Even though earwigs prefer dark, snug places, they really don’t want to be in your ear canal burrowing to your brain to lay eggs, as the unnerving legend states. Their common name is possibly the oldest of any insect in the English language, dating as far back as the 11th Century. “Earwig” derives from the Old English ear wicga, which, when roughly translated, means “ear insect” or “ear wiggler” (wicga meaning ‘wiggle”).
Their wicked-looking pincers, called cerci, also adds to their menacing appearance, although they are more often used on prey rather than people.
Earwigs hide underneath rocks and in garden debris during the day and come out at night to eat a wide-variety of decaying organic matter, aphids, insect eggs, and some plants. At reasonable numbers, they’re useful to help clean up on the ground level. But they can easily slip into the pest category, and can turn picking an ear of sweet corn into something out of a horror movie. As you peel back the husk, the earwigs spill out by the dozen. And when the weather cools off at the end of the summer, they often come inside. There’s not many things less appealing than finding an earwig on your toothbrush!