Discover everything you need to know about earwigs in our guide below.
What are Earwigs?
Earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, belong to the order Dermaptera. These tiny insects commonly invade homes and are known for emitting a foul smell when disturbed.
While there are more than 20 species of earwigs in the US and more than 1,000 worldwide, the most common is the European Earwig. While earwigs are mostly a nuisance, they can damage plants and crops.
What do Earwigs Look Like?
Earwigs have long, narrow, dark brown bodies that are about 1” long. Their prominent antennae and pincers protruding from the backs of their abdomens (males have curved pincers, while females’ are straighter) can make them look menacing.
Earwigs have two pairs of wings – a front and a hind, and they usually keep their rear wings folded underneath the front wings. Not all species of earwigs fly, and those that do are only capable of short bursts of flight.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Earwigs are found throughout the US. They prefer moist, dark habitats that offer theme shelter and safe places to breed.
Outdoors, they’re commonly found in moist organic matter, such as debris piles, under mulch, under boards or stones, or in rotted wood. Indoors, you’ll find them in basements and crawl spaces, in damp areas under sinks or toilets, or living in the moist trays of potted plants.
Both indoors and outdoors, earwigs feed on various things, including decaying organic matter, small insects, plants, vegetables, and ornamental plants.
Outdoors, earwigs can damage ornamental and garden plants by feeding on the flowers. Indoors, earwigs can chew holes in potted plants.
Earwigs are most active at night. Female earwigs dig cells in organic matter or potted plants to lay masses of eggs – often 30 or more at a time. These eggs hatch into small nymphs, which become adults. Once mature, adult earwigs live for about one year.
How to Get Rid of Earwigs
There are several effective ways to get rid of earwigs, including habitat modification, trapping, sanitation, and chemical control. We recommend starting by removing moisture and eliminating earwig habitat.
Add dehumidifiers to your basement or crawl space, stop overwatering plants, and ensure proper ventilation in attics and crawl spaces.
Place store-bought or homemade traps to control remaining earwigs, and practice long-term sanitation, including trimming landscaping and securing food in airtight containers.
Check out our complete guide to learn more about how to control earwigs.
While earwigs look intimidating, they don’t attack humans and aren’t usually considered dangerous. While they may use their forceps to pinch a person if they’re threatened, they typically don’t break the skin, and since they’re not poisonous, they’re not a significant threat to people.
No. The myth that earwigs intentionally burrow into the ear canal to lay eggs is a myth. That said, earwigs can sometimes enter a person’s ear seeking shelter, which can cause severe ear discomfort.
Earwigs will enter your home to find food, shelter, and habitats to live and breed. They love rotting vegetation and secluded, moist areas.