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Earwigs, What to Know
July 12, 2010

Now this is an 'Old Fashion' summer.

Just like me, many of you are experiencing some heat waves and probably feel a bit like this squirrel.

I snapped a picture of it last week on one of the 90+ degree days with the air you can wear.

It was very warm and this tree rat chose to chill than glean under the bird feeders.

I watched it for several minutes through the window and had a good chuckle.

Thank God for the very timely rain on Thursday.

My apologies for the poor quality, but it was taken at an angle with some sun reflection.

The cucumber plant is in a large pot, on my deck.

While we were gone a few days a couple of weeks ago, a neighbor was to keep things well watered.

When we came home this pot had some serious drooping to it.

The results showed up a few days later with the burned edges to the foliage and cucumbers that resemble an hour glass or dumbbell.

Wait to long to water and the cuke become bitter tasting as well.

Because the edge of the leaves is the last to receive water, the damage shows up there first.

This is the case with most plants (burned edges).

Bird activity remains strong as more American goldfinches bless us with their song and beauty.

As long as I have habitat, fresh water and feeders, a shortage of birds is not an issue for me.

Did you catch the importance of habitat and fresh water?

Feeders alone usually wont get it done.

Even this time of year you can add on and plan your habitats and gardens.

Start looking for bargains at garden centers (especially the big box stores).

What's in bloom now that you don't have?

What shrubs or small trees offer fruits?

Not to mention protection.

A simple native flower like this Liatris growing in my yard performs triple duty for me and then some.

I get to enjoy the beauty.

Pollinators like bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds enjoy nectar and pollen.

In late summer and early Fall, birds (especially Goldfinches) enjoy the bountiful seed crop.

Evening walks continue, even in the heat,
though I must use skeeter repellents now .

I take my walk and then shorter walks with the fur kids.

Keet over heats to fast so the walk is after sunset and I do carry a dogie water bottle with me.

It comes with a water bottle, a drinking tray and it can hook to your belt while you walk.

It's a neat thing to have and you can find them at most pet supply stores.

This week's topic is one I haven't touched on before, but is an issue for most of you this time of year.

The earwig or....... European earwig.

As my grand daughter Jasimine used to call them, 'Eartwigs'.


They're every where, I think this is what bothers most people.

Not the simple fact that they may chew on a few plants, But they can ruin a perfectly good strawberry or peach (personal experience).

The biggest annoyance is this, they find a way into our homes.

Pull back a shower curtain and there they are.

Get ready to do your laundry and walla.

Just about any dark and especially damp place and you can find these pests.

What is a person to do and how do you know it's an earwig?

Earwigs have large, pincers-like protrusions at the rear of the body, which give them an evil appearance, but they don't harm people directly.

Still, they can cause people problems by feeding on flowers and vegetables outdoors, by crawling into the home, and by congregating under well caps.

Most species of the more than 1,200 species of earwigs are scavengers of a wide range of organic debris, including carrion.

A total of 18 species of earwigs occur in North America (including introduced species).

Some species are herbivorous, some are opportunistic predators of other insects, and a few, specialized species are parasites of mammals.

The most common native earwig in Europe is Forficula auricularia, a species that is now also widespread in North America and much of the world.

The European earwigs is our topic today.

Many people don't know this, but earwigs have small, vestigial forewings modified into a wing case, but their membranous hind-wings are large, folded, and functional, although they are not often used for flying.

Earwigs received their common name from the folk belief that these insects would sometimes crawl into the ears of people as they slept, seeking refuge in those dark, moist cavities.

This may, indeed, sometimes occur, there is no evidence that earwigs in the ear are a common problem, except as very rare accidents.

Identification and Life Cycle

Adult European earwigs are reddish brown and about 3/4 inch long.

Their most distinctive feature is the prominent, pincers-like cerci (pronounced "sir-see") on the end of the abdomen.

Earwigs use their cerci for defense, capturing prey, and sensing the environment.

