Garden Earwig

Earwig

Learn how to identify and effectively control earwigs using proven, organic methods.

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Primarily night feeders, the common earwig (Forficula auricularia) is considered to be an insect pest when it feeds on soft plant shoots, such as corn silks, and eats small holes in foliage and flowers. Sometimes ripened fruits are infested, but damage is usually tolerable. It can be particularly damaging to seedlings. Earwigs also play a beneficial role in the garden, acting as scavengers on decaying organic matter and predators of insect larvae, snails, aphids and other slow moving bugs. They are often carried great distances in produce shipments and other freight.

These slender red-brown insects (3/4 inch long) with elongated, flattened bodies are distinguished by a pair of sharp pincers at the tail end, which they use for capturing prey and mating. A few species have wings, although it is not a strong flier, and usually crawls in search of food. Earwigs get their name from an old superstition that they crawl into the ears of a sleeping person and bore into the brain. While menacing in appearance, they are harmless to man.

Note: Earwigs will occasionally enter the home. However, their presence is accidental and they will not establish themselves or reproduce indoors.

Life Cycle

Adults overwinter in the soil. Females lay 20-50 cream-colored eggs in underground nests during January and February, and the newly hatched young (nymphs) first appear in April. Nymphs are protected in the nest and do not leave until after the first molt, when they must fend for themselves. Young earwigs develop gradually, passing through 4-5 nymphal instars before becoming adults. They are similar in appearance to adults, but lack wings and the large sized pincers. Most species in this country have one generation per year.

Earwig Control

If earwigs become pestiferous there are several effective organic methods that can be used for getting rid of them.

  • Remove garden debris and excessive mulch where earwigs are living and breeding.
  • Since earwigs seldom fly, a sticky band of Tanglefoot Pest Barrier around the trunks of trees, shrubs, and woody plants will prevent them from reaching the leaves and fruits on which they feed.
  • Broadcast Insect Killer Granules around foundations, lawns and landscapes to eliminate or repel all kinds of troublesome pests.
  • Apply food-grade Diatomaceous Earth for long-lasting protection. Made up of tiny fossilized aquatic organisms, that look like broken glass under the microscope, DE kills by scoring an insect’s outer layer as it crawls over the fine powder. Contains NO toxic poisons!
  • Scatter Monterey Ant Control, a safe and organic bait containing iron phosphate and spinosad, evenly over the soil around or near areas to be protected.
  • Least-toxic botanical insecticides should be used as a last resort. Derived from plants which have insecticidal properties, these natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment.

Tip: Trap earwigs by placing rolls of damp newspaper or burlap bags in areas where they are found. Collect and dispose of pests the following day.

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