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Would the earwigs in my nestbox deter birds from nesting in it?

Sent in by Maureen Watt, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Earwigs (Forficula auricularia) is the common name given to the insect order Dermaptera. They are characterised by the membrane wings that fold underneath short leathery forewings - the literal translation of the order name is 'skin wings'.

They are attracted to cool, moist areas, such as leaf litter, soil, under bark or in hollow plant stems. They are generally nocturnal and spend their days resting; coming out at night to scavenge on decaying plant and animal matter, fungus and other insects.

Earwig bites, despite what some people claim, are quite harmless and never fatal because earwigs don’t secrete any poison. Though the earwigs' pincers (or cerci) are quite strong and the pinch may be a bit painful, there is no reason to worry about an earwig bite.

The urban myth that earwigs burrow into people's ears at night and lay eggs in their brains is also not true. Earwigs are not parasitic so it would not be typical behaviour, and a female would much rather lay her eggs under a damp, dark stone than in your ear! 

Earwigs could be considered a beneficial addition to a garden, especially as they prey on other insects. They can cause some damage in gardens as they chew plants, but on the other hand, they eat many plant pests and their eggs, such as aphids.

Birds will actually eat earwigs so having them in the box could be a good thing. They are full of protein and are a good source of energy. Attracting more birds into your garden will help to keep the number of earwigs down, along with other garden pests, such as slugs and snails.

For advice on how to attract birds and other beneficial wildlife to your garden you can take part in our Homes for Wildlife project.

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