According to an urban legend, earwigs enter people’s ears, hence their name. Actually, the order Dermaptera’s insects feed on both plant material and other insects. But you may be wondering what exactly an earwig eats on a daily basis.
Due to their omnivorous nature, earwigs eat a variety of foods, including lichens, pollen, and other plants. Earwigs frequently feed on sowbugs, mites, aphids, and other insects’ eggs, which they will eat either alive or dead. Once inside a house, the earwig diet diversifies to include foods that are kept in storage, like bread, flour, and cookies.
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What Are Earwigs?
Although they can be found almost anywhere that has growth, earwigs prefer warm, humid climates. They are not only quick movers, but they also prefer to hide during the day while you are taking care of the garden, so you might have a hard time spotting one. They prefer damp, dark environments with decaying wood and plant matter. They frequently inhabit woodpiles and basements.
The only other insect in the order Dermaptera, which dates back 208 million years, is an earwig. Today, there are nearly 2,000 species spread out across the globe, excluding the polar regions. The name “earwig” comes from the Old English ear-wicga, which means “ear wiggler”—so named because the insect was once thought to seek out human ears to reside in. In France, they’re called “ear piercers” (perce-orielles) and in Germany, “ear worms” (Ohrwürmer).
In North America, we’re most familiar with Forficula auricularia, a The first records of earwigs in North America date back to the early 1900s; today, they are a common sight across the majority of the United States and some regions of Canada.
A bustling social scene is enjoyed by earwigs. Because they frequently discover the same hiding places during the day, they assemble there. Since they are not territorial and their nests can number in the thousands, they frequently coexist with one another.
What Do Earwigs Eat?
It might seem that earwigs catch some large insects, like large cockroaches, due to the size of the forceps. The pincers or forceps are extremely well-developed and appear to be deadly hunting tools. When interacting with human intruders, they may even seem to be dangerous weapons.
It is a myth that earwigs are harmful to people. The forceps, which are more fully developed in males, are a defense mechanism, help with reproduction, and in some circumstances, might even aid in hunting.
Most species of earwigs feed on decaying vegetation, such as composting leaves and other decaying plant items found under wet leaves or mulch. Earwigs favor damp, dark environments. These areas are preferred by the earwigs, who like to reside there and lay their eggs.
Several species of earwigs are predators, preying on smaller insects and arthropods. These are less frequent than earwigs that feed on plants.
Additionally, some earwig species will attack plants, particularly young plants. Earwigs enjoy eating these delicate shoots. Some crop and garden plants can exhibit earwig damage, which can cause the plant serious harm and render it useless.
What Do Earwigs Eat?
Considering their small size, earwigs can consume a lot, though it is unclear how much one earwig can consume. Their preference for aphids and plant lice, however, makes them very useful in gardens. Earwigs help plants and flowers in general by eating these common garden pests!
Earwigs’ Method Of Food Discovery
Earwigs are primarily thought of as scavengers and will eat anything they come across while searching for food. They frequently choose an environment that has a lot of decaying matter and is warm and damp. They don’t have much trouble finding food because they can eat almost any kind of plant material or other insects. They are unintentional pests that prefer the outdoors, though they may occasionally find their way into a human home.
Earwigs And Other Animals In A Food Competition?
Earwigs do not always have to compete with one another for food because of their diet. Other organisms that consume decomposing matter, like termites or worm species, are an earwig’s main competitors for food. They might also run into ant species that also eat trash, putting them in danger. The earwig will avoid conflict with this social species and look for food elsewhere because many ant species have been known to attack solitary insects.
Do Earwigs Pinch?
An earwig has formidable-looking pincers at the end of its abdomen. They can pinch (and occasionally bite) people, but the pinch is not particularly strong. The majority of the time, earwigs use their pincers to fend off predators like toads and birds, though some species also use them to catch prey.
The pincers, called “cerci,” are also important for romance. They serve as gender markers, much like an elephant’s tusks do. The pincers of an earwig are long and curved in males while they are shorter and straighter in females.
How To Get Rid Of Earwigs?
Earwigs can be just as annoying, but they generally pose less of a threat to your garden than other pests like Japanese beetles and aphids. Keep in mind that they can emit a bad smell when disturbed. Try these remedies:
- In the spaces between your plants, lay one-foot lengths of bamboo or garden hose. Check these “traps” each morning, and dump the earwigs into a bucket of soapy water.
- Your plants’ stems should be covered in petroleum jelly. Insects like earwigs won’t dare crawl on top of it.
- If your woodpile is infested, try sprinkling some borax around it. However, after doing so, keep kids and pets away from the area.
- Oil pit traps are an excellent earwig treatment. In a little plastic container with a lid, combine equal parts soy sauce and olive or vegetable oil. Make holes near the lid in the top of the container. Make the openings large enough for the earwigs to enter. Just enough soil should be added to the holes to bury the container. Oil will keep the earwigs from escaping while the soy sauce will draw them in. Adjust the mixture as necessary. Learn more about how to make earwig traps.
- Alcohol kills insects on contact by acting as a surfactant, or wetting agent, which can pierce their waxy protective layer. Although it’s simple to find and works well, isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) should not contain any additives. It seems to work best with ethanol (grain alcohol). Most alcohol sold in stores is 70 percent strength (or 95 percent strength when purchased commercially). To make an insecticidal spray, combine 70 percent alcohol and water in an equal amount (or, if using 95 percent alcohol, 1 part alcohol to 1 ½ parts water). Target the insects directly if you want the spray to have any effect.
