By David B Wheeler

Perhaps the worst fear people have of earwigs, with their menacing rear pinchers, are that one my crawl into the ear and bore into the brain. The old Anglo Saxon word earwicga literally means "ear creature" and in nearly all European languages the name for earwigs suggests a connection with the ear. Perhaps, way back then, when people slept on dirt floors, straw or hay, earwig's explored human ears as a place to hide out. Even thought there are no records of this actually happening it is conceivable and, apparently, Americans have inherited this ancient European fear.

The fear of earwigs is mainly due to the fact that we simply don't like the way they look. Both the male and female earwig has pincers on their posterior. These pincers, or forceps, are used for protection and cleaning their nest, but as threatening as they may look they are not a menace to people. On the contrary, recent research has demonstrated that earwigs are largely beneficial.

Despite the fact that we are still trying to control them in our vegetable and flower gardens and occasionally in our homes, we still need to look at them as helpful. Even though they may eat small holes in plant leafs of seedlings, their main diet is decaying materials and other insects, aphids being one of the insects they help to suppress. It has also been found that earwigs can be present in the vegetable garden in large numbers if they have a diverse soil surface and not cause damage to seedlings. All they need is composted mulch on which to feed.

When abundant, earwigs are often blamed for damage caused by other pest. Snails, slugs, and cutworms are a few of the pest that cause damage that is blamed on earwigs. Since during the day when gardeners are most active, the earwigs may choose damage tomatoes or other damaged fruits as handy, dark, moist hiding places. Night time checks with a flash light may reveal a quite different picture as to the real culprits damaging your flowers and vegetables.

David Wheeler, DAVID WHEELER'S PEST CONTROL, http://www.wheelerspc.com

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