ADM Environmental
402 S. Brown St. · Jackson, MI 49203
Phone: (517) 783-3883, Fax: (517) 783-4398
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Earwig Drawing
We Have a Small Problem...Earwigs!
Earwigs are small insects with coliform bacteria in their gut. They like cool places so you may find them in your basement, the vent in your septic system, and of course, in your well.

The problem is most obvious in real estate inspections where chlorination will not produce a "safe" water test. Repeated well cleanings will still not produce "safe" tests. In 1998, earwigs moved as far north as the Appleton level of the state. In the near future, it is possible all well drillers and pump installers will have to deal with earwig problems.

As a professional in the water well industry - well driller, pump installer, plumber, or water treatment professional, this presents a unique problem. If you see earwigs in or around the well, that is confirmation that there is an earwig problem. If you do not see earwigs, but your customer has a bacteriologically "unsafe" water test, the situation becomes complicated.

Unchecked, earwigs will mask other more serious problems. It is difficult to tell if there is a cracked well
casing or contaminated well, a plumbing problem in the water system, or an earwig problem.

Drilling a new well because of a chronic "unsafe" water test due to earwigs is an expensive solution to a small problem that, handled correctly, can be easily solved. Earwigs cannot be removed by well cleaning (chlorination).

Earwigs settle to the bottom of the well and must be removed by bailing, blowing or jetting the well to decontaminate the system.

Removal of earwigs from a well is tricky. For example, you must know the construction of the well. Your customer will not be happy if you blow a well and close off the formation in case of a non-screened sand and gravel well - or blow earwigs through the screen in a screened well. So use air to evacuate a well with great caution.

In some cases, a bottom-loading bailer may be the only remedy to remove earwigs from a well. On the other hand, in most consolidated formations, a jetting tool can be used very effectively to "vacuum" the bottom of the well.

Ken Meyers of Luisier Drilling, Inc. in Lena Wisconsin taught me this trick. The tool is a 1-1/2" drop pipe with a ½" airline taped to the outside of the pipe. The air line must bend 180 degrees back up into the drop pipe and run 12" to 18" up in the pipe. The air supply will work best if you use 100# of air at 100cfm (standard rental compressor for a jackhammer). The drop pipe can be rolled plastic with 10' to 20' of galvanized pipe at the bottom of the system. A good idea is to install a valve on the drop pipe to "turn off the vacuum."

After the earwigs on the bottom of the well have been removed, "blow" the floating earwigs and those clinging to the side of the well casing over the top of the casing. So the process has 4 steps:
  1. Remove the pump
  2. Jet (vacuum) the bottom of the well
  3. Blow the top of the well (leave the drop pipe on the bottom of the well)
  4. Aggressively chlorinate the well and household plumbing with at least 4 gallons of bleach and 5 to 8 1" chlorine tablets
Purge the well after 8 hoursf of quiet time and retest the well for coliform bacteria.

It should go without saying you should install vermin-proof well caps wherever possible. Earwigs are a serious problem and have the potential of becoming a health hazard and an economic hardship for all involved.
Submitted by: Michael Furstenburg Clean Water Testing, Inc. 500 West Franklin Street Appleton, WI, 54911 E-mail:

© 2005 by ADM Environmental, L.L.C.
Revised 12/25/2020.