Insects in the Ear III

In earlier posts, I noted that earwigs are rarely (almost never) found in the ear canal. I also noted that the most common insect found in the ear canal is the cockroach. Today the news is buzzing about a moth that crawled in the ear canal of a 12 year old boy in Parker, Colorado. The news story, along with video are here.

The insect in question was a Miller Moth that crawled in the ear canal around dusk. Attempts to dislodge the moth were unsuccessful and the boy taken to the ER. Doctors tried a variety of methods including irrigating the ear canal with water to flush the moth and numbing the ear in an attempt to reduce the pain (the moth was banging against the ear drum) and perhaps kill or stun the moth. This did numb the ear but neither stunned nor killed the moth. Finally, the doctors were able to grasp the moth with forceps and pull it out of the ear canal.

It is not surprising that water would not flush the moth. The ear canal is lined with wax that often keeps water from fully filling the canal. Also, most insects have a cuticle that is water proof and resistant to wetting. Mineral oil is typically more successful at flushing insects from the ear because it does not leave pockets of air in the canal and will soak the cuticle of the insect.

The moth was placed in a urine cup and sent home with the victim as a souvenir. Perhaps it inspire a career in Entomology. However, there are better ways to collect moths.

A Boy and His Moth
Photo: 9News

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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1 Response to Insects in the Ear III

  1. Rachael says:

    Ugh! That would be so gross! I have heard of stories like these before, and seen plenty of awful videos about insects crawling into places they shouldn’t be. But I can’t imagine having it actually happen to me.

    I find it interesting that the water flushing didn’t do anything to help. The reasoning behind it even more so. If the mineral oil is more effective why don’t they just try that to begin with?

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