Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > August 2016 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Earwigs


You’ve seen them—long brown insects with a wicked-looking set of pincers at one end.  They tend to scurry out from under rocks or other shady or damp places.  Earwigs….yuk!

Earwigs make up the order Dermaptera.  The name is derived from the Greek word ‘derma’ meaning skin and the word ‘ptera’ meaning wings.  This is probably referring to the look of the wings which, when unfolded, look like they’re made of skin.  Yes, earwigs can fly though they usually prefer not to.

Earwigs are nocturnal, hiding in dark damp places during the day.  Contrary to the old wives’ tale, they have no interest at all in your ears (unless you’re an aphid or some other yummy insect).  Those nasty looking pincers?  They do not contain venom and so do not “sting.”  They’re mostly used during mating and to hold the occasional slow moving prey, such as a snail.  They can “pinch” you, if they feel particularly threatened but rarely even break the skin.

Earwigs are not usually a problem indoors.  They do not breed indoors, they have no food indoors so are usually an accidental visitor—travelling in on a shoe or dog’s fur or a plant brought inside for the winter.

Earwigs are omnivores—eating a variety of plant materials as well as insects such as aphids, small slugs and snails and various larvae.  However, while they are beneficial in some respects, they also can eat flower buds and soft fruits in our gardens.

As always, I tend to look for organic solutions.  A damp rolled up newspaper placed in the garden overnight is a fairly effective trap.  They’ll crawl in there before the sun comes up and can be easily disposed of then.  I read that a shallow can (like a tuna or cat food can) filled with about a ½ inch of oil and sunk up to the top in the ground works so I tried it in a flower bed.  Well, what do you know?  It really did work.  Went out the next morning to find a half dozen little flower-munchers in there.

You do want to look at habitat, too.  Old woodpiles near the house are going to host a lot of unwanted guests (such as rodents or snakes) and earwigs love that decaying debris so you might want to relocate it.  Mulch provides a really good habitat for earwigs—decaying organic debris that stays damp---bingo!  If you see a lot of earwigs in or around mulched areas, you could rake the mulch back, sprinkle diatomaceous earth generously on the soil, then re-mulch.

Like they say, the best offense is a good defense.  Getting rid of the habitat is a good way to start.  Attracting more birds is another good way to keep insects down, over all.
Posted: 8/22/2016 by Bonnie Pega | with 4 comment(s)
Filed under: Bonnie's, earwigs, Garden
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