One of the most villainized bugs in history, the earwig has inspired truly gruesome myths and stories. But despite the insect’s intimidating pincers, it’s actually quite harmless to humans. Nevertheless, they are a nuisance. And as earwig numbers naturally grow throughout the summer, people are searching for ways to deal with these unwanted pests.
“I left for vacation on the 11th of this month, and there were some [earwigs] in two particular places: in the chicken grain bin and in the bulkhead of the house,” said Ronica Smith of Strong. “When we came back from vacation on the 23rd, they were, and are, everywhere. In the kitchen sink, in the tub, in my dishes, basement, crawling everywhere.”
Smith was recently a part of a discussion about earwigs, and more specifically how to eradicate them, on the public Facebook page “Maine Homesteading.” And from the posts, it’s clear she’s not the only one struggling with this particular creepy crawly.
“Right now at any given point, you could probably see three wherever you’re standing [in my house],” Smith said.
For many, that may sound like a nightmare, and for good reason. For decades, earwigs have been misrepresented as dangerous pests. It all began with an Old English myth claiming that earwigs intentionally crawl into people’s ears while they’re sleeping, then bore into their brains, causing excruciating pain and insanity as they lay eggs.
This terrifying tale earned them their common name, a combination of the Old English words “eare,” which means ear, and “wicga,” which means insect.
Of course this name only perpetuates the myth, allowing earwigs to wiggle into horror films, poetry and more. One of the most unforgettable of these earwig-themed stories is the 1972 episode of the show “Night Gallery,” in which a man is driven insane when an earwig is placed in his ear and eats through his brain. The episode has been labeled by several reviewers as one of the most horrific TV episodes in history.
“With the fierce appearance of these things, they certainly have some stigma associated with them,” said Clay Kirby, pest management specialist with the University of Maine Pest Management Office.
Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.
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