- WARNING: Test an insecticidal spray on a single leaf before using it on your plants. To see if the plant has a negative reaction, wait 24 hours and then keep an eye on it. If so, add more dilution to your alcohol solution and conduct another test.
- If the soil is dry enough, you might want to put a ring of diatomaceous earth (DE) around the bases of the plants because earwigs are also susceptible to it. DE is useless in wet conditions. DE should not be used around flowers because it will also kill pollinators.
How To Recognize Earwigs?
- Earwigs can grow to a length of about 3/4 inch. These rusty-brown insects have what appear to be forceps on the ends of their tails. The earwig is one of the few insects with a pair of terrifying-looking pincers. This is why some folks call them “pincher bugs” or “pinching bugs.” These appendages are known as cerci, and they are attached to the insect’s abdomen.
- Even though they don’t fly often, earwigs can fly and move very quickly. Their pincers help to spread out their two sets of wings, which they actually have.
- Nocturnal by nature, earwigs consume decaying plant matter and wood as their main sources of food. However, if given the chance, they will also attack living plants such as ornamental plants, ornamental trees, and vegetables. Flowers, delicate greens like celery and lettuce, fruits, and flowers are particularly favored by earwigs.
- In underground tunnels, female earwigs lay 40 to 50 shiny eggs. Strangely, the mothers carefully tend to the eggs and keep predators away. Earwig population management before they hatch is very challenging because they hatch in about a week.
- Simply put, nymphs resemble adult earwigs in miniature. They go through several skin changes before maturing ten weeks later.
- Earwigs frequently hide under pots during the day and eat the flowers in the pots at night.
Signs Of Earwig Damage
- The leaves will look ragged and pierced with holes. Overnight, plants will lose their lush appearance, and some leaves will only be partially consumed. Additionally, there will probably be a scattering of the small, black pellets that make up earwig excrement.
- When it rains, earwigs are forced to climb up into plants and leaves in search of a dry place to hide, which leads to damage.
- Infested plants in pots may have earwigs hiding underneath.
- Earwig damage resembles slug and snail damage in appearance. Look for the distinguishing characteristic of slugs and snails: a trail of slime residue on foliage.
How To Prevent Earwigs?
- Rainy years will bring more earwigs, so be ready by clearing away plant debris and other potential hiding places.
- Ivy-covered walls and hedges may be home to many earwigs; stay away from planting susceptible plants there.
- Natural earwig predators include both birds and toads. See our advice on how to design a garden that will appeal to birds.
- Earwigs occasionally make their way inside your home from mulch and other outside moist materials. Although they are not harmful, they can still be inconvenient. In order to avoid this, make sure everything you bring inside is bug-free, particularly firewood, laundry, patio furniture, flowers, vegetables, and produce. Create a zone of bare soil that will dry out and move mulch away from the foundation of your house. Vacuum up any earwigs that may have found their way inside your house.
How Dangerous Are Earwigs To People?
Although many people think that the earwig’s common name comes from the superstition that female earwigs might lay their eggs in a sleeping person’s ears or even in the brains, this is a complete myth! As accidental pests, earwigs pose no greater risk to you than any other insect, and it is highly unlikely that they will establish a home invasion. The name “earwig” was given to the insect because of its unusual hindwing shape, which to some people when opened resembles an ear. However, it is more likely that this unique shape was the inspiration for the name.
The earwig is not thought to be particularly dangerous to humans; at worst, contact may only cause an annoyance-inducing pinch that feels like a pinprick. Even the widely held belief that earwigs are a troublesome insect in gardens and orchards may be slightly exaggerated because they are nocturnal and the crop damage they cause is typically viewed as minor. The earwig’s consumption of more harmful garden pests like aphids may outweigh any minor harm they may cause!
Do Earwigs Eat Plant Life?
Yes, earwigs eat a variety of plants because they are opportunistic feeders. Earwigs will consume developing plants, tender fruits like apricots, vegetables, ornamental plants, and some types of flowers. As they eat leafy greens like lettuce, radishes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and occasionally peanut pods, these insects can become a nuisance in greenhouses and gardens.
Do Earwigs Eat Wood?
Earwigs are known to consume the aforementioned plant species, but there is no proof that they also consume wood.
Knowing the components of the earwig diet will help you keep an eye out for them in your house or garden. These insects are beneficial when present in small numbers outdoors because they feed on other annoyance pests. However, if you notice a lot of them, it might be time to speak with a pest control expert.
Nymph Earwigs Eat What?
One of the few insect species that provides protection to its eggs is the earwig. Until they reach adulthood, earwig nymphs are fed by their mother after eating the egg sacks they laid.
Female earwigs can lay up to 300 eggs in moist soil, and their young are known as nymphs. In contrast to many other insects, the female earwig will watch over and shield the young nymphs until they are fully grown. Nymphs eat their egg sacks throughout this time. As they molt until they take on their adult form, they also consume the mother’s regurgitations.
Does The Earwig’s Diet Vary According To The Season?
The season has no bearing on the type of diet that earwigs consume. However, earwigs may hibernate in places with significant seasonal weather variations. During the colder months of the year, they accomplish this by tunneling under the ground. To avoid the cold, earwigs can burrow up to six feet deep!