groundcover plantings. Reducing moisture around the foundation of your home by repairing downspouts and leaking faucets, and ventilating crawlspaces also helps since earwigs like it damp. Keep earwigs from finding a way inside by patching or blocking cracks or holes in the foundation. Make sure that door sweeps and weather stripping are tight, and reduce outside lighting. Colonial has an outdoor preventive program that will help keep outside pests like earwigs from getting inside. Give us a call, and don’t worry about your family’s ears.

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