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earwig

Q: Are earwigs dangerous or harmless?

Q: With all the rain we have been having my wife is upset at the number of insects showing up in the house. She especially hates the earwigs. We have been smashing them, but that is very unpleasant. Some people say they are dangerous and other say they are harmless. What does the University say?

A: Many of us have been experiencing a variety of insects coming in from the rain – they are not as dumb as people seem to think! We can definitely say earwigs are not dangerous but you will have to decide if you think they are harmless. Vegetable growers would classify them as a nuisance because ringlegged earwigs (Euborellia annulipes), which are nocturnal, like to feed on lettuce or root crops. The ringlegged earwig is the most common earwig found in Florida and it is particularly fond of plants found in greenhouses. However, they are also voracious predators eating sowbugs and other insects like our major St. Augustine grass pest – the evil chinch bug.

Another earwig species have been found in North Florida called the European earwig but they are not well established here. European earwigs are generally classified only as a nuisance pest because the damage they cause is only aesthetic damage. You may want to encourage your wife to sweep up the earwig and throw it back outside where it prefers to live and can hunt other insects. I will leave you with a quote from a University of Florida publication on earwigs: “It is mostly known as a nuisance, and the small amount of plant feeding injury it causes likely is offset by its beneficial predatory habits.” Now you can decide how best to handle this tiny pest – I am voting for the “sweep and toss” method!