Earwig Control Facts: How to Get Rid of Earwigs


Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name


Earwigs are odd looking insects which have pincers or forceps protruding from the abdomen. These are somewhat intimidating looking but they are not poisonous, and they do not spread disease.


Depending on the species, adults range in size from 5-25 mm.


They are slender insects with two pair of wings. Dermaptera means “skin wing” due to the leathery appearance of the wings. The hind wings typically fold under the front wings. Do earwigs fly?


There are more than twenty species of earwigs in the United States. Some species produce a foul smelling liquid that they use for defense. Earwigs also produce a pheromone (scent). Scientists believe that this pheromone is the reason that earwigs cluster together in large numbers.

There is a superstition that earwigs burrow into the ears of people while they sleep. This is a myth and without any scientific basis. Earwigs frighten many people because of the pincers on the back of their abdomens. Earwigs use these pincers for defense and for sparing with rival earwigs.

Where do they live?

As with any other type of insect with multiple species, biology and habits vary. Most types of earwigs generally prefer wet areas which are cooler and undisturbed. Earwigs can be a serious garden pest if conditions are right. If there is adequate ground cover, wet soil, and food, the earwigs will do well.


Earwigs typically feed on live sprouts or decaying vegetation and, in rare cases, some species are predators. Read more about what earwigs eat.

Move quickly

Earwigs are relatively fast moving. They run away quickly when the ground litter is moved, uncovering them.


Earwigs are active at night. During the day they hide in cracks in damp areas. They live under rocks and logs and in mulch in flowerbeds. Earwigs eat plants and insects.

Attracted to lighting

Earwigs are attracted to lights. They can become a nuisance on porches and patios on summer evenings. In the morning they will be gathered under things like cushions that were left outside overnight.

How Did I Get Earwigs?

Earwigs move into homes to find food or because of a change in weather.They usually wind up indoors while seeking shelter or just happen to wander inside through open doors. Earwigs prefer cool, damp areas and may enter homes during extended dry periods.

How Can I Get Rid of Earwigs?

The Orkin Man™ is trained to help manage earwigs and similar pests that invade homes. Since every yard or home is unique, the Orkin technician will design a special solution for your situation.

Keeping pests out of your home is an ongoing process, not a one-time treatment. Orkin’s exclusive A.I.M. solution is a continuing cycle of three critical steps — Assess, Implement and Monitor.

The Orkin Man™ can provide the right solution to keep earwigs, and other pests, in their place. out of your home.

Earwigs Signs

Homeowners often find them in areas where there is water – kitchens, bathrooms, and laundries. Earwigs can also find their way into bedrooms and family rooms. They turn up in almost every part of the house, but infestations are rare.


Females typically lay between 30 and 50 but actual numbers depend on species. After hatching, the nymphs undergo four to five molts until they become adults. Immature earwigs (nymphs) resemble the adults except they do not have wings. Read about the earwigs life cycle.

Prevention Tips

The most important part of controlling earwigs is eliminating their hiding places. If the earwig harborages are not addressed, insecticide application will probably not control earwigs very well. There are a variety of things that can be done.


  • Clean Up — Move landscape timbers, logs, decorative stones, and firewood piles away from the foundation.
  • Eliminate Moist Soil — Create a zone next to the foundation that is free of mulch, dead leaves, and other organic material. The “dry zone” should be 6” to 12” wide so that earwigs will avoid it.
  • Trim Overhanging Branches — Trim trees and shrubs that cause damp, shady areas near the house.

Around the Home

  • Proper Drainage is Key — Examine gutters and downspouts to make sure they drain away from the foundation. Set irrigation systems so that they water in the morning and allow the landscape to dry during the day.
  • Switch Up Exterior Lighting — Adjust outdoor lights to shine from the yard onto the house – insects will be attracted away from the house. If moving outside light fixtures is not practical, consider changing light bulbs to yellow bulbs since white lights are more attractive to insects.
  • Secure Possible Entry Points — Repair screens on crawl space vents and make sure the vents are not blocked.
  • Dry Out Moisture-Prone Areas — A dehumidifier might help in a damp basement.
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Call for Professional Assistance With Earwig Removal

The best way to prevent earwigs is to utilize Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM is a holistic approach to pest control. The basic steps of IPM include Inspection, Identification and Control.

Earwigs can infest many different areas in a home. Because of that, it may be necessary to use several insecticide products to control them effectively. A pest control professional will have the products and equipment to control earwigs effectively.


