Figure 1. An adult earwig. Note the reddish-brown color, flattened appearance, and cerci at the end of the abdomen. Photo by Buyung Hadi.
The wet conditions in the Southeast portion of the state this spring resulted in a large number of earwigs showing up in homes and gardens. Earwigs (Order Dermaptera) are very distinctive and are often feared by onlookers due to the pincer or forceps appendages present at the end of their body, but they are not harmful to humans (Figure 1). The pincers (called cerci) are used for defense, but earwigs do not seek out humans to attack.
Profile & Behavior
Earwigs are omnivorous, and commonly feed on pest arthropods such as aphids and mites, as well as decaying plant material, and garden plants. Occasionally, earwigs are considered garden pests when their feeding damages fruit or foliage. However, for the most part they prefer to inhabit areas under mulch, potted plants, compost piles, or other damp, sheltered locations.
Generally, earwigs exist outdoors and are mostly unnoticed, but like many other insects they can find their way inside homes and other structures. Earwigs do not reproduce indoors or try to take up permanent residence. They find their way inside through cracks and crevices in foundations or around windows and doors. Earwigs can also hitch a ride on cut flowers and other produce from the garden.
A single earwig (or a few) indoors can be easily managed with a shoe, broom, or vacuum. If large numbers of earwigs are finding their way inside (or if earwigs are consistently showing up), examine the exterior of your home for potential entry points, and work to seal up cracks and crevices and making sure screens and doors are secure and free of holes or large gaps.
Barrier insecticide treatments applied around the foundation may prevent some accidental insect invasions, but making the home or structure less permeable to insects will have a longer lasting effect.