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Earwigs: The Horror!

The following "earwig alert" is purported (via The Folklorist.com)
to have come from the Texas Department of Agriculture, although there is no
date attached to the document. It is true, however, that earwigs were
in the past widely believed to behave in exactly the manner described
below. They don't, but I'm sure the faux-scientific tone of the
announcement engendered a few shivers here and there.

The Texas Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the Department of Health has issued a warning surrounding earwig infestations in the state. The earwig is a small insect, with forceps-like antennae, many jointed feelers and a pincher-like beak at the end of it’s tail. They mate in the cooler days of autumn and prefer to engage their mating behavior on vegetables of the squash and gourd variety. During the Halloween season, pumpkins are of particular concern for transmission of these parasites to humans.

These insects are quite insidious, the fertilized female will attach herself to hair, clothing and/or skin, and under the cover of darkness wend her way into the ear canal, burrowing then through the middle and inner ear to the brain. Upon reaching the brain, the earwig first severs the cranial nerve, which serves as both a blessing and a curse to the victim. Whereas the victim suffers no pain thereafter, the victim is also unaware of the progressive degeneration of cerebral tissue.


Over the course of several days, the female burrows a network of tunnels through the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain, implanting her eggs as she digs along. After she has deposited her entire brood of approximately 1000 eggs, she emerges in the sinus cavity where she expires. The eggs hatch after about 4 days of incubation. Immediately after they pass through the pupae stage, about 2 days later, each larva burrows further into the brain, shredding brain tissues and consuming it for nourishment. The victim will usually die a horrible and debilitating death about a week later as the larvae reach maturity.

The entire process of host infestation to host death spans only about 2 weeks, so recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment is of immediate concern.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:

Bleeding from the ears, fever over 103 F for more than a day, heart palpitations, migraine-like headaches and/or sudden speech impairment.

As The Folklorist points out,



[Earwigs] get their name from the mistaken belief that they have a particular affinity for human ears. This notion has persisted for close to a millennium. An earwig may, on a rare occasion, find it's way into an ear, but no more often than any other insect.

I imagine that having a "bug in your ear" would be quite disconcerting, but deadly? Not likely. Earwigs are neither carnivorous nor parasitic. The earwig primarily eats plants, but will ingest another insect if given the opportunity. As far as eating human tissue, no chance.

The illustration is from Bugstoppers


Reminds me of the scene in the Star Trek movie, The Wrath Of Khan, where Chekov gets the mind-control bug from Khan. Creepy. I've had nightmares about those things!
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It goes across cultures too. The French call it a "perce-oreille" and the Germans call it an "ohr-wurm," both based on the belief that the insect burrows into people's ears.
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I had a queen ant (the ones with the wings) fly into my ear when I was about 10 years old and it got stuck there. Deep. It was still alive and driving me absofreakinglutely INSANE was it tried to move around and get out. Imagine the thing right up against your ear drum squirming writhing and trying to flap it's wings. And you can't reach it. Can't scratch it, can't do anything about it except deal with it. It was horrific, especially for a ten year old. About two hours of this and a doctor was able to kill it by pouring oil down my ear canal, but it still had to be removed. So we went to the hospital where the doctor used a little suction thingy to pull the ant out. 'Took five minutes. Charged us $500.

The nurse insisted it was trying to fly through because it saw the light coming through from my other ear. Ha. Freakin'. Ha.
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"They're quite harmless. Just a nusiance really."
Jack Rabbit is onlly saying that because they've ALREADY TAKEN OVER HIS BRAIN!
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I had the same thing as Keeter happen when I was about 20. It was AWFUL. The bug flapped and squirmed like mad.

I drowned mine with the shower nozzle, but when it died, it's hydraulic pinchers had clamped onto my eardrum and hard to be torn off with a pair of forceps deep in my ear canal. I had to be held down my interns while they yanked the thing off my ear drum. After they got it, I could hear my ear fill with blood.

Once again...it was awful.
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Whole idea came from an old story by Robert Bloch on Night Gallery (or possibly Hitchcock) in the '70's, about an assassination attempt that went wrong, and the earwig was placed in the villian's ear. I seem to recall that it may have been William Shatner; had to be tied up to stop from ripping his face off. Of course the punch line was that it was a pregnant female.
Instant legend.
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I think it went the other way around. Bloch got the idea from the legend. The reason we call them "earwigs" is that our ancient Anglo-Saxon ancestors thought they would get into your ear and wiggle around. (The etymological info comes from the Oxford English Dictionary, so it's reliable.)
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I, personally, had an ant crawl into my ear as I slept one night when I was about 10. AWFUL!! It danced on my eardrum...the scratching was unbearable!! My parents flushed it out with some water, but to this day, I get nervous when bugs buzz near my ear.
ICK!!!
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Also, my first cat died when a fly entered it's ear and laid an egg. The vet pulled a big worm out of it's head. I decided I didn't want to be a vet any more. :(
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