Earwigs

Appearance: Five-eighths inch long, dark reddish-brown, with yellow-brown legs; large forceps (cerci) on the end of the abdomen, which pose no threat to humans.

Habits: Found all over homes, particularly in cracks and crevices near or on the ground; active primarily at night.

Diet: Scavengers; will eat just about anything.

Reproduction: Up to 60 eggs are laid in burrows in the ground and guarded by the female; hatch in the spring.

Other Information: Many species have a gland which secretes a foul-smelling, yellowish brown liquid when threatened.

DESCRIPTION AND BIOLOGY

Earwigs are spread primarily by transportation of products. Thus, items purchased at yard sales should be checked, as should cardboard boxes in damp outside areas. It is possible that most areas around homes are likely to be infested with earwigs. While it is unlikely that they can ever be completely eliminated, you can keep populations at acceptable levels.

Earwigs are reddish brown and up to 3/4 inch long when fully grown. Like other insects, they have three pairs of legs but, unlike other insects, they have a pair of forceps-like pincers extending from the back end. The pincers are used for defense and also to catch the insects on which earwigs sometimes feed.

Young earwigs resemble adults but are smaller. The female mothers her eggs and young until they are big enough to wander away from the nest and obtain their own food. Usually, earwigs are first noticed in the spring around the outside of the home near the foundation. A certain percentage of adults and eggs last through the winter.

Earwigs are noted for the damage they do to flowers, other ornamentals and vegetables. Their feeding gives leaves a ragged appearance. Corn silk is a favorite food which is often consumed as it grows. This prevents pollination and causes poorly developed ears with many kernels missing on the cobs. As populations increase and spread, the areas in which they hide become more unusual. For example, they may be found on a roof under shingles, under siding, or under items hanging on walls as well as the usual hiding places mentioned above. Because earwigs also feed on decomposing organic matter, compost and mulch may provide food and shelter.

Earwigs are nocturnal, actively feeding during the night and hiding during the day. As morning approaches, they search for a place to hide, preferably a dark, damp area underneath rubbish, boards, wood piles, near plants, rock borders or even in a home. Generally, they do not actively infest homes, but as they go up the foundations, any open area around the sill, door or window that will allow them to enter becomes an invitation to move in. They are not known to cause any damage to homes or their contents, but they are a nuisance, especially when they turn up in unusual places.

MANAGEMENT

A. Sanitation is most important. Avoid providing earwigs with ideal nesting or hiding places. Removing these hiding places is a continuous job, but the most important time to discourage is spring when plants are not yet sprouted and most outdoor items can be moved. Any items left outdoors overnight-- for example: laundry, lawn furniture, flowers, or vegetables--

should be checked for earwigs before they are brought into the home.

B. Diazinon, carbaryl (Sevin) and malathion can be used to control earwigs outside by spreading the insecticide in a 10-foot band around the home. Include the foundation, especially by basement doors and windows, where the sill of the house rests on the foundation, and where the siding starts. Sprinkle enough water on the sprayed ground to wash the insecticide off the plants and onto the soil (but not into the soil), where the earwigs will have the greatest exposure to the insecticide.

Insecticide labels will tell you on what garden plants they can be used and how to mix them.

Diazinon, deodorized malathion (Cythion) or propoxur (Baygon) may be used to control earwigs inside the home. Use only household formulations of insecticides and only for cracks and crevices. There is no need to do more. In fact, if earwigs are controlled outside, it is quite unlikely that inside control will be necessary, other than using a fly swatter, rolled newspaper, or vacuum cleaner to kill or clean up strays.

C. Traps made from two pieces of grooved wood placed together and leaned against a tree or the foundation, or 18 inch lengths of garden hose cut at a slant to allow greater exposure of the opening and laid in the area where earwigs are present, trap many earwigs at night. Placing boards or other items on the ground, giving the insects a hiding place, also makes an effective trap. A rolled up, moistened newspaper also functions as a good trap. Shaking the earwigs out of the traps or hose into a pail with a small amount of hot soapy water ends the pests' travels.

Predator Focus: Earwigs

The common name "earwigs" is derived from a superstition that these insects would enter the ears of people while they slept. This is simply not true. However, earwigs are equipped with a pair of stout forceps-like cerci on their tail end which they use to defend themselves if disturbed. In addition, some species of earwigs produce a foul-smelling fluid that they squirt out of a special opening when disturbed. Some can squirt this defensive secretion up to 4 inches.

Earwigs are most active at night. During the day they can be found in darkened recesses and crevices, usually outdoors but occasionally they find their way indoors. Depending on the species, earwigs feed on dead or decaying plants, on live plants, or on other insects. Predaceous species, such as the striped earwig, feed on a variety of insects including chinch bugs, small mole crickets, mites, scales, aphids and small caterpillars.

The striped earwig is about ĺ to 1 inch long, is dark brown in color, and has stripes running along the thorax (body region where legs and wings are found). The males are larger than the females and have stout cerci. Striped earwigs live in areas with sandy or clay soils in which they may construct tunnels.

EUROPEAN EARWIGS

Earwigs are one of the most disliked insects. The European earwig is the species most common to the Atlantic Provinces and can be found outside and inside the home. They enter a house with the help of a host - on humans, clothing, vegetables, newspapers, etc. Earwigs are reddish-brown, approximately 4/5 of an inch (2 cm) long with antennae and a noticeable set of pincers which protrude from the abdomen.

