Earwigs are elongate and slender insects with a prognathous head. They are dark reddish-brown, with light brown legs, and are about 5/8 inch long. They are flattened from top to bottom, which allows them to crawl through extremely small cracks. Their color ranges from brown to black and some species have yellow or buff-colored stripes or a reddish coloring on the head and body. All earwigs have a pair of hardened abdominal appendages which protrude backwards as a tail.

Earwigs may actually be considered beneficial. They feed on many plant pests, such as aphids, mites and insect eggs. Earwigs are active at night and feed on a wide variety of materials. They occasionally cause injury to leafy plants such as lettuce and some flower blossoms. They often are associated with injuries caused by other insects. For example, leaves curled by aphids and holes in fruit are favorite hiding places for earwigs.

Earwigs develop with a gradual metamorphosis from egg to nymph to adult. The immature forms look much like the adult but lack the wings and the large sized forceps. Females lay from 20 to 300 eggs, usually in a chamber in the soil. The female guards the eggs and the newly-hatched young. One to two generations are born each year. Earwigs prefer high moisture and migrate indoors during periods of prolonged heat and drought to seek cool, moist hiding places. During the winter they can dig into the ground as deep as 6 feet to escape freezing temperatures.

Typical indoor hiding places are under rugs or potted plants, in stacks of newspapers, and similar locations. Outdoors, they commonly are found under rocks or stacked wood, in ear tips of sweet corn, and under various kinds of debris. The most common complaint against the earwig is its mere presence in homes and apartments.

Management of earwigs requires an integrated program that takes advantage of their habitat preferences. Earwigs may seek refuge indoors when conditions outside are too dry or hot or cold. Large accumulations of earwigs can be annoying but present no health hazards.

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