| Moment of Science takes on another myth.
Yael: I've hardly slept in days.
Don: I'm sorry. Are you under stress?
Y: Terribly, and the cause of it all is the earwig. A friend of mine just told me about them, how they enter your ears when you're sleeping and burrow into your brain, and then you either go mad or you die. I'm afraid I'll never be able to sleep again.
D: I think I have some news that might do the trick.
Y: What's that?
D: Your friend is pulling one over on you. There isn't a bit of evidence that earwigs harm humans whatsoever. At worst, they're simply pests. During the day they hide in dark crevices and cracks, and so if they get into your house you could end up finding them under couch cushions, newspapers, and in plants. Typically, though, they feed on insects and food scraps, and probably won't feed on your living plants unless there are large numbers of them. Their other not so pleasant feature is that they have scent glands that occasionally give off a foul odor, and so you should be prepared for a stench if you step on one.
Y: What about those terrible pincers that they are supposed to dig into your brain with?
D: Yes, they do have pincers at the tip of their abdomens, but they use them in courtship and to defend themselves from other insects. They don't sting or bite or dig into people's ears.
Y: Well, I feel better about sleeping, but I can't say that I ever want to lay eyes on one of these things in my house.
Writer: Michelle Ross
Image: University of Nebraska Dept. of Entomology
Comments: amos @ indiana.edu
Copyright 2003, The Trustees of Indiana University
Design by HomeMadeMedia