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Earwigs – “Pincher Bugs”

Earwigs are commonly known as pincher bugs due to their forceps-like appendages that protrude from the tail end of their body.  The forceps are used as a means of defense in both the male and female.  Males have forceps that are curved whereas the females’ are straighter. Despite the fact that many earwig species have wings, they rarely fly. The primary species encountered is the European earwig.  Introduced by accident in the early 1900’s, the European earwig adult is roughly ¾ of an inch in length and is reddish brown in color. Earwigs are considered to be one of the most recognized home garden pests although they can also be beneficial predators for destructive pests such as aphids.  They can at times become a nuisance because of destructive damage to seedlings, annual flowers and soft maturing fruits.  Damage often resembles caterpillar damage and is unlikely to cause significant concern.  European earwigs feed on various organisms, both living and dead, such as insects, mites, and growing plants.

Earwigs are primarily active at night, seeking out dark, moist areas during daylight hours.  Daytime harborages may include under boards that have ground contact, beneath dense vegetation or within soft fruits.  Female earwigs dig cells/nests in the ground in the fall and winter in which they deposit masses of 30 or more eggs.  Nymphs are small and light brown in color.  The mother will care for and feed the young until their first molt, at which time they will begin to forage on their own, returning to the nest during the day.  Portions of the population hibernate during the winter months in pairs buried into cells in the soil, although activity can be seen year round in moderate climates or as weather permits.  In areas where earwigs are considered a problem on the exterior of the structure, reduce attractive hiding places and surface moisture levels. Mulches are common harborages for earwigs due to the cover they provide and the moisture they maintain.  Encouraging natural predators such as birds, toads, reptiles, chickens and ducks can significantly reduce earwig activity in gardens and yards.

Earwigs commonly enter structures when their natural environmental conditions become too hot, too cold, or lack sufficient moisture levels.  Sealing gaps and potential entry points as well as replacing missing or damaged weather stripping around doors, windows and garage entrances will aide in reducing interior activity.  Reduction of exterior debris and vegetation around the foundation as well as ensuring proper drainage around the structure perimeter will decrease the attractiveness of the structure to earwigs and decrease activity levels seen on the interior.