- Scientific name: Dermaptera
- Size: 1/4th of an inch to 2 inches long
- Color: Reddish brown to black
- Shape: Elongated, narrow body with a characteristic pincers on the end of their abdomen
- Found in: All of the United States
What are they?
Earwigs are nocturnal insects that typically hide in moist cracks and crevasses during the day. They feed on many different insects and plants. They can damage foliage, flowers and even crop plants. Most earwigs are flattened in shape, something that the species has evolved to adapt to hiding in places that predators would find difficult to intrude upon. Male earwigs have curved pincers and females have straight pincers. These pincers are used to defend themselves, capture prey and help to fold their wings back under their protective coverings. They are capable of flight, yet rarely do so.
How can you tell you have them?
Earwigs will come into a home through their foraging patterns. They do not often venture into the areas most inhabited by humans, being very shy in presence of light. As earwigs prefer a dark, moist environment to hide, they are most common in areas of the home that are both of these things, including basements, under sink areas, in bathrooms and in storage areas. You can usually spot them on the ceilings or walls and they will scurry out of sight rather quickly if exposed to a bright light. Any area that you can expect to have dark, moist crevasses are a potential home for earwigs, such as patio furniture, gardening storage and window frames. The best way to tell if you have an infestation is to check these types of areas and watch for the tell-tell pincers on the tips of their abdomen.
What kind of environment do they like?
In the wild the earwig lives in different types of debris and decaying plant matter. They can be found in the bark of fallen trees or branches. There have even been species reported that are blind and found only in caves. Earwigs can be found in every state, even Hawaii. In the wild, earwigs feed on natural prey and a wide variety of plant matter. In human habitations, earwigs also feed on crop plants and ornamental plants.
Earwigs are one of the few insect species that are both omnivorous and hunt for their food sources. They can and will consume a variety of different foods, including prey animals such as arthropods (such as centipedes and butterflies), flies and plant lice. They also forage for plants and ripe fruit such as flowers found commonly in the domestic flower bed, including roses. They will also feed on garden plants such as beans, potatoes, and beets. They can damage corn plantings by feeding on the silks as well. They will also scavenge and consume decaying plant and animal matter. If you are accustomed to planting ornamental beds near your home, you may either welcome or disapprove of earwigs, as they eat both pest insects and the plants they also feed on. If you have other pests well in hand in your garden, earwigs can do more damage to your cultivated plants on their own if they have no other source of food.
What to do?
Earwig infestations are best dealt with by determining the entrance points that are being used for them to enter a home. Since Earwigs are omnivorous and also feed on cultivated plants, any eradication will have to concentrate both within the home and without it as well.