While the earwig looks like an intimidating insect due to its distinctive pincers, that is where the threat ends.
The perceived threat of being attacked or bitten by an earwig may initially be cause for concern, but rest assured, their appearance is far more threatening than their behavior.
Do earwigs bite? It is possible for an earwig to bite, but it’s a rare occurrence. An earwig does have a set of pincers to use defensively if it feels threatened, but no stinger is present, so the only harmful effect is a slight pinch – no venom is involved whatsoever.
Earwigs are interesting little creatures if you’re into creepy, crawly things, but those pincers on their hindquarters can be a little intimidating.
Let’s separate fact from fiction by taking a closer look at what these insects can and cannot actually do.
Do They Bite?
A member of the Dermaptera order, earwigs do not feed off of blood, like a mosquito; they therefore have no need to feed off of human, canine, or feline hosts.
They survive on plants, rotting organic material, and smaller bugs and insects.
You can find a complete list of what earwigs eat as well as learn where they like to hide in this article.
Technically, earwigs are capable of biting, but this behavior is rarely seen.
They do not have stingers, are not venomous or poisonous, and do not pose a danger to humans in any way.
They do, however, have a set of pincers.
It should be noted that earwigs generally pinch only when they feel threatened, so they are neither aggressive nor do they go out of their way to pinch people or pets.
The pincers are used as a defense against attacks from larger insects or enemies, such as birds, spiders, or yellow jackets.
A foul-smelling liquid may be released as well during an attack to deter enemies.
Those scary-looking pincers are also used to disable prey for a meal and are used during the mating season.
Where Do Earwigs Come From?
Usually in early spring, a female earwig lays between 20 and 80 eggs in a two day period. The eggs will hatch in about seven days.
Earwigs are reddish black or brown in color and at maturity, are only about 5/8 of an inch in length. While they do have wings, they seldom fly.
Believe it or not, these little bugs live for about one year.
These creepy crawlers are somewhat social, nocturnal creatures, who are surprisingly attracted to bright lights.
Earwigs come out at night to feast on smaller insects, bugs, and decomposing yard waste and prosper outdoors under damp, dark conditions.
They love to live in outdoor potted plants, under rocks, among dead leaves, in debris-filled gutters, and in mossy, damp soil.
Although they go deep underground in cold winter months, they come out in full force when the weather starts warming up in late spring and early summer.
They love the spring planting season as much as people do and look to live in deeply mulched areas, in soil, and beneath dead leaves or grass left over from fall.
They congregate under potted plant containers and decorative rocks, so don’t be surprised when you move a stationary object on your patio and find dozens of earwigs scurrying for cover.
What other items are earwigs attracted to? We cover that in detail here in this article.
Removing attractants from your property and maintaining conditions that earwigs hate, like a yard with few hiding places, will go a long way in preventing them from taking over.
Busting the Earwig Myths
Burrow in your Brain
One myth that has been around forever is that earwigs sneak into your house at night, wait until you fall asleep, crawl inside your ears, burrow in your brain, and lay eggs.
The truth is that earwigs mate outdoors in dark, moist places like under leaves, rocks, or other mossy spaces.
They do not crawl into your ears and burrow in your brain, and they don’t actively seek you out to pinch you.
While it’s true that earwigs can make their way into the home, an infestation is possible but highly unlikely.
Earwigs enter your home because weather conditions outdoors may be unfavorable. If the weather is too dry, too hot, or too cold, they may seek shelter inside.
If there are even tiny cracks or holes in the exterior of your home, that gives them an easy access point to come indoors.
Once inside, their preference is to find dark, moist spaces such as in the basement, but they may be attracted to rotting fruits and vegetables or the smell of oily, greasy foods in the kitchen.
They love to hang out in old, musty boxes in the basement, and if it is filled with old newspapers or books, even better.
Keeping your home free from food spills, spoiled food on the counters, and piles of damp items stored in the basement will go a long way toward discouraging earwigs from moving in.
Other than being unwelcome and unpleasant home visitors, they pose no threat to the health or safety of children, adults, or pets from pinching or passing on bacterial infections.
