The insect group commonly known as “earwigs” comprise many species that can be found throughout the US, but most species inhabit the southeastern Gulf Coast states. Earwigs are often dismissed as insignificant indoor pests, but this is not at all the case, as earwigs are one of the most commonly reported insect pests in homes where they are known for establishing extensive infestations that often pose an extreme nuisance. While the highly dubious claim that earwigs have a tendency to enter human ear canals in order to bore into the brain is widely understood to be a wildly fictitious old wives’ tale, their intimidating pincers (forceps) and relatively large body size cut an intimidating figure. Despite their resemblance to scorpions, earwigs are not considered medically harmful to humans. That being said, at least one documented incident describes a surprisingly serious earwig-related injury that occured within a home located in the western US.
Some earwig species have been known to draw blood by using their forceps to nip at human skin, but such instances are exceptionally rare, and earwigs are not naturally inclined to behave aggressively toward humans. However, a 1961 medical report documents an incident in which a striped earwig nymph within a shoe pinched a man’s toe, resulting in profuse bleeding. Although this incident was documented by a reputable medical professional, the description of the nymphal earwig perpetrator as being “distended with ingested blood” lends doubt to the account, as neither adult nor nymphal earwigs are known for collecting human blood meals.
Most earwig pests that infest homes in the US are non-native species that thrive in moist habitats where they prey on small insects in grassy and plant-rich areas. Multiple earwig species commonly inhabit residential lawns in southern Arizona where they frequently establish a sizable and often distressing presence within moist indoor areas. These species include European earwigs, ringlegged earwigs, African earwigs and striped earwigs. European earwigs are the most widespread of all four species, and they have been known to infest homes in the thousands by squeezing through exceptionally small access points through window screens and cracks in foundation concrete and masonry. Striped and African earwigs have become particularly abundant in residential areas of southern Arizona where their attraction to artificial lights see large numbers fly into homes during the summer and early fall seasons.
Have you ever discovered earwigs within your home or lawn?