Why Are They Called Earwigs?

Earwig Pest Control Question and Answer


Why do they call earwigs…..earwigs?? And how would you treat for silverfish in a 2,000 sg ft home? –edward, CA


The name game is fun, and for 31 years in this industry I replied with the standard answer on “ear” wigs, that this name comes from the long-ago belief that earwigs would enter the ears of sleeping people and lodge there. I suppose this still could possibly happen, as insects that roam at night do have to hide somewhere, and an article years ago reported that doctors in some inner city areas of Los Angeles report that about half of the “foreign” objects they remove from the ears of children turn out to be cockroaches. No reason an earwig should not crawl in too. However, according to some research done by a friend in the University of California system, the name earwig has a whole different origin.


It seems that the wings of the earwig, when expanded, are just about exactly the same shape as a human ear, and the thought was that the original name likely began as “ear-wing”, not earwig which it got shortened to, and which really does not make much sense. In addition, another thought is that the name can be traced to the old Saxon name of ear-wigea, which means a destroyer of grains and fruit, or “ears” of corn. Common names can drive us nuts.

Silverfish control, like so many household pests, really can begin outdoors, since this is where these insects came from initially. An inspection of the property surrounding the home will probably reveal a lot of contributing conditions that support populations of these insects on the property, and in particular right up against the foundation, making the trip to the inside a short one for the bugs. Piles of lumber, firewood, yard debris, old boxes or other items on the ground, all support and encourage silverfish and other insects, and should be removed if possible or at least restacked properly well away from the structure. As convenient as it is to place things against the house it also provides comfort and homes to insects and rodents. An effort at exclusion is also helpful, although you definitely will not close off all the opportunities for these flat insects to get inside. But, sealing up obvious holes, cracks, gaps, etc. will be of at least some help in keeping out unwanted critters.

Inside the home silverfish commonly inhabit attics, basements, crawlspaces, and wall voids. They rarely do any damage, but most people object to just having them around, running rapidly across floors and walls. You can look for evidence of their presence in the form of their fecal droppings, which look much like sprinklings of black pepper. I have seen attics where virtual layers of their droppings lay on the beams and insulation. Treatment of accessible voids can be done with fogging, generally pyrethrum, which will kill exposed insects. Or, you can dust with a desiccant dust like Tri-Die or Drione, which takes longer to affect the insects but which will last for many years to provide some preventive control. Inside wall voids you could treat with a residual insecticide by injecting with an Actisol or Patriot “void” injector, and for walls with insulation these devices really help push the fog past the insulations. For interior walls, where the void should be open, you can dribble in Niban insect granules. These are labeled for silverfish and I have gotten some good feedback on the effectiveness.

FenvaStar EcoCap-(Generic Onslaught)FenvaStar   FenvaStar EcoCap  LambdaStar

Silverfish are tough customers, because they can hide in such small areas, move through such narrow gaps, and run so quickly that they may not stand around on treatments along baseboards or ceiling junctions. Treatments with residual pyrethroids can be helpful around those places that you feel the silverfish likely are entering the structure, and a WP or microencapsulated formulation may be most effective. Cleanup is also important on the inside, as silverfish thrive on clutter. The garage is always a major resource for silverfish, and once again as much as can be done to remove unwanted wood and paper materials the lower the chances for these insects to hide there. Treating along likely silverfish pathways can be helpful.

Mr. Pest Control

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Date: Wednesday, 13. January 2010 13:01
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  1. 1

    oh so that what’s meant by ea wig…nice info thanks.

  2. 2

    About 5 years ago I thought (meaning not sure now) I had silverfish in my house. I am chemically sensitive and don’t use chemicals in my home… I did a bunch of googling.

    I had told a friend about using Boric Acid for cockroaches and she said it worked very well… at least at keeping them out of her basement suite. I couldn’t get boric acid at the time of the silverfish, but not long after sighting a few, (which I now think might possibly have been earwigs… they look a lot alike), I discovered a whole bunch of tiny brown ‘sprinkles’ around the edge of the spare room closet. What I read about silverfish said they like to eat stuff like glue in bookbindings etc. Well! Bang on! I had used some loose wallpaper like shelf paper at the bottom of the closet to cover up previous owner’s kids crayon mess.

    A couple places I read that borax killed silverfish. I had no idea where I would get pure borax, but I had Boraxo laundry product – the old 40 mule team stuff that’s been around forever. I concocted a “recipe” using ½ white sugar and ½ boraxo. I put it in a squeeze bottle – the kind with a small hole. I put it all around the edge of the closet. If they were silverfish, I have not seen one since. The sugar – a carbohydrate attracts them, they eat it and the boraxo kills them. Thing is, I never saw any dead ones either.

    I now have earwigs. I live on the edge of pine and fir forest. The pine are all dead from the pine bark beetle and the fir are in various stages of death from primarily a bud worm. The bird population this summer was down from normal. In September I was invaded by a gazillion gnats (perhaps fungus gnats) that came inside to DIE everywhere. It’s late November now and I’ve been finding more and more earwigs all the time, in all sorts of places around my home.

    It wasn’t until today that I learned they have wings. Last night, I had woken and as I lay still, something ‘fell’ and hit the pillow, moving a strand or two of my hair. I immediately turned on the light but there was nothing to be seen. Needless to say, I couldn’t go back to sleep. In years of high populations of mice, they will, on occasion, crawl across my head in the night which I hate with a passion, but when it happens there’s nothing I can do about it. I digress.,,

    Later, when I arose and got all the way out of bed, an earwig ran across the yellow sheet heading for the dark again. I nabbed it.

    I’m wondering if the sugar stuff would work, but have no idea where they are coming in. Since they eat plants, maybe their eggs came in on some plants, but the plants look fine. I repotted everything that had been on the patio for summer.

    Later today I found 2 small earwigs so they might be hatching somewhere although they’ve all seemed full size until these two. The problem with the sugar is… you guessed it… sticky. Who wants sugar sprinkled around everywhere? In the storage closet it’s one thing but the rest of the place I think not.

    I find most in the bathroom or kitchen but they can be anywhere..… perhaps coming in on water pipes, I am going to try rolling up newpaper and putting it under the bathroom vanity and along floor by the cupboards. I’ll put some boraxo mix in it and see if it kills them.

    Bottom line… I think the bugs are plentiful because many of the birds that normally eat them have gone elsewhere… or died for lack of nesting habitat. Sad.

    Cheers, SpiderLady

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