The most common type of earwig found in the yards of Utah’s residents, is an exotic species called the European earwig. These earwigs are easy to recognize from their cerci, which is the large, pincer-like appendages on the hind end. Cerci are used in self-defense and courtship and will deliver only a mild pinch to humans. The earwigs body is elongated, flat and red-brown in color. Earwigs range in length from one-fourth inch to almost one and a half inches long. Adult earwigs have a short pair of leathery wings covering a folded pair of membranous wings. They are weak fliers and move mostly by crawling. As well as their unpleasant appearance, earwigs can also emit a foul smelling, yellow-brown liquid from their scent glands.
The summer months usually produce a high population of earwigs in Utah, especially when our area has experienced a very wet spring. This contributes to very good reproductive conditions for this occasional home invader. Once temperatures begin to break 80 degrees and continue to climb, earwigs will become more apparent and noticeable in and around the home.
They are omnivorous and will scavenge on dead insects, decayed organic matter, and prey on live insects. Earwigs are nocturnal so if injury to plants is apparent but no culprit can be found during the day, check the plants at night with a flashlight. If shiny, slime trails are present, snails or slugs are the culprit rather than earwigs. If damage to garden plants is apparent or you find many earwigs entering your home, control measures should be considered.
Earwigs are pests outside the home because of the damage they can cause to ornamental and garden plants, and a nuisance when they enter homes seeking shelter and food. They are known to chew on living plant material including leaves, flowers, stems, fruits and roots. Garden plants commonly injured by earwigs in Utah include annual flowers; especially marigolds, dahlias and zinnias. They also prefer herbs, roses, berries, apricots, peaches, sweet corn tassels and silks.
Are Earwigs Dangerous?
Because of their large pincers, many people assume that earwigs are dangerous, liable to pinch and bite. However, earwigs are relatively harmless creatures. They have no venom, and while those pincers can be used defensively, their main purpose is in competition with other earwigs.
Earwigs get their name from the (surprisingly popular) myth that their preferred nesting ground is in human ears. Stories have circulated since ancient times that earwigs love to burrow into our ears and lay their eggs. While it is true that earwigs like moist places, they’re no more likely to venture into a human ear than any other insect. The biggest problem that earwigs will present for your home is as a threat to your garden. That being said, it’s still not fun to see the little guys crawling around indoors.
For earwig control, focus on the outside of the home where populations increase during spring and summer. To reduce their entry into your home, create a clean, dry border using gravel or stone immediately around the foundation wall. Eliminate hiding places near the foundation such as ground covers, climbing vines, and weeds. Thick mulches, piles of debris, and leaves or wood are also great hiding places for these insects and will need to be removed. Earwigs hide under mulch plant beds during the day, so be sure to select mulches with smaller-sized particles to reduce refuges. Seal cracks and crevices around windows, doors, and the foundation of the home as well as cable holes in walls.
Earwigs in your home rarely constitute an “infestation” as they don’t congregate in large numbers indoors, or pose the health and safety threat that other insects do. However, there are still ways to prevent them from wandering into your home.
Because their preferred habitat is damp wood, it’s smart to survey your home for drips and leaks. Check over undisturbed areas that are close to garbage or vegetation. Check your irrigation systems and rain gutters to make sure that moisture is being routed away from your home’s foundations.
In order to prevent earwigs in your home, we can evaluate the area and direct you to make changes that will keep them from getting in. Perimeter treatments can deter earwigs from doors and windows and other entry points into your home.
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