Earwigs: What They Are, What They Can Do And How You Can Get Rid Of Them

Posted on: 14 December 2015

Imagine looking down at your feet and spying a short, dark brown insect with a menacing pair of pincers on its hind end; you have just seen a common sight in the insect world: the earwig. Even though the earwig is relatively small, attaining a maximum size of 2 inches in length and much less in most other instances, their presence can be unsettling to homeowners. Beyond their frightening appearance, earwigs comprise an insect group that can damage plants in your garden and landscape. Below is more information about earwigs and what you can do to rid them from your yard and home:

What are earwigs and what damage can they do?

Earwigs are a group of 2,000 related species, although only a couple of dozen are seen in North America. Earwigs are easy to identify due to the comparatively large pincers attached to their tails.These pincers, which are rounded in males and straight in females, are used for defense of both individual insects and their broods.

Earwigs evoke great fear among some people due to folklore that tells of their supposed habit of crawling into human ears and then into the brains of the unfortunate victims. While this is completely untrue, the earwig can use their pincers to grasp a finger and cause a mildly painful pinch. However, they carry no venom or disease and are able to do no other direct injury to people.

Unfortunately, earwigs can do significant damage to food crops and residential landscaping. They consume lettuce, corn, potatoes, cauliflower and other edible plants, which is a source of frustration for home gardeners; their habit of eating ornamental plants such as zinnias, dahlias and roses is also troubling.

How to keep earwigs out of your home

As with most insect pests, the best way to rid your home's interior of earwigs is to prevent them from appearing in the first place. Since earwigs are drawn to moist, confined places, you should seek to eliminate conditions that serve as an enticement to enter your home.

Earwigs can enter your home through crevices and cracks in your foundation; therefore, it is wise to keep the soil surrounding your foundation from remaining consistently damp. Eliminating this potentially-enticing habitat will build a "barrier" between the inside and outside of your home.

Reducing moisture can be accomplished by using soil additives and replacements in a two-foot strip surrounding your home's foundation. One effective method is to dig up approximately 3 to 4 inches of soil around the edge of your home and fill the shallow trench with one-inch wide gravel. If the surface of the soil slopes inward toward your home, you should also consider building up the soil around the edge of the foundation to aid water in running away from the structure. Finally, if your soil is excessively wet and replacing it with gravel isn't an option, spreading quicklime or hydrated lime can quickly dry up water. Be sure to work the lime into the soil using a garden fork or shovel for maximum effectiveness.

How to eliminate earwigs in your landscape plants and garden

Keeping earwigs out of your home is a worthy goal, but you should also seek to get rid of the bugs outside your home. Conventional pesticides may have limited success, but earwigs are easily trapped and that makes using pest traps an effective, safe means of removing them.

You can build your own earwig traps using free materials available around the house. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Roll up newspaper sheets into thin tubes and tape them shut with a small strip of masking tape. Spray them lightly with water mist and place them near your plants overnight; the earwigs will retreat to the security of the damp spaces during the night, and you can easily dispose of the tubes, bugs and all in the morning. If you have concerns about being pinched, wear a pair of cotton work gloves to protect your fingers.

  • Poke small holes in an empty shoebox and sprinkle a layer of oatmeal on the bottom. Spray the oatmeal with water and place the box near the plants you with to protect. The earwigs will be attracted to the food and moisture inside the box, then you can merely throw away the box as soon as they have entered.

For more information, consider contacting a pest control company in your location.


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