If you spot in your house bugs with prominent forcep-like pincers at the end of their abdomens, you may have an infestation of pincher bugs, or earwigs. Females have straight pincers and males have curved pincers that look similar to the calipers you find on measuring instruments. Earwigs use their pincers for defense or to catch insects, but they will not hurt you. These tiny 5/8-inch, dark-brown bugs are mainly harmless nuisances. Although earwigs will not cause any destruction, knowing what to do when you see an abundance of earwigs in your house will give you peace of mind.
Outdoor lighting around your home attracts earwigs to your house. Strong outdoor lights attract a great number of earwigs to your windows and doors where they will try to enter. Reduce outdoor lighting around your home or use sodium vapor or yellow lights outdoors instead, which will not attract earwigs.
Pincher bugs are drawn to moisture. Keep any moist areas around your house dry, such as air-conditioning units, which normally leak water due to condensation from the air. Wipe up any excess moisture you see. Outdoor faucets may also drip or have moisture around them. Ensure your rain gutters direct water away from the foundation of your house since earwigs usually enter your house from the ground level.
Earwigs are drawn to any item or material that provides a moist environment as well as a place to hide and nest. When you hang your laundry outside, leave a container of vegetables from your garden or work on restoring your lawn furniture, you provide a nice, damp hiding place for earwigs to nest. Inspect anything you leave outside overnight for the presence of earwigs before bringing these items back inside your house.
If you have debris close to the outside of your house, earwigs will move in and gain entry into your home. Remove stones, piles of leaves including leaves in the gutter, newspaper piles, ivy growing along the walls and firewood. Pincher bugs like living in these dark enclosed areas. Prevent pincher bugs from entering your house by caulking and weather stripping around your windows, doors and pipes plus any entry near the ground.
Since earwigs love moisture, they will thrive in areas of the U.S. with plenty of wet weather. Earwigs may also "hitchhike" with shipped products to any location in the U.S., regardless of the climate. Control earwig levels around your home by checking all cardboard boxes in damp outdoor areas, all containers shipped to your home and all purchases from yard sales.
- Iowa State University Department of Entomology: Earwigs
- The University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Insect Pests & Plant Diseases; Earwigs
- University of California: Pests in Gardens and Landscapes; Earwigs
- Plunkett's Pest Control: Pincher Bugs May Look Scary but Are Harmless