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Do Earwigs Actually Crawl Into Your Ears?

Flickr.com/Gilles Gonthier

‘Tis the season for Earwigs in the Magic Valley. No doub’t you’ve seen the ominously named bugs scurrying about. Upon finding one on our front steps yesterday, my four year old son Jack asked me, “do Earwigs actually crawl in our ears?”

I shook my head and said “no,” but wondered why they’re called “Earwigs.” Here’s what I found out.

No one’s really sure where the name “Earwig” came from. Many speculate that it comes from Old English around the 19th century and means “Ear Insect” or “Ear Creature.” It seems the urban legend about the bug crawling in people’s ears stretches back at least that far.

“Ear-wig, or Forficula auricularis, L. a well known insect, which has received its name from penetrating into the human ear, where it causes the most acute pains, and even, as some have asserted, eventual death.” — The Domestic Encyclopedia, Willich and Mease, 1803

While it is true that insects can crawl into your ear, Earwigs can’t burrow into your brain and kill you. The belief that Earwigs actively try to get into people’s ears is little more than folklore. Earwigs are actually pretty harmless to people.

It is true, however, that Earwigs can pinch you if you try to handle them. The male of the species generally have larger forceps and will deliver a pinch if threatened, but it’s really nothing to worry about.

So if you’re still worried about these little bugs, there are several steps you can take at your home to exterminate them.

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