earwig crawling on wooden surface

There are plenty of tall tales told about the insect known as the earwig. It makes sense that there would be. Earwigs look like they would be more at home on some alien landscape, rather than perched on a piece of wood in your backyard. But how true are these stories? Hopefully, the following will set the record straight about these disgusting little, brown bugs.

What Are Earwigs?

With more than 20 species of earwig in the United States, they are fairly common. These are scary looking, creepy bugs with pincers (called cerci) that protrude from their abdomens. Though they are definitely intimidating to look at, you can rest easy. Those pincers are not poisonous, they are not known to spread diseases, and they don't hurt all that much if an earwig decides to pinch you.

Depending on the species of earwig, adults can grow anywhere from 5-25 mm in length. They are slender insects with two pairs of wings. The hind wings usually fold under the front wings, and they are referred to as dermaptera, which means "skin wing." These wings are leathery in appearance. Immature earwigs, called nymphs, look like adult earwigs, except they do not have these wings.

Some species of earwigs in the U.S. produce a foul-smelling liquid that they use for defense. And, they also produce a pheromone (scent) that scientists believe is what allows earwigs to cluster together in large numbers. And, when they are disturbed, earwigs can move rather quickly to get away, which only adds to their creepiness. But, they are hardly the creatures of nightmare many stories make them out to be. Let's take a look at the myth.

The Myth About Earwigs

Legends say that earwigs crawl into the ears of sleeping people, burrowing into their brains, and lay their eggs in there. And movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, have helped to bring this myth back to life. But, you may be surprised to know that the truth is actually better than the fiction.

As it turns out, earwigs can climb into the ear of humans while they sleep. In fact, earwigs are drawn to dark, moist holes. If an earwig climbs into bed with you, there is no reason why it wouldn't want to climb into your nice, warm, moist, ear canal. But it isn't the only bug that likes to climb into the ears of sleeping people. There are documented cases of several patients that have had bugs surgically removed from their ears.

When a doctor in Taiwan removed the hearing aid from a woman suffering from pain in her ear, bloody fluid was found. On closer examination, an infestation of fruit flies was found.

In China, a woman went to the hospital complaining about having an itchy ear. The doctor examined her and found a web inside her ear canal. Apparently, a spider had been living in there for five days. Wow!

An Australian man paid a visit to the doctor complaining that he was suffering from excruciating pain in his ear. Doctors removed a cockroach.

One woman in India had a three-inch cricket removed from her ear. And it was still alive!

And, of course, through the years, there have been cases of earwigs being removed from the ears of distraught patients. This is probably part of what has inspired the tall tales. It also doesn't help that earwigs look like they could actually tunnel into our brains. Fortunately, they have no interest in doing so. And, even if they wanted to, they would not be able to. There is a thick bone in the ear canal that makes it impossible for insects to get to our brains.

So, there you have it. If you're finding earwigs inside your home, it may be possible for them to get into your ears. Buy it is highly unlikely. And, if they do, you're brains are safe.

It is also important to keep in mind that earwigs usually stay in moist, dark basement areas, and other locations inside your home where it is humid or wet. They don't prefer to be in your bedroom.

If you need any assistance sealing earwigs out of your home, we're here to help. At Russell's Pest Control, we don't just dispel the myths about bugs, we use industry-leading methods to seal them out of homes and businesses too.   


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