Do Earwigs Actually Crawl Into Ears?

In the realm of entomology, few insects have garnered as much attention and curiosity as earwigs, those enigmatic creatures with distinctive pincers at their rear. One enduring myth, however, has cast a shadow over these insects for generations: the belief that they crawl into human ears, causing discomfort and potential harm. In this comprehensive exploration, we embark on a journey to unravel the truth behind the myth of earwigs in ears. Beyond satisfying our curiosity, we aim to provide a deeper understanding of earwigs, their behavior, and their ecological significance while dispelling common misconceptions. By addressing these myths, we not only foster a more accurate perception of these insects but also promote ecological responsibility and rational responses when encountering them.

Understanding Earwigs

Earwigs are a group of insects that often elicit fascination due to their peculiar appearance. They are characterized by a pair of elongated pincers, known as cerci, at their posterior end, which are used for various purposes including defense, mating, and sensory perception. These pincers are a distinguishing feature of earwigs and are often the source of the misconceptions surrounding them. Earwigs typically measure between 5 to 25 millimeters in length, and their bodies are usually flattened and elongated, ranging in color from brown to black. They have two pairs of wings, with the hind wings typically folded beneath the forewings.

The name “earwig” carries a fascinating historical legacy. It is believed to have originated from an Old English term, “ēarewicga,” which translates to “ear insect.” This name is rooted in an old superstition that earwigs had a tendency to crawl into human ears while people slept, which likely contributed to the enduring myth. While the name has persisted over centuries, it is crucial to clarify that there is no scientific basis for earwigs having any special affinity for ears. Their name is simply a linguistic relic of an old wives’ tale that continues to capture our imagination.

Not the pest you are looking for?

Check out our pest library to see what other pests we have articles on

The Earwig Ear Myth: Fact or Fiction?

The belief that earwigs crawl into human ears is a persistent and widely held myth that has captured the public’s imagination for centuries. This myth is rooted in folklore and old wives’ tales that often exaggerate the behavior of certain insects for dramatic effect. In the case of earwigs, their unique appearance, including the prominent pincers, has led to the unfounded assumption that they are somehow attracted to human ears. Stories of ear pain, discomfort, and even injury caused by earwig intrusion have been passed down through generations, contributing to the perpetuation of this myth.

It is important to note that while such stories may be told with conviction, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that earwigs have a natural inclination to crawl into human ears. In fact, the biology and behavior of earwigs, as explored in the previous section, do not align with the myth. Earwigs are not anatomically suited for entering ears, nor do they exhibit any particular attraction to them. This examination of the belief serves as the first step in debunking the earwig ear myth.

Scientific Evidence

Scientific evidence strongly contradicts the notion of earwigs habitually invading human ears. Researchers and entomologists have conducted extensive studies on earwigs, seeking to understand their behavior and interactions with the environment. These studies consistently fail to provide any substantiated cases of earwigs crawling into human ears as a regular occurrence.

Moreover, human ears are not a suitable environment for earwigs. The ear canal is a well-protected and sensitive area, making it an inhospitable habitat for these insects. Earwigs are adapted to live in more natural environments, such as gardens, mulch, and leaf litter, where they can find food and shelter. Their pincers, while formidable for their size, are not designed for navigating the intricate twists and turns of the ear canal.

Health Concerns: Earwigs in Ears

The notion of earwigs crawling into ears naturally raises concerns about potential health risks. However, it is crucial to emphasize that such concerns are largely unfounded based on the known behavior and anatomy of earwigs. The structure of human ears provides effective natural defenses against insect intrusion. The ear canal is a relatively long and winding passage that typically prevents foreign objects, including insects, from reaching the eardrum.

While the pincers of earwigs may appear intimidating, they are not designed for penetrating the ear canal. In the rare event that an earwig were to enter the ear, it would likely do so by accident or in search of moisture, rather than with the intention to cause harm. Moreover, earwigs do not carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans, further reducing the potential health risks associated with them.

The health risks posed by earwigs invading ears are minimal and largely theoretical. The human ear’s natural anatomy and defenses make it an inhospitable environment for such intrusions, and the insects themselves do not possess the biological mechanisms to cause harm intentionally.


In the realm of insect myths, the belief that earwigs habitually crawl into human ears stands as a testament to the enduring power of folklore and imagination. However, a thorough exploration of the topic reveals that this myth lacks a factual basis. Earwigs, intriguing as they are with their distinctive pincers, do not exhibit a natural inclination to invade human ears, nor are they anatomically suited for such endeavors. Scientific evidence, combined with a closer examination of their behavior and the protective design of the human ear, dispels the notion of earwigs as ear-invading pests.

While rare, documented cases of earwigs found in human ears do exist, they typically involve accidental entry and result in mild discomfort rather than serious harm. These instances are exceptional and should not overshadow the broader understanding of earwigs as harmless creatures in the vast majority of human interactions. Thus, the myth of earwigs crawling into ears can be relegated to the annals of intriguing folklore, while a more accurate understanding of these insects can prevail.