University of Maryland Extension

Earwigs

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earwig

 

Earwigs are common insects in the garden and occasionally in the home. The most characteristic feature of earwigs is the pair of pincers at the tip of the abdomen. Adult earwigs are reddish-brown and about 3/4 of an inch long. They live in dark, moist places such as under stones, in mulch, soil and plant debris. They are mostly nocturnal and do not attack people.

Earwigs have a varied diet, feeding on aphids, snails, insect larvae and plant material.They will occasionally feed on flower petals. Earwigs are considered a nuisance pest and only cause significant damage to plants when populations are high. To minimize earwig problems indoors, keep areas close to the house clear of debris and hiding places. In small backyard situations, earwigs can generally be controlled by persistent trapping. Traps can be made from moistened rolled up newspaper or short pieces of hose. Place these traps on the soil near plants just before dark. Earwigs have a preference for tight, dark places and will crawl into these tubes and stay there. In the morning, shake the earwigs into soapy water to kill them.

earwig on flower
Earwig on lily

Earwigs on Seedlings

Earwigs can be pests of vegetable seedlings, although they also benefit gardeners by digesting organic matter and devouring soil-borne pests. This fast-moving brown to black insect is nearly 1 inch in length and has a pair of pincers attached to the abdomen. Earwigs are harmless to humans. They feed on seedlings at night and spend the daytime in dark places, under organic debris or behind boards and other objects. They are rarely a significant problem in home vegetable gardens.

Management

To minimize damage to plants outdoors, keep compost piles away from vegetable gardens and annual beds. In small backyard situations, earwigs can generally be controlled by persistent trapping. A simple trap can be made using a tuna or cat food can. Add 1/2 inch of vegetable oil and place them around the garden. Dump and refill with oil as they fill up with earwigs. Another trap involves a moistened, rolled up newspaper. Or use short pieces of bamboo or hose. Place these traps on the soil near plants just before dark. Earwigs have a preference for tight, dark places, and will crawl into the tubes and stay there. In the morning, shake the earwigs into soapy water to kill them. Continue this procedure every day until you are no longer catching earwigs. Natural predators of earwigs include toads, birds, and insect predators. You can also cover seedlings with floating row cover.

Additional Resource

Publication: (PDF) HG 4 Earwigs 

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