Here are tips on how to identify and get rid of earwigs, also known as pincher bugs or dermaptera, in the garden.
What is an Earwig or Pincher Bug?
Earwigs can be found in almost any zone, although they more likely to inhabit southern climates. You might have trouble spotting one—not only are they quick movers, they are also nocturnal, and tend to hide out during the day when you are tending the garden. They like decaying wood and plant material, and dark, damp spaces. Oftentimes, they can be found in basements and woodpiles.
Earwigs are the sole members of the insect order Dermaptera, ancient bugs who began crawling around Earth about 208 million years ago. Today, some 1,100 species are scattered everywhere but in Earth’s polar regions. The name “earwig” comes from the Old English ear-wicga, which means “ear wiggler,” and it is named so because its hind legs are shaped like human ears. In France, they’re called ear piercers, and in Germany, ear worms.
In North America, we’re most familiar with Forficula auricularia, a European variety thought to have arrived with our immigrant ancestors. Earwigs were first reported in 1907 in Seattle, Washington, and they have now spread to most of the United States and parts of Canada.
When earwigs aren’t chomping on plants, they’re enjoying a lively social scene. They congregate during the day because they tend to find the same hiding places. Their nests can number in the thousands, and they aren’t territorial, so they tend to live together.
Do Earwigs Bite?
Some people think that earwigs use their pincers to pinch. Physically, this is possible, but there wouldn’t be enough pressure to cause a wound. Earwigs usually use their pincers to ward off enemies like toads and birds, or to catch prey.
The pincers, or cerci, are also important for romance. They are indicators of gender, like tusks on an elephant. A male earwig’s pincers are long and curved, while a female’s are shorter and straighter.