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Looking Past the Mythology: Earwigs in Atlanta

August 31, 2018

Looking Past the Mythology: Earwigs in Atlanta

As with most rumors, it’s tough to say how the one about earwigs got started. You may have heard it: The insects were thought to crawl into people’s ears when they’re sleeping. But, as with all old wives’ tales, this legend is not true. In fact, the insects are not dangerous to people. They do make their way into people’s homes in Atlanta, GA, on occasion, and they damage plants in gardens. So, if you spot earwigs, whether they’re hiding under the leaves of your Hosta or in your bathroom, look past the mythology: This pest is, quite simply, a nuisance.

How Did the Earwig Myth Get Its Start? 

While historians and language experts have yet to determine how the earwig got its name, there are plenty of theories. Some believe that the insect’s name comes from an Old English saying for “beetle.” Other experts think that people modified the term “ear wing,” which refers to the insect’s back wings that are shaped sort of like an ear. Then there are those who have translated the name “earwig” into “ear creature” or “ear wiggler.” These are also references to the bug crawling into people’s ears – and the possible start of the myth. 

But the name of the insect alone doesn’t actually explain why an earwig would be interested in climbing into our ears. The idea that they do so likely came from the fact that the bugs smell a bit like wax due to an abdominal gland secretion, as well as their nocturnal behaviors and preference for moist, warm conditions.

What Are the Actual Habits of Earwigs in Atlanta, GA? 

Earwigs: Separating Fact from Fiction: 1) Fact: They like dark, moist conditions; they are commonly found in gardens; colonies are small and unstructured. 2) Fiction: They commonly burrow into people's ears (this is a popular old wives' tale); they crave indoor conditions (they usually come indoors by accident).

Earwigs are typically reddish-brown or black in color and can be as long as 1 1/2 inches. Like all insects, they have six legs and antennae, but what sets them apart is their defining set of pincers on their posterior. The earwig lives in most parts of the world. Across the United States, researchers have discovered about 2,000 different earwig species. They love the Atlanta, GA, climate with its toasty summers and mild winters, as well as the constant humidity that provides plenty of warm, moist areas for them to inhabit (our ears not included).

Unlike ants and bees, the earwig species is not a social one, so they don’t live within a worker colony with a king or queen. That means with this type of insect, you won’t spot a nest and instead will only see one or two of them at most around your home. Still, a few can become a larger problem when an earwig lays eggs, leading them to scatter throughout a yard. In the spring and summer when temperatures and rainfall rise, conditions are ideal for the insects.

An earwig fact that probably won’t help you feel more comfortable about the pest is that some species have the ability to fly. This insect has a smooth exterior skin, and it’s able to hide effectively among your plants and outdoor furniture. The pincers of a female earwig are straight while the males have curved ones. They may look intimidating to humans, but the insects typically only use them when they need to defend themselves or when battling rival earwigs. So, even their scariest features aren’t that bad.

Earwig Infestations 

Active at night, earwigs hide in the cracks and crevices of damp areas during the day. They usually dine on rotting vegetation, as well as live sprouts. If their ground cover is moved, then they’ll quickly scatter to a safer spot – their fast speed also makes them hard to catch if they ever get indoors. Yet, earwigs are unlikely to move in with you unless they’re hungry or attracted to a damp space like a humid basement or moist garage. They prefer to hang out in wet or moist soil, so it’s much more likely for you to spot them in your garden or lawn.

Earwigs don't typically come indoors on their own, but they make their way into homes on occasion (usually inadvertently). Here are a few ways to assure they won't find a way into your home. 1) Keep plants and water sources away from the home. 2) Keep doors and windows closed and any cracks or crevices sealed. 3) Carefully examine items you bring indoors.

If you do spot one in your home, it’ll probably be in your laundry room, kitchen, or bathroom because these are the areas of your home that are the wettest and dampest. If you have indoor plants, an earwig may become an indoor pest since the insects like to feed on young, healthy plants (this means your outdoor plants are also at risk of being munched on). You may see one under your pots in the area meant to hold the water that drains from the plants.

Earwigs come indoors either inadvertently or because the conditions are just right, so there are three things you can do before contacting the professionals. Prevent them from…

  • …getting too close: Keep plants and water sources away from the home wherever possible (this makes them less likely to end up in the house).
  • …finding a way inside: Keep doors and windows sealed, and check items you bring in from outside to make sure they don’t accidentally hitch a ride in.
  • …growing comfortable inside: Dry out areas they’re likely to inhabit with dehumidifiers or fans. Also, eliminate water sources by fixing leaky pipes and dripping faucets.

When Should I Get Pest Control for Earwigs in Atlanta, GA?

There are instances in which earwigs can become a bigger problem than a simple nuisance. When conditions outside are too hot or dry, they’ll seek cool, moist places indoors. Also, if they’ve made a habit of dining on your plants, it’s imperative to get rid of them to protect your garden. No matter the circumstances, we have the pest control services at Allgood Pest Solutions to stop earwigs. Whether they’re a problem inside or outside, contact us for residential services specific to your needs.

Tags: Atlanta pest control  |  earwigs  |  earwig prevention tips

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