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Pest Spotlight: Earwigs

Pest Spotlight: Earwigs

Earwigs, or pincer bugs as they’re commonly called, are those familiar insects with a pair of claws, or pincers, at the end of their abdomens. Despite their ubiquity, few know much about their biology or behavior. Read on for some interesting facts about these insects!

They can’t hurt you.

Yep, that’s right. All the times you have recoiled from earwigs in fear of getting pinched were for nothing. Despite their terrifying appearance, those pincers are not generally strong enough to pierce human skin. In earwigs, these structures, called cerci, serve several sensory and behavioral functions. They are typically used by an earwig to fight another earwig or fend off a small predator. Thus the musculature supporting them lacks the strength to do any firm piercing, like would be needed to puncture human skin. This is not to say we recommend trying to stick your finger into the claws; we just hope this information saves you from being startled when you see one!

They have some of the most unique wings of all insects.

We bet you didn’t know these insects could fly! Not only can they fly, but their wings are extremely unique among insects. If you look at the surface of an earwig, you’ll see small, squared structures where you would expect wings to be. These forewings serve to protect the delicate hindwings, which are hidden underneath (much like beetles). When it’s time to fly, the earwig unfolds its membranous hindwings. These wings are highly folded – some of the most folded in the insect world. The unfolded wings are 10 + times larger than when they are folded. In fact, the folding pattern of their wings is so complex and efficient that it has inspired recent Origami art. Perhaps even more interesting than their folding pattern is the fact that the folding and unfolding of the wings is not controlled by muscles. Instead, regions of the wings serve as spring loaded anchoring points for quick folding and unfolding. Perform an image search of earwig wings – you won’t be disappointed!

They have no interest in your ears. 

Entomologists aren’t 100% sure how this rumor started, but earwigs don’t invade ears and feed on earwax. It is believed that this rumor stems from an old French word for these insects that meant “pierce ear,” a nod to the pincers on the abdomen. Rather than human ears, earwigs much prefer living in areas of moist organic matter, such as the soil or a rotting log. They feed on small insects, mites, algae, and mosses. Earwigs prefer cool, moist places, so you may notice them more in your garage or home on excessively hot, dry days. You may noticed that you find them frequently in your mailbox. Like your home or garage, your mailbox offers these insects a cool, protected place to spend the day. 

If you are noticing high numbers of earwigs in your Raleigh home, give us a call for an inspection. This may indicate a moisture or sealing problem in your home, which opens the door for many other pests.