Earwigs are small insects which live in different regions of the world, including Asia, North America, Australia, and Africa. It is very easy to distinguish earwigs from other insects due to their unique physical appearance. They have an elongated body (usually half an inch) along with pointy pincers that look like forceps. The pincers are located on the back part of the body. The insect generally feeds on decaying leaves and plants
It is popularly believed that earwigs are dangerous to humans, but this belief is incorrect. They will use their sharp forceps-like pincers and prick the skin surface of humans as a means of self-defense when disturbed. The main purposes of the pincers are for matting and capturing prey.
An earwig has 5 molts in one year before turning into an adult earwig. Several species of earwigs show maternal care, something which is not so commonly seen in insects. Female earwigs tend to care for its eggs; they may continue to take care and keep a watch even after the eggs have hatched and turned into nymph molts. Such care continues till the second molt. During the molting of nymphs, sexual dimorphism like dissimilarity in shapes of pincers, start becoming visible.
Earwigs generally tend to live in moist and dark places. They are typically outdoor and nocturnal pets. Earwigs may sometimes enter homes and live below the dirt in pots of indoor plants or live in wall crevices.
An earwig bite occurs when the insect inserts its pincers on human skin. The bite can be painful and may occasionally be accompanied by minor bleeding. It may however be noted that earwig bite does not transfer any poison or venom into human body as the insect is not venomous. Thus, the bite of an earwig is not as dangerous as a bee sting, or a black widow spider bite, or a snake bite.
An earwig bite may not cause the same symptoms in every individual and the intensity of the symptoms may be dependent on the reaction of the person to the bite. However, a few common signs and symptoms are listed below:
- The area of skin with the bite may experience inflammation and redness
- Two very visible reddish marks may be seen on the surface of skin. These are cause due to piercing of skin by the two pincers.
- Patients may suffer from itching in the bite area
- In case of a deep earwig bite, there may be mild bleeding
- If the pincers break and get embedded into the skin, then the affected area may swell up and harden
- In severe cases, the earwig bite may trigger formation of a blister, which if left untreated can progress into an infection. Spread of such infection to nearby tissues may result in a condition called cellulitis which is marked by increased swelling, redness, and hot skin.
Treatment of earwig bite
An earwig bite is not harmful or life-threatening. Some individuals may experience minor discomfort due to itchiness, pain, redness, and swelling caused by the bite. Treatment is often needed for alleviation of symptoms and for ensuring that infection does not occur.
Follow the steps given below to treat an earwig bite:
- Wash the affected area with soap and water. This will help disinfect the bite site.
- Swelling, pain, and inflammation can be alleviated with ice therapy. Take an ice bag, put a few ice cubes in it, and place it on the affected site for some minutes. After a few hours, if swelling does not go away and/or if pain persists, then repeat ice therapy.
- Use an anti-pruritic cream or an anti-bacterial ointment on the earwig bite area to find relief from itchiness and swelling.
- If the symptoms continue and/or blisters develop, then patients need to seek medical attention.
- If the pincers have broken off and lodged into the skin, then do not try to remove it on your own. Instead, visit a doctor for removal of pincers and additional treatment if needed.
Controlling earwig population
Controlling the growth of earwigs is the best way to prevent earwig bite. Follow the measures listed below to prevent the entry of the insect into your house:
- Earwigs prefer moist areas. Hence, ensure that all areas of the house are kept as dry and moisture free as possible, especially the corners, foundation, and walls.
- Earwigs may crawl into the house from even the tiniest openings. Hence, ensure that all windows and doors are closed during night. Even though the insect likes outdoors, it may crawl into the house if the night gets too cold.
- Earwigs like decaying garden plants and may enter the house to feast on them. Throw all decaying indoor plants to prevent earwig infestation.
- Use boric acid at different entrances to prevent entry of the insect
- Use a vacuum to get rid of the insects if the house is already infested. You may also purchase varied chemical sprays from the market.