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280 days of Urbpandemonium #180

 photo IMGP2447_zpsskyrzfks.jpg
If you are a North American and you have ever seen an earwig, the chances are very VERY good that you are familiar with the European earwig Forficula auricularia* According to my go-to insect guide, "In the early 1900s, European earwigs were introduced to Rhode Island, and quickly spread across the country." It's nice to lay the blame on a neighboring state, since Massachusetts is responsible for a great many Old World invaders.

Earwigs are essentially harmless, causing only psychic damage if--for example--they suddenly appear in from a child's toy that was left in the yard over night. I've recovered from that shock, as you can see by this photograph. The alarming "pinchers" are anatomically the same as the vibration-sensing cerci of cockroaches and silverfish. Earwigs make a show of bending those cerci at you if you try to pick one up, but apart from perhaps some large tropical species, they can't actually pinch you with them. There are a few native North American species, but I am confident I have never seen one--every earwig I've found roaming the sunflowers, or hiding in the cracks of the chicken coop, or harboring in the folds of anything made of fabric left outside overnight, has been a European.

They are opportunistic omnivores, sometimes eating aphids from your garden, sometimes damaging your garden plants, probably more often doing something entirely neutral. What they don't seem to do, despite folklore and their name, is habitually enter human ears. This gross list includes cockroaches, fly larvae, and actual parasites, but not earwigs. It may have happened at some point in history--there are a lot of humans sleeping on the ground, and a lot of earwigs out there, but it's not a typical part of their natural history.

*Little scissors of the ear

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
theysuredo
Oct. 10th, 2015 01:10 am (UTC)
Dude, that link?
I'm going to have nightmares for weeks!!
(Deleted comment)
kryptyd
Oct. 12th, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC)
You think that's bad? I remember one showing up in our classroom when I was small and one of the kids spreading the rumour that if you killed an earwig it would break in half and both bits would be still alive and would come after you. And of course everyone also thought they would go in ears. It didn't help that there was a horrible bug in the ear scene in some scifi thing around that time. Possibly that was from V, a show I loved which was also the source of many a terror!
urbpan
Oct. 13th, 2015 01:11 am (UTC)
I'm gonna guess you're talking about the Ceti eel from star trek II

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i42Smtbmeg
morgi
Oct. 11th, 2015 03:41 pm (UTC)
We lived in a rental house that had an earwig problem--if you ran the lawnmower next to the house, or thumped on the siding, they'd fall out from between the wall and the siding.
froganon
Oct. 12th, 2015 12:06 am (UTC)

Fascinating critters. Those cerci that grab food ?or get waved at other earwigs for defense? made me think of the pyxies in the African savannahs with their back legs shoveling holes to sit in so they can wait for their prey to fall in.

[My captive bred pyxie is eight years old now I think. He lives alone because a frog that doesn't care for his neighbor frogs will eat his neighbor frogs].

We used to get both earwigs and silverfish that come up the bathtub drain once in awhile. Not so much anymore since I've now got a de-humidifier in the basement. And two cats on patrol.
kryptyd
Oct. 12th, 2015 07:20 pm (UTC)
That's funny. I've always believed that they could and would give you a pinch.

I overheard a very funny conversation about earwigs in the pub once. And auld lad was saying to a guy about my age "...but you wouldn't remember earwigs. You're too young". My group of 20-something year olds tried to butt in to say we'd all seen earwigs and they still existed, but the old fella didn't believe a word of it and thought we were thinking of something else.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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