Dateline: August 9, 2013*
When I think of earwigs I recall my youth and the creepy crawly insects that were hidden in our somewhat damp basement. Never did I consider that they could be beneficial in any way.
Of course likely those I encountered in the past were exotics. Earwigs,
“can devastate seedling vegetables or annual flowers and often seriously damage maturing soft fruit or corn silks, they also have a beneficial role in the landscape and have been shown to be important predators of aphids.
Another benefit is that earwigs eliminate decaying organic materials from the environment. They eat algae, fungi, mosses, pollen as well as insects, spiders and mites both dead and live.
This week I discovered a family living in the folds of a Redroot (Lachnanthes caroliniana) leaf. I was thrilled to discover they are a native variety called the Lined Earwig (Doru taeniatum). With its bright, shiny pallor that glistens in the sunshine it doesn’t seem creepy to me at all.
Earwigs are generally nocturnal, although I’ve seen my guys out and about during the day in recent times, dancing quickly up and down the Bidens alba and grass seedheads. The genus Doru are important caterpillar predators and have a particular taste for the egg of the velvetbean caterpillar, a pest of pod plants especially soybeans.
Unlike a lot of the insect world, the momma earwigs provide care to their offspring, feeding their nymphs through regurgitation. They do, however, seem to play favorites.
Rumor has it that they fly, but I my bunch didn’t take to the airways. An earwig’s defense mechanism is to squirt foul smelling liquid or use the pinchers to…well…PINCH! Stand back and keep your fingers away, or just don’t annoy the little buggers.
Predators include the Tachinid fly, toads, birds, chickens and ducks. On a good note, natural enemies of the exotics, include arboreal earwigs (Doru taeniatum). So, I’m welcoming my new little friends!
While large populations may damage grass and be a pest if they get inside your home, they are generally harmless preying on more harmful insects. Just use common sense to keep home areas free from dampness.
So, while earwigs as a family may be a mixed bag, I’d vote for keeping my friendly native genus around.
*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on August 9, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.