Description: The common name of “earwig” comes from an old European superstition that these insects enter the ears of sleeping people and bore into the brain. This belief has not been proven to be true. The forceps, like cerci, are apparently used as both offensive and defensive weapons, and are sometimes used to capture prey.
Earwigs are worldwide, with about 22 species occurring in the United States. Adults are about ¼”-1” long with elongated body flattened in form. Color varies from pale brown with dark markings to uniformly reddish brown to black, but with paler legs.
Earwigs typically overwinter outdoors as adults in protected situations. The European earwig overwinters in pairs in earthen cells beneath the surface. They are nocturnal or active at night and hide during the day in moist, shady places such as under stones or logs, or in mulch. Neither the eggs nor nymphs can withstand long periods of dryness. Earwigs feed on live or dead plants and/or insects.
Pest Status: At times, earwigs damage cultivated plants. They occasionally damage vegetables, flowers, fruits, ornamental shrubs, and trees. Earwigs have also been known to feed on honey in beehives. Earwigs are attracted to lights or to insects attracted to lights. Usually it is the European and red-legged earwigs which occasionally invade homes, sometimes by the hundreds or thousands.