Everything You Need to Know About Controlling Earwigs and Why They're Good Guys in the Garden
I get asked about controlling earwigs on a regular basis.
These are an
ugly creature and they tend to surprise us when we find them in the
house (usually under things).
They are a reddish brown - just under an inch long with
massive set of pincers protruding from their back end. (Just for the
record - the male pincers are
the females are straight).
And to put your
mind at ease, the pincers are used against other
insects, they will not hurt humans or pets (unless your pet is an aphid
- see below). Believe it or not - an earwig also
has a set of wings but
thank goodness, they seldom use them.
Earwig with eggs
are also good guys.
Earwigs are also good guys in the garden as they
eat scads of aphids and other smaller garden pests so controlling
earwigs shouldn't take a central role in gardening life.
Damage Do They Really Do?
are nocturnal creatures searching for food and shelter and they love
dark, moist places where they can feed on decaying plant and animal
matter. Generally, they'll also chew on leaves and the damage
similar to slug damage on leaves, petals, fruit and vegetables. I did
find a few earwigs in tomato fruit - they entered through a
and then tunneled away happily inside the tomato. Their preferred food
though is easily-found decaying matter.
Earwigs sometimes falsely
blamed for slug damage.
Earwigs sometimes are
blamed for slug damage because the slug takes a chunk/bite and then the
earwigs congregate to get the sweet sap or to hide in the hole the slug
ate in the tomato. The slug meanwhile has moved on (smart slug) :-)
way to determine if a slug or earwig is causing the damage is to
look for the trail of slime that slugs leave behind. There's little
point in controlling earwigs if slugs are doing the damage.
The life cycle of an earwig is egg,
nymph and then adult. The
overwintered female lays her eggs (approx 60) in the top layer of soil
and in 7 days, they hatch into small nymphs.
female tends to them like a mother for the first two weeks. If
you've ever seen a big earwig with a bunch of tiny ones
- you've found
a mother and brood. The nymphs resemble tiny adults. Over the next 70
days, the nymphs mature through 4 stages until they emerge as fully
grown adults. Then they start to lay eggs themselves for the two
generations per year the insect produces.
are a long-lived insect, often living a year or more. That is,
unless you're a male earwig and then you often
don't make the winter
(having done your procreative duty in the fall).
can I control them?
earwigs successfully takes advantage of several things.
The first is they love to hide so putting a length of black plastic
3/4" inch pipe on the ground will give them a hiding spot. Simply tap
the pipe into a pail of soapy water and you'll get a great
morning; if you are consistent at controlling earwigs you can bring
their levels down to where they are not a major problem.
you can lay a board down and stomp those hiding under the board.
find earwigs hiding under most everything in the garden so you take
advantage of these hiding spaces.
told they love honey so you can bait a trap with this although I
don't see the need - they'll hide in
anything with or without bait.
passive control is to spread Diatomaceous Earth
base of plants you want to protect. The earwigs will be killed by this
Because they tend to love to eat organic decaying matter I find they tend to hide under the thick layer of mulch I maintain on my garden and don't bother the plants. They're there all right but that thick mulch works for me.
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And then there's
the motherhood advice to remove anything they can hide
under - such as a woodpile or logs or ?? If you've
got it lying around,
remove it. I've never been able to do this as
there's always something
in the garden - be it a rock, statue or leaf.
is a fast-acting protective dust for vegetables although it
has a short life span once applied (it breaks down in sunlight). Do be careful if you use Rotenone as it can harm humans as well as insects ("organic" doesn't mean harmless)
that's all the news that's fit to print about controlling earwigs.
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