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Legend has it that the earworm crawls into people's ears at night, chews through the eardrum to lay its eggs there. Is that really true? You can get an answer here.

In a nutshell

  • Ear cavities are nocturnal
  • they love warmth and humidity
  • Earwigs are omnivores
  • However, hyraxes are not dangerous

Occurrence of the Earcrawler

The insects, which are well known as earwigs, have many names. They are active at night and at dusk and hunt for prey here. They also have a preference for warmth and humidity. Seeing an earwig during the day is quite rare. Such animals were usually startled. Earwigs are in

  • gardens and parks
  • at forest edges and
  • on balconies and terraces

at home. They are hardly to be found in the house and apartment, only stray animals. During the day they like to hide in dark places like:

  • under foliage
  • under stones
  • in bark crevices
  • in leaf sheaths of umbel flowers or
  • under flower pots on the balcony and terrace

Adult earwigs overwinter in the ground, under piles of leaves and brushwood, in hollow plant stems, and in abandoned bird nest boxes.

Characteristics of the earworm

The earwig (Dermaptera) is not a beetle, although they are related to them. Earwigs form an independent order of insects (Insecta). They belong to the flying insects (Pterygota). There are 30 different species in Europe. In Germany, the common earwig (Forficula auricularia) is the most common. Features are:

Common catchy tune; Source: Katja Schulz from Washington, D.C., USA, European Earwig - Flickr - treegrow, edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • Length 10-17mm
  • females slightly smaller
  • Color reddish yellowish brown to black
  • yellowish legs
  • tripartite body
  • Head with sharp mouthparts, eyes and two feelers
  • Winged chest section
  • depending on the species, either fully developed or regressing to unfitness to fly
  • prefer to walk
  • differently pronounced abdomen depending on the sex
  • pincers (cerci) present on the abdomen
  • pincers strongly curved in males
  • especially in female animals

Earwigs are omnivores

When it comes to their food, the panties are not picky. Sometimes they also use fruit and vegetable plants, which is why they are often dismissed as pests. Their menu includes:

  • aphids and caterpillars
  • Eggs of codling moths, mites and spider moths
  • Mildew and fungal tangles
  • also animal feces and carrion
  • dead plant remains
  • young vegetable plants, flowers and stamens
  • pre-damaged buds and soft, slightly damaged fruit

Especially in dry years, they feed mainly on plants such as lettuce, strawberries or celery. In this way they can cover their existing water requirements.

Notice: The sand earwig (Labidura riparia) is a pure carnivore. It is very widespread, mainly on the Baltic Sea.

sand earworm; Source: WildBoar, Labidura riparia (Volga), edited from Plantopedia, CC0 1.0

danger to humans?

The earwigs are quickly considered dangerous because of their appearance. But the little "worm" can never become dangerous for humans. It only uses its menacing pincers and sharp mouthparts when hunting, to hold its prey and to ward off enemies, as well as when mating to hold its partner. The legend that he crawls into ears and bites the eardrums there to lay his eggs is just a legend. The mouthparts are far too weak for that.

Beneficial or pest?

Some hobby gardeners see hyraxes as pests because they sometimes use crops. This is generally not true, it is a useful creature in the garden because it is actively involved in the decomposition of biomass and can be used as a reliable pest controller. The animals not only devour annoying aphids, blood lice and other plant pests, but also eliminate harmful fungal networks, mildew and dead plant parts. For these reasons, these animals should not be driven out of the garden, but rather attracted or relocated. A small “hotel” especially for the catchy tunes is ideal for this. Without much effort it can be built as follows:

  • Fill the concrete flower pot with straw or wood shavings
  • either pull a net over it and tie it together or
  • Fasten wire mesh in front of the pot opening
  • no straw should fall out
  • to hang up, first pull a cord through the drainage hole with a wooden crossbar
  • Either hang the pot on a tree or place it in the garden

Tip: It should be posted in early spring near the wintering sites. The hotel can then go to its destination from mid-June.

frequently asked Questions

Why are these animals called earwigs?

The name comes from the Middle Ages. Here the animals were ground into powder and used as a medicine in medicine for earaches and also for deafness and hearing loss. The name has survived to this day.

Is chemical control advisable in the home?

Should ear pits appear in the apartment, then it can only be a question of stray animals. Fighting is not necessary. They should rather be put back outside. A wet cloth in a corner of the room can be helpful for this. The animals retreat there overnight and in the morning they can easily resettle outdoors.

How can intrusion into the house be prevented?

First, all joints and cracks on windows and doors should be sealed with silicone. Laundry that has been dried outdoors should also be shaken out well before it is brought back into the house. It is also advisable in autumn, before potted plants move to the winter quarters, to examine them closely for the presence of small insects.

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