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Earwigs may cause alarm to homeowners when discovered indoors. They have a frightful appearance, move rapidly around baseboards at the ground level, and may emit a foul-smelling, yellowish-brown liquid from their scent glands. These creatures, active at night while hiding during the daytime, normally live outdoors and do not establish themselves indoors. They are harmless to humans and animals, although if handled carelessly, the earwig can give a slight pinch with the forceps. Serious feeding damage may occur on flowers, vegetables, fruits and other plants, giving the leaves a ragged appearance with the numerous, small, irregular holes. Also, decomposing organic matter is consumed. They are considered temporary pests in spite of the fact that they sometimes occur in large populations.

The name earwig is derived from a European superstition that these insects enter the ears of a sleeping person and bore into the brain. This belief is totally unfounded. Earwigs develop from egg to adult through gradual metamorphosis with four to five nymphal instars or stages. During the spring or autumn, females lay 20 to 50 smooth, oval, pearly-white or cream-colored eggs in a below-ground chamber (upper two to three inches of soil). The female moves, cleans, and provides maternal care by protecting the eggs and new young until the first molt. Young then leave the nest, fend for themselves and mature in one season.

DESCRIPTION:
Adult earwigs are flattened insects, up to 1 and 1/4 inches in length, and light red-brown to black. Some species are wingless but others have a pair of leathery forewings covering a few segments of the abdomen and the membranous hind wings, which have the tips protruding. The forceps-like appendages at the end of the abdomen are strongly curved in the male. The female's appendages are smaller and less curved. The forceps are used primarily for defense and during courtship and cannot harm people. Earwigs are primarily scavengers on dead insects and rotted plant materials. Some species are predators. Only a few of the winged species are good fliers. They are often transported great distances in plant materials and occasionally in other freight.

HABITAT:
They are active at night and some species are attracted to lights in large numbers. During the day they usually find shelter beneath stones, boards, sidewalks, or debris. Earwigs are rapid runners and migrate short distances in this manner.

LIFE CYCLE:
Eggs are laid in small batches or clutches in a chamber two to three inches beneath the soil surface. The mother guards the eggs and the newly hatched young. After the first molt, the young leave the nest and fend for themselves. They differ from the adults in color pattern, shape and size of forceps, lack of wings, and body size. The young usually mature in one season. Most species in this country have one generation per year, over wintering as eggs or adults in the soil. Eggs and young require moisture. Heavy rains are detrimental to both forms, as are rapid temperature changes.
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