Earwigs in The Garden

Earwigs originated in Europe.  In the past century these insects have spread across the US.  Contrary to popular belief, earwigs do not lay eggs inside people’s ears.  Besides being an unsightly nuisance, earwigs pose no threat to humans.  The long curved pincers on their abdomen are used to hold onto food, but are too weak to puncture human skin.

Earwigs are common pests in the garden.  They are most active at night, and prefer dark and damp areas.  In gardens, earwigs are found under leaves, potted plants, under branches, cracks between bricks, and other confined areas.  Gardens also provide earwigs with a great supply of food.  Earwigs eat dead plant material, weakened or small insects, and sometimes flowers.  A large population of earwigs can destroy plants in a garden, especially flowering plants.  Earwig damage is often mistaken for slugs.  However, if there is no visible slime trail, then the damage was probably caused by earwigs.  If you cannot determine what is causing the damage, inspect your garden at night with a flashlight.  If earwigs are present, they should be visible when you check under plants.

To decrease the earwig population in your garden, begin by removing suitable habitat for earwigs.  Pick up dead weeds, remove decaying plants, limit the amount of mulch, and clean up debris.  Watering less frequently can also reduce the amount of earwigs in gardens.  Placing a rolled up newspaper or empty tuna cans in the garden overnight can trap earwigs.  Baiting the tuna cans with vegetable oil can attract more earwigs.  Simply throw away the traps in the morning.  Insecticides that leave a residue are also effective.  Be sure to follow all instructions on the labels.