How to Help Get Rid of Earwigs | Earwig Control | Terminix

Are you wondering how to help get rid of earwigs? Earwigs are attracted to dark, moist areas — help prevent an infestation by keeping your home and the areas around it dry. Make sure to fix any leaky pipes inside the home and consult Terminix® about a treatment plan for earwig control. Keep reading to learn more about this pest, how they get inside and additional ways you can help get rid of them .


Earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, are found throughout the United States. They are nocturnal and prefer to keep out of sight during the daylight hours. They also prefer to confine themselves to dark, damp areas. They crawl under welcome mats and behind flowerpots and other outdoor objects. They also lie in wait between crevices and cracks in homes and sheds until nighttime .

Behavior and Diet

There are several species of earwigs. Some are herbivores, some are carnivores and some are omnivores. There are also earwig species that are scavengers and will mostly eat other small insects and plant material. Those that eat corn silk and seedlings can cause severe damage to those and other plants, including flowering plants. Because of the intensity of their destructive feeding habits, the damage earwigs cause is often confused with that of cutworms or even rabbits .


Earwigs build specially constructed nests where the female lays her eggs and waits until her offspring are hatched, usually in the spring .

Are Earwigs Dangerous?

As mentioned before, earwigs are generally harmless to people. However, they are still a nuisance pest and generally creepy looking, so you’ll probably want to get rid of them. Using the correct methods of pest control is essential. Partial elimination of an earwig infestation does not address the problem. It is important, in order to ensure success and to help prevent further infestation, to contact a pest control professional to apply proven methods of control.

Earwigs in the House

In the home, earwigs can gain entry through cracks or crevices in the foundation. They will seek damp, dark places in order to reproduce. It is recommended that homeowners caulk these vulnerable places in the home to help keep earwigs from gaining entry .

Help Get Rid of Earwigs

Learning how to help get rid of pincher bugs may be as easy as adjusting a few things in and around your home. To help minimize the threat of an earwig infestation:

• Try to keep garden and home areas free of excess moisture.
• Ensure your yard drains adequately.
• Seal any vulnerable openings in the home’s foundation with caulk.
• Eliminate hiding places near the foundation, such as groundcovers; climbing vines; weeds; thick mulches and vegetation; and piles of debris, leaves or wood.
• Sweep or vacuum daily inside the home to dispose of visible earwigs.
• Contact a pest control professional for effective methods of control.

By taking the necessary precautions in your home, you can help remove current and prevent future earwig populations. Our experienced pest control professionals can help. Contact Terminix® today to schedule a free inspection


The Best Methods for Earwig Removal


When it comes to dealing with an infestation of any insects in your home, yard, and garden you may often time feel helpless. While some bug infestations like cockroaches and termites are a real pain to deal with, others such as the innocent earwig are actually easy to get rid of.

Many people often misjudge the earwig due to either listening to the old wives tale about them or looking at their scary appearance. Earwigs are just simple little garden bugs that like to congregate around their favorite moist hot spots and food sources. In fact, all 2,000 earwig species are completely harmless to humans and animals.

Unlike many other pests and insects, these little earwigs don’t even carry any diseases and they have no venom either. The only defense mechanisms an earwig has are their foul smelling discharge and their hind pincers. Their chemical discharge only smells and tastes terrible but other than that it is completely harmless to you and any pets who unfortunately get sprayed by accident.

Earwigs are also fairly docile insect unless they are severely threatened. These little bugs are more likely to run away to the nearest dark crevice than bite. An earwig will only bite you under extreme cases such as when they are protecting their young. You are more likely to get bitten by ants, ticks, horseflies, fleas, mosquitoes, wasps, bees, and other garden pests than by an earwig.

Earwigs: The Process of Preventing These Creepy Bugs From Getting Inside Your Home

Earwigs are one of the few insects that are both a nuisance in the garden and very helpful at the same time. Earwigs are known to feast on people’s plants, vegetables, and even fruit trees, but this is their only real drawback.
Earwigs are omnivorous and love to eat dead plant matter, dead insects, and even other garden pests such as aphids, bluebottle flies, plant lice, and other foliage eating insects.
When it comes to your garden or orchard, these bugs love to eat:

  • Zinnias
  • Dahlias
  • Clover
  • Butterfly bush
  • Sunflowers
  • Hollyhock
  • Hops
  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Grapes
  • Bean seedlings
  • Beets
  • Potatoes
  • Tender grass shoots and roots
  • Corn silk
  • Apricots
  • Roses
  • Mold
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It is recommended that if you intend to grow these varieties of plants in your yard, you should use natural earwig repellent nearby to save your plants from damage. If you are finding earwigs in your home, you may want to maintain your garbage, keep crumbs off of all surfaces, and clean up any spilled food.

