Earwigs are insects that feed on rotting plant material in dark, damp areas. Some types of earwigs can destroy crops and other plants, but they can also be beneficial insects that prey on aphids. Other earwigs can emit a foul aroma when in danger. An earwig is easily identified by the set of pinchers located on the end of its abdomen, which they use to pinch perceived threats.
Legends suggest that earwigs will crawl into the ear canal of sleeping people to lay eggs in their brains. These stories are untrue, according to Iowa State University. However, earwigs, like other insects, can accidentally crawl into a person's ear and become trapped there.
Sometimes earwigs migrate into homes, looking for moist and cool places to hide. According to the Iowa State University Department of Entomology, earwigs will not damage a house. However, homeowners who dislike earwigs can use an insecticide around baseboards and window sills to deter them. Removing mulch and tall grass from a house's exterior perimeter can also limit the amount of earwigs inside a home.
The term "earwig" refers to an insect order that encompasses hundreds of earwig species. For this reason, there are some variations between earwigs in different locations. For example, while all earwigs eat decaying plant matter, most earwigs are also predators that catch and eat smaller insects. Other earwigs may eat houseplants, sweet or greasy foods, mosses and lichen.