When I was a child, I remember one day my family sitting down to watch Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. I was young, and what I saw scarred me for the rest of my life. If you haven’t seen the movie, or are too embarrassed to admit you watched a Star Trek movie, I’ll set the scene for you. Khan (the bad guy) has captured a few of the crew members of the Enterprise (the good guys). Khan then goes to a terrarium and produces a few bug-like creatures that apparently enter your brain via your ear, the effect of which produces madness (and stark raving terror). He then proceeds to place two of the bugs into space helmets and then places and seals the space helmets on the terrified Enterprise crew members. Of course, the, scene ends with the bug entering the ears of two helpless screaming people.
Needless to say, I was pretty shaken up. As I grew up, I inevitably began to associate those Star Trek bugs with Earwigs. Even as an adult, I still can’t quite shake that association.
Thankfully, real life Earwigs don’t enter people’s ears. Though there are many different species of Earwigs, the most common to infest Boise area homes are called European Earwigs.
European Earwigs are dark reddish brown, about 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch long, and are easily identified by pinchers at the end of the body. Some people even call them ‘Pincher Bugs.’ Earwigs feed on decaying vegetation, though some feed on other insects or live plants. Earwigs live in mulch beds, under rocks, wood or other debris. They are active at night, and are attracted to lights. Earwigs even have wings and can fly, though it’s very rare that they do so.
Earwig adults mate during late fall, and overwinter typically in underground nests or other protected areas. Adults males emerge in early spring, while females continue to guard eggs laid during the winter. There is normally just one generation of Earwigs that hatch in a year, in the spring.
Earwigs are garden pests, and can invade peoples homes, sometimes in large numbers in the summer and fall. Though they may damage plants (earwig feeding can be destructive and extensive), they are not harmful to humans (except in my mind) and do not pose a physical threat. The nuisance of having earwigs around, especially when the come inside en masse (AND the emotional and Physiological toll they take) are enough for most people to seek treatment. Regular perimeter treatments will reduce populations considerably, and will prevent these insects from coming indoors.
Now you know that Earwigs don’t enter your ear, you will probably rest easier. Who am I kidding? I’ve known that for years and I still can’t stand the sight of an Earwig!
CC image by tom_bullock at Flickr.