Still, you may be in a hurry to rid your property of any and all earwigs right away.
Learn about how to kill them simply, yet effectively, with natural, homemade, or pesticide solutions in this article.
For severe earwig problems and to see the best insecticide options that we recommend, read our article, “Best Earwig Killer for Home.”
An Earwig’s Pinch
Since earwigs only pinch when a threat is present, the odds of being pinched are fairly minimal unless you actively go after them.
If gardening or working with the soil of a potted plant, you may inadvertently disturb a group of earwigs. If an earwig takes this as a threat, it may pinch you.
A pinch can come from either a male or female.
The male is easily identified by two very distinctive curved pincers, also known as cerci. A female earwig has two straight, not curved, cerci.
The pinch by a male earwig happens when he, after sensing a threat, grabs your skin, closes the cerci in a true pinching fashion, and hangs on for a few seconds.
While the pinch results in slight pain, the earwig does not inject venom or anything else into or under the skin.
While a pinch can break the skin and cause inflammation, that is the exception and not the rule. Earwigs do not pass on infections or bacteria.
However, it doesn’t hurt to rinse the area and apply a small amount of antibiotic cream to protect and promote healing of the skin.
Earwig pinches typically do not become infected, swell, itch, or in any way cause problems after the initial slight pain of the pinch, which lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Also be aware that earwigs can fall from trees and end up in your hair or on your clothes.
While this may be an opportunity for an earwig to pinch you, as long as it doesn’t feel threatened, it will leave you and scamper off to find a more desirable place to hang out.
Earwigs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Is there any good purpose to the existence of earwigs? A bit of good news is that they can help out in the garden.
Because they feed on rotting organic materials like fungus, moss, and dead leaves, they can help keep the garden looking neat.
They also feed on insects, mites, and bugs that live in your garden, so they can also help eliminate unwelcome intruders that might cause harm to your plants.
However, earwigs can quickly turn from helpful to harmful if there is a shortage of decaying organic material or bugs in the garden.
If there is a lack of food, they will begin to munch on your flowers and plants.
You can recognize this turn of events by the unevenly chewed edges of plant leaves or small holes left in both flowers and leaves.
If you’d like to avoid the unexpected pinch of an earwig, especially while gardening, be sure to wear gardening gloves.
Be prepared to come across earwigs when dealing with moist soil or moving rocks or anything where small puddles or standing water may be located.
Helpful Tips for Discouraging Earwigs
Work your way through the following tips to make your home and yard an unfriendly environment for earwigs.
- Inspect the foundation of your home for any cracks or holes and repair with caulk or appropriate filler.
- Repair broken windows and gaps or holes in your home’s exterior.
- Invest in a dehumidifier (this one will get the job done nicely) to keep the basement dry.
- Clean the home with natural deterrents (such as vinegar or dish soap) to discourage the presence of earwigs in your home.
- Keep gutters clean.
- Avoid mulching more than 2 inches deep (they love wet, deep mulch).
- Keep planted pots a minimum of 1 foot away your home’s foundation.
- Rake and remove dead leaves, sticks, and other decomposing yard waste.
- Remove watering cans, pet bowls, or any other sources of standing water in the yard.
- Hang a bird feeder in your yard to encourage birds to visit and seek out earwigs for food.
- Use effective pesticides as instructed if an earwig problem persists.
The above list will definitely help discourage earwigs from taking over your yard and home.
However, if you already have an abundance of earwigs and want them gone as soon as possible, you’ll find what you’re looking for in our article, “How to Get Rid of Earwigs.”
Even though earwigs will not actively seek to pinch you, the best defense is to limit reasons for them to congregate in your yard and potentially come inside your home.
While earwigs are not pleasant to have around, the best news is that their pinch poses no harm to people or pets.
By keeping your yard clean, trimmed, and free of standing water, you greatly reduce the odds of a large earwig population in and around your home.
Don’t miss out on important information, tips, and elimination methods!
Read through all our earwig articles here to ensure that you will emerge the victor in your battle against these pests.