Recently, areas of Eastern and Western South Dakota have received large amounts of rain. For some, these rain events have resulted in indoor and outdoor property flooding. In addition to property damage, these rains have also made the conditions perfect for one of South Dakota’s nuisance insect pests: earwigs. Although earwigs haven’t been overly abundant during 2018, they are starting to make their presence known in and around homes. Earwigs can be considered accidental home invaders as there isn’t a source of food for them indoors. The large pincher like cerci that are present at the end of their abdomen can make them look menacing. However, earwigs are considered to be more of a nuisance and not a threat to humans (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Earwig. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst
The name earwig literally means “ear creature” and was given to these insects due to a superstition that they would crawl into human ears and bore into the brain. Fortunately, these were just superstitions and earwigs are not known for crawling into people’s ears while they sleep.
There are many different species of earwigs present in North America, with most being non-native. The most abundant and commonly observed is the European earwig. Typically, earwig populations go undetected; however, population explosions can occur during warm, humid periods in the summer (e.g., after large rain events). Earwigs are usually found under logs and other shade providing objects in the yard, especially in areas where the soil is moist. We have also seen that earwigs tend to congregate on milkweed plants and also rhubarb.
Earwigs can be found almost anywhere in the home, with areas surrounding sinks in kitchens and bathrooms being the most common. These insects are scavengers and consume almost anything they find. Earwig entrance into a home can be difficult to block, as they are able to pass through very small spaces.
Initial Management Recommendations
- Examine doors and windows to make sure that they are properly sealed. Often, worn weather-stripping will permit the entrance of insects into a home.
- Remove any boards, logs, and decaying plant matter from around the home, as they provide moist habitats for earwigs. In some cases, these objects will actually attract earwigs.
- Traps can be used to catch earwigs inside and outside the home.
- Exterior perimeter insecticides can be used to effectively reduce invading earwig populations. Indoor perimeter sprays are also available and may further reduce earwig infestations.
If earwigs make it into the home, the easiest way to manage small populations is to simply trap them and dispose of them.