The cerci can pinch you if you stick a finger between them, but they can't break the skin.

Male earwigs have curved cerci that are thicker at the base, while females have thin, straight cerci.

In colder climates, pairs of earwigs overwinter by digging 2-3 inches into the soil to hibernate.

Males leave the hibernation sites first, and the females follow in late May.

You may see your first earwig of the summer by mid-June.

In some parts of the country the females enter the soil again to deposit a second set of eggs, but in colder climates earwigs most likely produce just one generation per year.

Unusually wet springs and summers often intensify earwig infestations.

Earwigs eat an omnivorous diet of other insects and plants.

This diet can be beneficial as earwigs feed on aphids, mites, fleas, and insect eggs.

Unfortunately, in gardens they munch on dahlias, marigolds, lettuce, potatoes, and hostas and even your prize peaches up near the stem.

They will also feed on mosses, lichens, and algae.

Earwigs are active at night and hide during the day in almost any dark, confined space, particularly if it is moist.

They mate end to end, often grasping each other's pincers,

Females are able to store sperm for several months before fertilization.

Here is something you may find very interesting.

Female earwigs exhibit an instinct that is very rare among insects as they care for eggs and young.

Females reproduce up to 20-60 eggs laid in burrows (called chambers).

The females turn, lick, and reposition their eggs.

They also bring food to the newly hatched young and protect them in the nest.

It takes about 2 months for nymphs to mature.

Life Cycle:

A female will lay hers eggs in a burrow she has excavated or in natural crevices in the soil, where she will stand guard protectively until the young hatch.

The female guards the eggs from predators and constantly turns and cleans them, preventing fungus diseases.

Upon hatching the young earwigs resemble small adults and remain under the protection of their mother for a short period of time.

They must then disperse to new areas or risk being eaten by her.

The earwig's nocturnal activity, quick movements, size, and color often cause them to be mistaken for cockroaches.

Although, like some cockroaches, earwigs have wings, they fly very badly. Earwigs spread largely by infested plant material, cut flowers, and other human activities.

Earwig problems:

The earwigs' habit of hiding leads them into trouble with people.

They often come indoors to hide, or they conceal themselves under outdoor furniture, hoses, garbage cans, shower curtains,or poor-fitting well caps.

They do not breed indoors but simply hide, then become active at night.

Loose-fitting well caps provide an ideal hiding place for earwigs: dark and damp during the day.

Once inside a well cap, an earwig may fall into the water, die, and decay, thereby increasing bacterial contamination of the well.

Earwigs are not considered a public health threat and are not associated with any disease; nevertheless, you should replace poor-fitting well caps with vermin-proof caps to prevent any insects from contaminating the water.

Plant Damage:

Earwigs eat small holes in plant leaves during the night.

The damage often appears small compared to the large pest populations present, and it can be confused with injuries caused by slugs, cutworms, or even rabbits.

Larger plants will tolerate the feeding, but seedlings and flowering plants can be severely damaged or killed by dense populations.

You should suspect earwig problems if you find damage during the day but can't find any insects on the plants.

Confirm the presence of earwigs by checking the plants at night, or by looking for them congregated under boards, firewood, or tree bark next to your plants.

Hiding under mulch is a good place to check as well.

Organic Control:

Earwigs congregate in areas that are shaded or filled with lush plant material, boards, debris, or organic mulch.

Exposed, sunny yards have fewer problems.

Two species of parasitic fly, including Digonichaeta setipennis, have been introduced to help control earwigs naturally.

In good years these parasites attack and kill over 1/3 of the earwig population.

You can trap earwigs in rolled up newspapers or in old tuna fish cans baited with fish oil or vegetable oil.

Place traps near the problem areas and check them each morning. Shake live insects into a pail of soapy water to kill them.

Converting the backyard to a dry, sunny environment with few hiding places will also help control earwigs, but who wants to do that?