The pincers of the male are curved whereas those of the female are straight. The female uses her pincers to protect herself and eggs from other insects, but they cannot harm humans. Earwigs have wings but they are rarely used to fly.

Earwigs wait for darkness to begin their search for food and shelter.

They enjoy dark, moist areas and feed on decaying plant and animal matter. They also cause slug-like damage to leaves, petals, fruit and vegetables. One way to determine if a slug or earwig is the cause of damage is to look for a slimy substance which slugs leave behind.

Earwigs also damage vegetables by entering and enlarging existing holes.

Earwigs can be beneficial in the garden if they can be prevented from damaging vegetables and flowers, and entering the household. It is important to avoid killing earwigs because they are predators of some small insect pests such as aphids.

LIFE CYCLE

The life cycle of the earwig consists of egg, nymph and adult. In early spring, after overwintering in soil, the female earwig lays up to 60 eggs in the top section of soil. In about seven days, the eggs hatch and nymphs emerge. The female tends to the eggs and nymphs for the first two weeks. The nymphs are similar to adults, only smaller. Over a 70 day period, the nymphs pass through four growth stages before becoming an adult. Egg laying can take place twice per year (spring and summer).

Adult earwigs will be most noticeable in July, August and September.

Earwigs live for approximately one year, but most often the males die during the winter months.

CONTROL

Physical

If earwigs are damaging your plants, there are some physical control measures available. Since they are active at night, check your garden with a flashlight to determine if earwigs are present and causing damage. Practice sanitary conditions around your home by removing leaf litter, stacks of firewood, decaying matter and other items which attract earwigs.

Earwig traps are easy to construct and very economical. Take a rolled up newspaper, a piece of corrugated cardboard or a paper towel tube filled with straws and seal it on one end. Place it in an area of the garden where earwigs have been observed. When the earwigs crawl inside, it is next to impossible for them to escape. A bait of honey or peanut butter can be used to attract earwigs to these traps, but it is not necessary. Another trapping method is to place a shallow dish or can in a hole so that the top of it is at ground level. If a tin can is used, an empty tuna or sardine can with oil remaining on the inside is best. In the morning, check the traps and shake all captured earwigs into a bucket of soapy water.

To limit the number of earwigs which find a way into the household, take time to shake and look at objects before bringing them inside, seal cracks and check window openings and doors. Also check damp hiding places such as windows, flooring and under sinks. Earwigs may be found indoors during hot, dry summers.

Chemical

If physical control measures are not effective, use a pesticide which will have a minimal impact on both you and the environment. It is easier to treat earwigs during the nymph stage. Insecticidal soaps are available as a pesticidal control. There are also baits, dusts and sprays available to control earwigs.

If the above measures are not effective, consult with an expert at a garden center for additional pesticides available. Before using pesticides, consult the Backyard Bug Brigade Brochure which contains information on safe pest control.

Always use a registered domestic class pest control product labelled for earwig control and carefully follow the label directions.

Being only five eighths of an inch,

The earwig is hardly a cinch

For a soft easy berth

On the face of this earth,

Much less when you stomp without flinch.

In colour a dark reddish-brown,

With yellowish legs hanging down,

It cannot run fast.

Which is why its life's past

The moment that you go to town.

With cerci at end of its bod',

I find it exceedingly odd

That you take such offence

At its passive defence,

And act like a tin little God.

To humans it poses no threat

Aggravation, or worry, and yet

With a rage that's intense,

You take leave of all sense

And show spite with your curt pirouette.

It's active most mainly at night,

With short wings, it just cannot take flight.

So alone in the dark

On the ground it must park

And be treated by you like a blight

As a scavenger it can't be beat.

Indiscriminately it will eat

Anything, bad or good

That it lights on as food,

Yet it never attacks at your feet.

Now the eggs they all hatch in the spring;

Up to five dozen laid at each fling.

The female stands guard

'Till they hatch in your yard -

Motherhood is a wonderful thing.

Transportation of products helps spread

The next insect of which you have dread.

Yard sale items, if damp,

Or a wicker work hamp-

er are vehicles by which they're led.

Most unlike other insects, fer insters,

They're the only ones issued with pincers.

They have no guard at all

'gainst the heavy foot-fall

Or your delicate tread as a minceur.

There's a noted percentage of eggs,

(I suppose you could call them the dregs),

Will survive our cold winter

Until there's a hint o'

Warmth, then they hatch out on their legs.

Corn silk is a favorite food.

To the earwig exceedingly good.

They devour every tassel

And here is the hassle -

The maize stalk delivers no brood!

El Earwig siestas by day;

Calmly snoozing the sunlight away.

Which is why, late at night,

You should be so polite

And behave in a feminine way.

With the morning they all search to hide

In a place out-of-doors or inside.

There they all fall asleep

In a warm slumber deep.

(Except for the few that have died).

Sanitation's the natural trick!

Keeping clean every stake and each brick.

If your flower-bedís dirty

Earwigs by ten-thirty

Are more than at you'll shake a stick.

Now the earwig is easy to trap.

All it takes is a newspaper wrap

Or a short length of hose

To contain all of those

And be rid of them in just a snap.

And the earwig, although it appears

To be fond of a nest in your ears

Would avoid such canal

As a place too banal

'Cause it hasn't been up there for years.

Well, this earwig's a thing beneficial

And I have notes, so it's official.

They eat aphids and pests,

But what I likes best

Is their noise level's so superficial.

'Twixt the egg and adult there's nymph,

And to them I sing praise with this hymnph.

To essay to complete

Genocide with your feet

Means you'll probably walk with a limph.