Oliver: What’s creepy crawly and kind of a persistent pest?

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of buggy. And I don’t mean mosquitoes.

At least here at the Oliver homestead, the mosquitoes haven’t been too bad yet. Or maybe it’s that I haven’t been outside enough to tempt fate. Then again, we still have a bit of summer left and with all the rain and hot weather lately, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

No, the issue I’ve been having is one with something a lot creepier: earwigs.

This year is not my first encounter with those creepy-crawlies that look scarier than they are. They have those nasty-looking pincers that look like they can leave a mark.

Fortunately, they really don’t break the skin. I know this because I recently had one crawl into my sock. I was unaware until it put a pinch on the side of my foot. More ugh than ouch, though.

This, however, got me thinking about the many and varied run-ins I’ve had with these common household pests. Usually they show up in the middle of summer when it gets hot and when we’ve had a bit of rain. As in, right about now.

Usually they announce their arrival with a bit of theatrics. They’ll fall out of one of my towels or drop past my face from a bathroom mirror. They do seem to like to make an entrance.

After the first time each year, which still seems to make me jump, I become kind of immune to being startled. Then I’m just annoyed.

Probably the most annoyed I’ve ever been with an earwig was a few years back. I was living in downtown Crystal Lake at the time, in a lovely Victorian house.

I was about to make some coffee when something caught the corner of my eye. Something didn’t look right with the tube on the side of the coffeemaker where you can tell how much water you’ve put into the machine.

There, in that tiny little space, was a nasty little surprise. A little earwig was sitting in there, twitching its antennae at me. “Neener, neener, you can’t get me,” it seemed to be saying. I was not amused.

Let me tell you, it’s not easy to get an earwig out of a coffeemaker. Folks, don’t try this at home. Then again, I’m pretty sure these little buggers don’t wind up there all that often.

It also took more than a little effort and ingenuity to get that thing out of there. Then there was the inevitable debate about whether the coffeemaker would ever be used again. Ugh.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the grossest encounter I’ve ever had with an earwig. Oh no, that happened a few years later.

If it sounds like I’m saying that I’m being harassed by these insects, well, maybe I am. They have a way of being the subjects of too many of my oft-told tales.

Anyway, as with most people who don’t begin to function until they’ve had their first cup of coffee, I’m a bit out of it first thing in the morning. As in, I don’t find myself on high alert until at least my second cup of java.

Needless to say, this particular morning I should have been paying a wee bit more attention to my surroundings.

As I was drinking my coffee … Uh, no, I’m not going to finish this story. Suffice it to say, there was a surprise in my coffee. You can fill in the rest. It was incredibly unpleasant.

Turns out, even folklore is grossed out by earwigs. The bugs are reputed to crawl into sleepers’ ears to lay their eggs in people’s brains. Of course, there’s no truth to that.

Good thing, too. At the rate I’m going, there’s no telling where they will turn up next for me. Ick.

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

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