Remove any shelter sites, prune low-growing bushes, avoid growing the earwigs' favored food plants, and destroy moss and algae.

(Whew, this is becoming to much like work.)

Avoid over watering and don't use thick organic mulches.

Most of the time earwigs do not need to be actively controlled since healthy plants will outgrow small amounts of earwig damage.

Limit moisture as much as possible and remove debris that might serve as hiding places.

Occasionally, however, earwig numbers may build to the point that an active control program is needed.

To reduce earwig numbers treat foliage and flowers with a combination of neem oil insecticide and insecticidal soap.

This combination is very safe and won't disrupt beneficial species.

One such combination product is Bon-Neem.

Always follow label directions carefully and you may need to retreat every few days until the earwig population and plant damage diminish.

Spray cider vinegar or mint spray on them.

For me, earwigs always find my nest boxes and a good spray of cider vinegar or mint, will kill off and keep earwigs away as well as working on wasps the same way.

No worries, these organic items are food items and wont harm your birds.

Chemical Use:

A variety of insecticides available to homeowners are labeled for earwig control.

You can use the following materials as baits, liquid sprays, granules, or dust like,Carbaryl (Sevin), Chlorpyrifos (Dursban), and Propoxur (Baygon).

Read the label to determine the proper sites and vegetable restrictions.

Also, chemicals can't tell the difference between a good bug and a bad one.

Use with caution.

Applying insecticides to the daytime hiding places will give more successful control.

Insecticide applications made late in the day are most effective.

Wettable powders and granular formulations perform better.

A common recommendation is to apply insecticides as a barrier treatment.

Sprays or dust are applied to the exterior foundation walls and a 2-3 foot swath along the adjacent ground.

Flower beds and mulches can also be treated.

Many lawn insecticides could be used on grass, but that would be an extreme response to this problem.

Avoid harsh chemicals if possible, you don't want to harm the Beneficial Insects Indoor:

If earwigs are getting into your home, caulk cracks and crevices and weather-strip doors to prevent their entry.

Check windows, the junction of the siding with the foundation, and all outdoor water faucets for openings that earwigs can squeeze through.

Remove firewood, unneeded plant material, and organic mulches from the foundation area.

Clear debris and leaves from the troughs of eaves.

Individual earwigs found indoors may be vacuumed or killed by hand.

Many indoor spray cleaners will kill individuals on contact, as will most ant and roach sprays, but sealing or caulking openings is a more effective and permanent approach.

Earwigs will not breed indoors, so if you have a continual problem, this suggests constant migration from outside.

There you have it .

Everything you ever wanted to know about earwigs.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.

Horace (65-8 BC) Roman Poet

How true it is.

Things are going good for you.

You have a roof over your head, maybe a real nice one.

A good job and a healthy family.

Maybe you have a pool or a nice boat.

Life is good................................

Not a worry in the world or any troubling issues nipping at your heels.

Just kicking back and living large.

No worries, no efforts, no problems.


Something happens.

You lose your or your spouse lose a job.

A family member gets into an accident or is stricken with an illness.

Something happens where you may loose everything you have worked for and enjoyed.

This is all so new to you.

Are you going to panic or freak out?

Are you going to sit in the corner and cry.


Are you going to dig deep and find out what you are made of.

A strong person pulls them self up and gets going.

Nothing is going to hold you down.

This is what adversity can do for you.

It can make you better and stronger.

It can make you more creative.


It can bury you 'IF' you allow it to.

What is it going to be my friend?

(I know of what I speak).

I think some adversity is a good thing. it keeps me on my toes and allows me to grow.

It also helps to keep my 'Heavenly Father' with me every day, through good and bad times.

I can rejoice and I know he is there when I feel helpless (he likes a broken heart).

This is cause to smile and to share my smiles.

When I am asked why I smile I am glad to tell you.

You are strong and adversity wont hold you down.

Find and use your god given talents.

Be sure to share and help others.

Be creative and praise our 'King' daily.

Until next time

God Bless

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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