What is an Earwig?

An earwig is a small dark-colored insect that often inhabits moist soils and vegetation in gardens, woodland, and other forested areas. They are harmless in nature but are considered to be a nuisance in gardens. The earwig is a small flat looking insect with pincers. Earwigs tend to come in a color range between brown and dark black. Some species have wings but cannot really fly.

Earwigs can measure between 7–50 mm or 0.28 – 1.97 inches long. Their pincers are mainly for hunting other insects, defense purposes, and keeping their wings in place.

How to Identify an Earwig

  • Male earwig
    The male earwig has standard black or brown coloring depending on the species of the earwig. Males have curved pincers on their hind. Earwig males can have wings.
  • Female earwig
    They have a standard brown or black coloring depending on the species. The female will have straight pincers on her hind. Some species of earwig have wings.
  • Nymph (baby earwig)

These young earwigs appear white to almost clear. They look like small versions of adult earwigs.

The Life Cycle of an Earwig

The earwig has four to six molting cycles before it reaches adulthood, this process is what is referred to as metamorphosis. Adult earwigs only live for about a year. Earwigs mate around the autumn and stay together through the winter. In the springtime, when temperatures are habitable, the female will then lay eggs.

The female earwig, after two days of successfully laying a clutch of 50-80 eggs, will then drive out the male earwig. She will then protect the eggs until the nymphs reach their first or second molting stage. During this time the female will feed and tend to the young nymphs/eggs.

An earwig egg looks white or cream colored with an oval-shape. These features will change once the eggs come close to hatching. The appearance of the eggs will go from their white glossy color to a brown and kidney-shaped. Eggs take approximately seven days to hatch.
Some species of earwig do give birth to live young instead of laying eggs.

How to Deal With an Earwig Bite or Discharge for Humans and Animals

Before we start, here’s an infographic on the topic of earwigs going into people’s ears:

Despite their scary pincers and fairly big appearance for a garden pest, earwig bites are not dangerous in any way. Should an earwig manage to bite you the worst you will feel is a little pain at the site of the bite and some redness. This will all go away in a matter of a few days and you won’t need to consult a doctor since earwigs don’t carry any transmissible diseases.

Should you have an unfortunate experience of being bitten by an earwig, all you will need to do is wash the bitten area with soap and water. Adding disinfectant or using an antibacterial cream can help alleviate the pain and redness around the area of the bite. Same applies to animals should they get nipped by an earwig too.

An earwig’s chemical defense can definitely leave people running for the hills or at least away from the insect. The discharge is harmless and can easily be washed off. The only unpleasantness from earwig discharge is smell and a foul taste should you or your pet accidentally ingests it.
Should you or your pet accidentally ingest an earwig or its discharge, all you will need to do it rinse your mouth or your pet’s mouth out with water.

To address the fears of earwigs crawling in the ears, yes they can do this but it is extremely rare of them to do. They do not lay eggs in your brain. The most an earwig will do is crawl inside your ear since it prefers dark, moist crevices; human ears simply give them these nice living conditions.
In the event that you should have an earwig in your ear, you can easily go to any doctor or the emergency room. Like any other odd bug in ear case, the doctor or nurse will have it removed in no time at all. Having a bug in your ear can be a scary and painful experience so it is advised to get it removed as soon as possible. Despite the earwigs harmless and docile nature, any bug in the ear can pose a risk of injuring the inner ear canal causing bleeding, inflammation, discharge, and pain.

If you are unable to see a medical professional, you can easily find many websites that offer simple solutions for a bug in ear removal that can be done at home. A medical professional is simply the safest method in case of complications.

Damage That Can Be Caused By Earwigs

The main type of damage that can be caused by earwigs is plant damage. Earwigs don’t cause any damage to wood and are mainly considered a nuisance due to their plant-eating habits and odors. Earwigs are capable of destroying crops if their numbers aren’t controlled. However, having a few earwigs around your compost may be helpful.

Earwigs tend to leave cup-shaped bite marks. You will find these marking on mainly mature plants or very young seedlings. The earwig bite markings are usually about 3 – 11 mm or approximately 0.12 – 0.43 inches wide.

How to Get Rid of Earwigs or Pincher Bugs In Your Home, Garden, and Yard

Earwigs can live in a wide variety of place outside. They can even live within the small crevices of an artichoke plant. When it comes to figuring how to get rid of earwigs or pincher bugs there are often many ways to go about it depending on where you find the earwigs.

