Controlling Earwigs

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 858 Posts
February 11, 2010

Photo of an earwig.If you've noticed an explosion of earwigs in the garden this year, you've probably experienced an extended period of cool, wet weather. Although usually considered a beneficial insect in the garden, large populations of earwigs can result in significant damage to garden plants. Their presence in large numbers can also be a bit unsettling. Here are some ways to keep their population in check.


About Earwigs

Earwigs get their name from the old wives' tale that they crawl into people's ears while they're sleeping in order to tunnel into their brain and lay eggs. Of course that's not true, but it's certainly unpleasant to think about! Their scary appearance doesn't help either.

Earwigs are reddish-brown in color. They have long, slender bodies, beaded antennae, and a pair of large cerci (pronounced "sir-see") at the tip of their abdomens. The cerci are used like pincers for grooming and capturing prey. Earwigs come indoors to hide, especially in the fall.

They become active at night, when they seem to appear out of nowhere and scurry across the floor like cockroaches. In cold climates, earwigs overwinter by burrowing 2-3 inches into the soil. In late winter to early spring, the females lay 25-30 eggs. Unlike most insects, female earwigs carefully nurture and protect their young until they are old enough to leave the nest.


Friend or Foe?

Gardeners tend to have a love/hate relationship with earwigs. These insects are omnivores, which means they feed on plants, insects, and other organic materials like starch, soap, and glue. Earwigs are beneficial when helping control soil pests, so we love it when they feed on populations of aphids, mites, and other harmful pests in the garden. It's when they turn to our dahlias, hostas, and leafy greens that they're no longer welcome. If disturbed they may try to defend themselves by "biting" you with their pincers, but they will seldom break the skin and are essentially harmless to humans.

Identifying Plant Damage

Earwigs feed at night. They chew small holes in the leaves of plants, and although large populations are capable of causing significant damage, the damage they cause is usually minimal. More often it's cutworms, slugs, and other nocturnal pests that are to blame. Earwigs are seldom seen on plants during the day, preferring instead to congregate in dark, damp, places like under garbage cans, patio furniture, welcome mats, and flower pots.


If you suspect earwigs are the cause of the damage, check under these potential hiding places during the day to confirm their presence.

Methods of Control

As stated earlier, earwigs provide some important benefits to your garden by helping control populations of harmful insects like aphids and mites. The goal then should be to keep their populations in balance, not try to eliminate them entirely.

Controlling Them Outdoors

The most direct approach to controlling earwigs is by way of erecting physical barriers or luring them into traps.

Barriers: To protect the waxy or slimy coating on their bodies, crawling insects like earwigs typically avoid exposing their bodies to abrasive materials. To deter them, sprinkle a 3" wide strip of an abrasive material like crushed shells, wood ash, diatomaceous earth, or sawdust around the base of plants.


Traps: The same types of traps used for capturing snails and slugs are also effective for trapping earwigs.

Shaking: In small gardens, simply shaking earwigs from infested foliage takes less time than removing them individually by hand (and it's less creepy). By reducing their numbers, you will be reducing the amount of damage they cause. This method is most effective if done early in the morning (just before sunrise) near the end of their active period. Lay a white sheet on the ground and use your hands or a stick to tap the stems of affected plants, then collect the bugs from the sheet and dispose of them in a pail of soapy water.


Controlling Them Indoors

The best way to control earwigs indoors is to keep them outdoors by altering your gardening practices in a way that puts earwigs at a disadvantage. Earwigs like confined dark places to hide. They are also attracted to moisture and light.

Read More Comments

More Solutions

This page contains the following solutions.

May 10, 2012

You can get rid of earwigs, if you mix some Dawn dish soap with some water and spray them. The solution will have an acid like reaction with them, eventually killing them.


April 8, 2013

To control earwigs in your house, get a spray bottle and put a generous squirt of Dawn Dish soap in it, then fill with water. Spray directly on the earwig. If you coat the bugs in the solution, they die immediately.


6 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

July 6, 2005

Tips for controlling earwigs and keeping them out of your home. Post your ideas.


June 26, 20130 found this helpful

I you put empty cans of tuna fill with oil, soapy water or cucumber it will work wonders. Put them close to the areas of more trouble. Another thing I do is by at Cosco a huge container of dish soap, fill my buckets with water and the soap and empty them around the house once a week or so, depending on the problem. Let me know if it helps.

April 26, 20200 found this helpful

I found an easy way to control earwigs on your patio is by taking a spray bottle and filling it with 1/3 part water, 1/3 part white vinegar and 1/3 Ajax dish soap...just spray the mixture on the earwigs and they will die in less than a minute...hope this helps you!

Answer this Question

July 2, 2004

I have a really bad problem with them this year. I don't have any wood around my home to encourage them. Does anyone know of a natural odor or any natural thing that would get them out of the house? There must be something they don't like. Thanks!



June 1, 20210 found this helpful

Diatomaceous Earth or DE as some call it, will kill anything with an exoskeleton. That includes earwigs. Its a very fine powder that can be sprinkled around the outside and inside of your home. It does not harm people or pets, only things with excel skeletons. It only has a mild laxative effect on humans or pets if ingested. Works great for the long haul. Look it up

Answer this Question


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

March 10, 2011

Tips for controlling earwigs and keeping them out of your home. Post your ideas.

Home and Garden Pest Control InsectsNovember 24, 2011
Father's Day Ideas!
Pest Control
Better LivingBudget & FinanceBusiness and LegalComputersConsumer AdviceCoronavirusCraftsEducationEntertainmentFood and RecipesHealth & BeautyHolidays and PartiesHome and GardenMake Your OwnOrganizingParentingPetsPhotosTravel and RecreationWeddings
Published by ThriftyFun.
Desktop Page | View Mobile
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Generated 2024-05-13 22:20:09 in 7 secs. ⛅️️
© 1997-2024 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.