Do earwigs have a purpose?

Earwig by Andreas Kay, on FlickrEarwigs are a real nuisance and it’s difficult to imagine that they have any meaningful reason for existing. After all, what good is an insect that supposedly burrows in our ears when we sleep? However, like so many things on this planet – earwigs do have a purpose, whether it’s obvious or not!

Earwigs are omnivores, regarded in the insect community as ‘sanitary engineers’ – that is, they help clean up the environment by eating decaying plant material as well as live and dead insects. Quite clever, don’t you think? Although their role seems rather insignificant to us humans, earwigs help to maintain and sustain the ecosystem by keeping the population of other insects/plants in balance (i.e. preventing overgrowth of one species), hence the earwig is an important insect predator as well as maintaining the population of its prey (such as bottleblue flies).

Earwigs like to hang out in cool, damp or wet areas, so beware when you collect the wood for the fire or move your plant pots around the house that a few of them don’t. creep out!

So before you stamp on them and squeal in terror, remember, earwigs are harmless insects (albeit very ugly ones!). They may have scary looking pincers, but they have no venom (and so are not poisonous) and do not sting people (unlike those pesky mosquitos!).

Oh, and don’t worry, the burrowing in our ears is just a myth!

Answer By Chloe Westley

Image Source: Earwig by Andreas Kay on Flickr

Article by Chloe Westley

August 27, 2014

Based in Manchester, UK, Chloe spends most of her time getting up close and personal with a zippy bit of kit called a Raman spectrometer. In between doing some high-brow research as part of a PhD, she follows tennis, cricket and Man United (unfortunately) and loves watching Suits, The Big Bang theory and Breaking Bad (obviously!).


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4 thoughts on “Do earwigs have a purpose?”

  1. Thank you for the information on purpose of these little nuisances, however there is one part of your article that is incorrect. They may not have venom, but they do indeed pinch humans. I have been pinched several times by these little buggers. I know it is them when I feel the pain of the pinch and look at the affected area and there he/she is hanging on to my leg or arm with those “cute” little pincher. I agree they are no aggressive, but they do indeed pinch humans and they hurt!

    1. Yes, they most certainly do pinch! Sat on my recently cleaned toilet all to stop mid stream and jump up abruptly from having my bum pinched! Thought there was a spider perhaps. Nope! Nasty, ugly, grotesque earwig! Good thing I have great kegels, otherwise there would have been a mess!

  2. They are nasty disgusting insects, I was camping out one night and I fell asleep for a couple of hours, when I woke up I took a drink off of my beer, and they were all inside of my beer I had to spit it all out and throw the beer to the ground, they were all around me sleepy everywhere that I can imagine in my sleeping bag in my shoes, everywhere. They are as bad if not worse than cockroaches, they come in wherever there is food or anything left behind, they are so disgusting, and now I feel like I feel bugs on me continuously, yuck so disgusting!!!

  3. When I was a small child, I blew into a whistle and an earwig big my tongue. I was so disgusted that I went in a got my Mom’s Iodine, rinsed out my mouth and got a nasty burn all over my mouth and esophagus. Do NOT like earwigs. Hate to even see them. Hah.

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