by Ross Courtney, Good Fruit Grower
Robert Orpet, a tree fruit entomology graduate student at Washington State University, counts earwigs in a roll of corrugated cardboard in a Quincy, Washington, orchard last July. Orpet is studying whether the earwig, sometimes regarded as a pest in its own right, can serve as a biological control for woolly apple aphid.
Turns out, earwigs aren’t so bad.
They sometimes eat plants, but don’t wreak destruction like the brown marmorated stink bug. They don’t bite people like mosquitoes.
And they certainly don’t crawl inside human ears to lay eggs in our brains the way medieval folklore and their name suggest.
They may just need a better press agent.
That’s where Robert Orpet comes in; at least, he hopes to when his research is complete.
For now, the Washington State University entomology graduate student has documented that where there are more earwigs, there are fewer woolly apple aphids. And woolly aphids are the true bad guys for apple growers.
A colony of woolly apple aphids sets up shop at the root of a Gala tree. The pests, identifiable by the fuzzy colonies they build, typically infest roots at points of new growth or where trees have been injured by cracks, winter damage or at the base of leaf axils. They have become a recurring concern for some growers.