Garden Earwigs

About Garden Earwigs

There are many species of garden earwigs. Some can be very harmful to plants. On the other hand, some earwig species feed off insects and decaying plant matter, leaving live plants alone. So, you might wonder “Are earwigs good or bad for my garden”. The answer is “it depends”.

Earwigs are native to most parts of the world, including North and South America, Africa, Eurasia, Australia, and New Zealand.  They are very recognizable by the pincers at the end of the abdomen, at the tail of their body. Adults grow to about 5/8 to one inch long. They have a reddish-brown body with six, light brown legs. They have a pair of antennae on their head.

Depending upon species, earwigs’ diet includes Aphids, live or dead insects, mites, soft fruits, corn silk, flowers, soft growing tips of plants, and more.

An Untrue Myth: Earwigs DO NOT crawl into people’s ears and then tunnel into the brain. However, this myth is how it got its name. They do not attack humans, nor are they harmful to humans.

Garden Earwigs Life Cycle

Earwigs live for one year. They are primarily nocturnal and live in damp dark environments. They would not survive in an arid climate. During the day, they harbor in a dark, damp place, including compost piles, dead plants, and under mulch or straw.

The female lays 20 to 60 eggs in the soil, about 2 – 3 inches deep.

Control of Garden Earwigs

The first step in Earwig control is to eliminate their environment.

Eliminate damp, moist areas where they like to hide. For homeowners, make sure gutters are clean, and direct downspouts away from the house.

They are active at night. They are attracted to lights. Gardeners should place a light away from the garden. Homeowners can place a light out in the yard, to attract them away from your house. 

For homeowners, an insecticide like “Home Defense” is effective.

Organic controls Earwigs can be captured in traps. A simple trap is to roll up a section of newspaper. Place it on the ground near an infested plant at nightfall. In the morning, shake out the earwigs into a bucket of soapy water. Another trap is a tuna can with 1/2″ vegetable oil. Adding a little bacon grease increases the effectiveness of the trap.

Additional Resources

Insect Control – How to identify and control a variety of garden insect pests

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