Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Earwigs: Less Worrying Than You Thought, But Not Much

Elegantly drawing together a couple of recent blog themes, my colleague D. instant-messaged me today to say he had opened a new carton of apple juice and found a live earwig inside the lid.

'Was it male or female?', was my immediate - and possibly not entirely relevant - response.

D. didn't know, as it was 'only small', so we looked it up in Wikipedia, where we discovered the following rigorous scientific data:

The name earwig comes from Old English eare "ear" and wicga "insect". It is fancifully related to the notion that earwigs burrow into the brains of humans through the ear and therein lay their eggs. This belief, however, is false. Nevertheless, being exploratory and omnivorous, earwigs probably do crawl into the human ear; even if they are only looking for a humid crevice in which to hide, such behavior provides a memorable basis for the name.

So there you have it: earwigs 'probably' do get in your ear, but not to lay eggs or anything.

That's all right then.

NEXT WEEK: Cottage pie 'probably made of cottages'.

23 comments:

violetforthemoment said...

...ewww.

Billy said...

Better finding a whole earwig than half of one...

patroclus said...

To be perfectly honest Violet, that was actually also my immediate response to my colleague's news.

Annie Rhiannon said...

"NEXT WEEK: Cottage pie 'probably made of cottages'."

Hee.

Sylvia said...

we found an earwig in a box of eggs last week. Eggs were duly scrubbed and earwig tipped out of box in the garden by horrified child. Didn't stop her eating the cake I was making with the eggs....

Fat Roland said...

I watched a slug eat a whole leaf once, start to finish. It took 45 minutes. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.

Tim Footman said...

I don't need an earwig. They're hairy enough as it is.

patroclus said...

Annie: I should confess that the cottage pie gag is quite heavily based on one of my brother's.

Sylvia: But had the earwig laid the eggs?

FR: The lovely Mr BC and I are currently ploughing through a DVD of The Private Life of Plants, and it is full of similar revolting footage. Possibly the most revolting being the mutant wasp-worms that live and die inside a flower without ever seeing the light of day. Eurgh. My mum taught me to love all the animals, but some of them aren't very lovable.

Tim: Are you implying that you might be a hobbit?

Sean McManus said...

Think about it from the earwig's point of view. One day he's having a bit of a nose around a factory, then some idiot seals him in a watery cavern, where he could drown. He's only got about a head's height of air and he's got to grip on to the lid for sheer life, even as his watery tomb is shaken all over the place in transit. Despite the long, long wait for salvation, he never gives up hope. Then one day, after a last shake of his coffin, someone lifts the lid and lets him out. If he was a human, he'd a bloody hero, like that bloke who survived underwater in an inverted boat for days. Aren't animals great?

Mind you, I'm glad it wasn't my apple juice.

james henry said...

Pah, it's clearly just a viral for BBC4's new series on earwigs.

Called 'Earwigs'.

Timorous Beastie said...

My sister and I (and maybe everyone else in Scotland, who knows) used to call earwigs "earywigs", or possibly "eeriewigs", which adds a pleasing nuance to the whole business, I feel.

D. said...

Not only did the earwig (who was a boy earwig, by the way) make a miraculous escape, in his small way he lured me back into the blogosphere to see if P had mentioned the little blighter. I wonder if he realised that by taking refuge in juice he was actually collaborating in my own little social networking ecosystem thingy? I don't suppose he likes to think about it much, you can't blame him really.

He was alive and well when I released him into my front garden to battle the aerial peril of the nearby blackbird nest. The Apple Juice was also fine and dandy too.

Sylvia : If there was any kind of foodstuff I would be pretty certain of being impermeable to relatively large insects it's be a box of eggs. If an earwig touching those eggs worried you, don't even think about where else they've been... :)

Sylvia said...

OOer- never thought of the earwig laying the eggs!
Cake tasted Ok though.

rivergirlie said...

earwigs crawl into crevices between the petals of dahlias (look - i'm sorry, but i used to edit gardening books, ok?), where they can cause a bit of damage by nibbling. the usual method for getting rid of them is to place an upturned clay flowerpot, stuffed with dry grass, on top of a bamboo cane adjacent to the dahlia flowerheads. the earwigs go into the flowerpot and you shake the dried grass and earwigs onto the bonfire (firm but fair). if you're really worried about this, maybe you could, as a preventative, wear small flowerpots as earrings and empty them regularly.

i'll get me coat

llewtrah said...

Which reminds me .... "do those girl scout cookies contain real girl scouts?"

And are there any shepherds in shepherds pie or fishermen in .... you get the idea!

In Warwickshire they were "eariwigs"

belladona said...

I once spent a night camping and a couple of earwigs climbed into my sleeping bag. It turns out they bite.

Oww.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

I once made the mistake of leaving the inner flysheet door of my tent open during the day while I was at a music festival.

I returned to my tent at about 2.30am (slightly drunk), crawled in turned on my torch and discovered that around 20-30 earwigs had taken up residence.

I of course had to kill them all before I could sleep (including a giant half-inch long monster earwig that was indestructible).

It took me an hour swearing under my breath the whole time to get them all...

I hate bloody earwigs.

BiScUiTs said...

Hahaha! That's probably the funniest Wikipedia article ever. I haven't seen an earwig in ages actually, although I do have an itchy ear for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Up in Aberdeen (or at least in my family anyway) we call 'em forkytails... didn't know what the hell an earwig was 'till i ended up down south! Whatever they're called, they're scary!

Fi

Annie Rhiannon said...

Where did you go? Not seen since September 11th. Oh dear.

patroclus said...

Oooh blimey, has it been that long? I didn't realise I'd been so neglectful. Erm, I've been mainly entertaining houseguests, visiting the V&A, attending nu-meeja events, writing the other blog, working, and nursing an almost constant headache.
Normal service will resume shortly, I hope.

Nat said...

I must confess that I have no clue what an earwig is, other than a bug. Without the context I wouldn't have even known that. Maybe we don't have them in the States? Oh well, I'll Google it later.

Anonymous said...

I re-edited the wikipedia on earwigs - from personal experience.


The name earwig comes from Old English eare "ear" and wicga "insect".

It comes from the times when people, animals, gardens and hay, all lived in close proximity. The earwigs with their prolific nocturnal traveling when seeking out food, mates, and seeking sheltered places to rest, would on occasion crawl into the ears of the sleeping person they happened to be crawling over, leading to much irritation and annoyance in shaking the insect out of the ear canal.

The earwigs with their omnivorous diet, may in fact be attracted to the scent of earwax as a food source, however while completely plausable - this has yet to be verified.

In more modern times, because of the separation of people's sleeping areas and the earwigs preferred habitat, the experiences of earwigs entering the ear have slipped into conjecture and speculation as an urban myth.

However people who DO sleep in areas which are the subject of high earwig populations - such as haystacks, farm sheds etc., DO occasionally wake to the annoying feeling of an earwig crawling into their ears.

In terms of irritation, they rate much like a fly going up inside ones nose.

Earwigs are relatively easy to dislodge from the ear by shaking the head - with or without the aid of a piece of straw or matchstick.