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How to Get Rid of Earwigs or Pincher Bugs in Your Home

Earwigs tend to choose the most humid rooms in the house. This means kitchens, bathroom, spa rooms, mudrooms, basements, leaky attics, and so on are susceptible to earwigs. Generally, earwigs will only come inside if there is substantial food left lying around or to get away from the dry winters.

To get rid of the earwigs in your home, you will need to seal all cracks and crevices in your homes interior and exterior. Limit the number of crumbs and food spills to a minimum. Use either cedar oil or neem oil and spray it around your home. This will ward off the earwigs since they dislike the scent of these essential oils.

To keep humidity levels down in your home, use a dehumidifier in rooms with too much humidity.

How to Get Rid of Earwigs or Pincher Bugs in Your Yard or Garden

The main place earwigs love to live is in your garden and yard. If you have a compost pile or woodpile make sure you check for earwigs since they consider these places as optimal living areas. Earwigs will go wherever there are enough moisture and vegetation to eat.
To get the earwig population down or completely out of your garden you can use a variety of natural earwig traps. Some methods include soap and water, damp paper materials and then drowning the insects or using an old tuna can with vegetable oil.


The Truth Behind the Most Popular Earwig Myth

Do the insects really eat people’s brains?

Of all the insects on Earth, perhaps none is quite as misunderstood as the lowly earwig. Found throughout the world, this member of the insect order Dermaptera resembles a winged ant, with a miniature, plier-like set of pincers protruding from its abdomen. The insect is believed, according to an ancient but persistent myth, to burrow through the ear canal and eat people’s brains.

Etymology of «Earwig»

Language experts have yet to reach a consensus on the origin of the word earwig. Some sources say the name derives from an Old English phrase for beetle. Others posit that it’s a corruption of the phrase «ear wing,» referring to the ear-like shape of the insect’s hind wings. Other sources go further, translating the word as «ear insect,» «ear creature,» or «ear wiggler,» a reference to the old wives’ tale that earwigs burrow into human brains through the ear canal. How did the earwig end up earning this unpleasant reputation—as opposed to, say, the roly-poly or the doodlebug?


Regarding the origin of earwig brain-boring superstitions, the Columbia Encyclopedia states the following:

The superstition that earwigs crawl through the ears and into the brains of sleeping persons probably derives from their nocturnal habits and the tarry or waxy odor of a secretion of their abdominal glands.

It may sound like a stretch to claim that earwigs got their reputation for burrowing in people’s ears because they smell like earwax. Unfortunately, most attempts to explain the origins of the superstition rely on imaginative guesswork. This one is no exception.

Historical References

The earliest known mention of an earwig-like creature entering the human ear can be found in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia, written in the first century A.D. Philemon Holland’s 1601 English translation of the text includes a remedy for such insect intrusions: «If an earwig or such like vermin be gotten into the eare, make no more ado but spit into the same, and it will come forth anon.»

Several hundred years later, the poor earwig was still considered a pest:

«It appears to be a common belief almost everywhere that the Earwig creeps into the ears of persons sleeping in the open air, passes thence into the brain, and causes death.» — A Natural History of the Animal Kingdom, William S. Dallas, 1856

«Ear-wig, or Forficula auricularis, L. a well known insect, which has received its name from penetrating into the human ear, where it causes the most acute pains, and even, as some have asserted, eventual death.» — The Domestic Encyclopedia, Willich and Mease, 1803

«The creature called forficula or earwig is said to make its way into the ear, and to occasion not only deafness, but violent pain by its biting; and there is an instance on record of a woman, in whose ear a nest of these infects were lodged, and reduced her to the greatest distress.» — A Practical System of Surgery, James Latta, 1795

These descriptions of the insect seem laughable today. Nevertheless, there is the occasional instance of an earwig actually getting near a human ear, so it’s no wonder the myth lives on.

Scientific Consensus

The bottom line on earwigs is that there’s no scientific evidence for the insects’ fabled fondness for the human ear. The idea that the little creatures want to feast on human brains is even more far-fetched.

«There is no truth to this myth,» writes John Meyer, professor of entomology at North Carolina State University.

«In fact,» adds master gardener Judy Sedbrook of the Colorado State Cooperative Extension, «other than an occasional pinch, earwigs can’t harm people.»

«Though they may try to pinch if captured and handled, they do not harm people,» confirms the Iowa State University Department of Entomology.

In other words, the scientific consensus is that earwigs are harmless. Insects do, on occasion, crawl into people’s ears, but apart from varying degrees of discomfort and alarm, they usually don’t cause any significant damage.


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