Earwig Extermination: A Step-by-Step Guide

Earwigs are gross-looking insects that are often misunderstood. The belief that these insects will burrow into people's ears and lay eggs is a common urban legend. The origin of the earwig's name may lie in this tale, but it's not true.

While the pinches of some earwig species can cause serious harm to plants, those of others are usually just irritating or even painful. however, they serve (primarily) positive purposes in the ecosystem. Where are the earwigs entering your house if you have seen any? How does one eliminate them? Diatomaceous earth is an effective natural pesticide for getting rid of earwigs in your home and garden, but it can be harmful to helpful insects and won't work when it's raining. There are, thankfully, non-chemical methods of warding off earwigs.

How can you tell if the damage to your garden plants is caused by earwigs or something else? Before attempting to treat a potential infestation, it is helpful to identify the insects and any damage they may have caused.

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Small, flat, and squirming with six legs, earwigs are a common type of creepy-crawly. There are winged and wingless species, but the venomous-looking cerci are what really set them apart.

Earwigs have cerci, which are pincers located on their bellies. These cerci serve many purposes for earwigs, including defense, mating, and hunting. Females use their straight or sometimes crossed cerci to protect their egg nests from predators, while males use their curved cerci for mating displays. The cerci of flying earwigs are used to help fold and unfold their wings.

Despite the fact that there are more than 1,800 species of earwigs worldwide and more than 20 species found north of Mexico, only a small percentage of these are considered to be widespread pests in the region.

Earwigs come in a wide range of sizes, colors, and general appearances. Most North Americans are familiar with the following earwig pests:

Earwig (Forfiucla auricularia) native to Europe.

  • 9-17mm in length (3/8"-5/8").
  • Characterized by a crimson-brown hue
  • Their legs, cerci, and antennae are all a pale color.
  • the most devastating to vegetation

Doru aceuleatum, or the spine-tailed earwig

  • 1/2-3/4 inches (12-18mm) in length.
  • colorings of brown and yellow
  • Abdomen black, limbs yellow

Earwig with stripes, Labidura riparia

  • Approximately 3/4-1 inches (18-26mm) in length.
  • able to fly and sporting long antennae
  • hues ranging from light brown to reddish brown, with two dark stripes running down their torsos and one running the length of their bellies.
  • occasional global darkness

Euborellia annulipes, the ring-legged earwig.

  • 3/8-inch to 1-inch (16-25 mm) in length.
  • localize oneself to the coasts
  • wingless
  • colors ranging from dark brown to black
  • The legs are a pale yellow color, and they are marked with a faint ring pattern.

Anisolabis maritima, the maritime earwig.

  • 16-25 mm in length, or 5/8-1 inch
  • excessively sized and non-avian
  • glossy, dark brown to black coloring
  • In contrast to its pale, short legs, and long, dark antennae
  • The cerci of males are sharply curved and asymmetrical, while those of females are straight and symmetrical.

Minimal earwig, or Labia minor.

  • Sizes ranging from 1/8" to 1/4" (4-6mm)
  • diminutive; having a short cercus
  • Diverse shades of brown, tan, and even black can be seen.
  • A pair of brown and yellow legs
  • hair that is a dull yellow all over the body and legs

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Leave earwigs alone if there aren't a lot of them. However, that's not the case if they're causing problems for you inside or outside your house or garden. After you've established beyond a reasonable doubt that you're dealing with earwigs, you can shift your focus to the underlying causes of the problem. Earwig control through chemical application is rarely effective. Earwigs may be listed as a pest on some pesticide labels, but this does not necessarily mean you should treat for them.

Natural pesticides such as diatomaceous earth and horticultural oils can kill beneficial and harmful insects alike, upsetting the delicate garden ecosystem. If you're dealing with earwigs, you should look elsewhere for treatment. Getting professional pest control help is recommended if you're unlucky enough to have a swarm of earwigs invade your home when winter sets in. If you'd rather not resort to chemical pesticides, try one of these natural alternatives.

Check for sources of moisture around the house that could be luring earwigs. Make sure there is no standing water near the house to attract earwigs, as they can hide in cedar siding.

All sorts of insects, not just earwigs, are drawn to damp environments. Preventing moisture problems in your home is possible by taking any of the following measures:

  • Fixing any faulty or leaking apparatus, such as sprinklers
  • The best way to prevent a clog in your gutters and downspouts is to clean them out regularly.
  • Don't water your lawn or garden too much.

Consider potential hiding or feeding spots for the earwigs, and get rid of or relocate them. The habitats of earwigs include:

  • Mulch
  • Wood piles
  • Leaf piles
  • Compost
  • Manure
  • Pallets
  • Cardboard

You could line the perimeter of your property with sand, rocks, or gravel and a plastic sheet. You'll end up with a space around your house that is low in organic matter and drains quickly after rain. Insects and rodents will be less likely to congregate there.

For those who have to deal with flying earwigs, turning off your porch lights (and any other unused indoor lights) at night can help. This will prevent earwigs from flying at them, and since other insects are drawn to light, it will also deter other pests. insects besides those targeted by local spiders and earwigs. It will be less visible if lights are turned off.

Caulk any holes or cracks and double check the seals on your doors and windows to prevent earwigs from entering your home. Home sealing is another strategy for lowering moisture levels.

In some cases, earwigs can be found burrowing into ripe tree fruit. Nothing is more disheartening to a gardener than seeing his or her produce ravaged by pests while still on the tree. Create a Vaseline trap to keep pests away from your fruit.

Vaseline should not be rubbed onto the trunk of your tree. Wrap the tree's trunk in plastic to prevent damage, and then apply a two-inch wide band of Vaseline around its circumference. This will prevent the earwigs from climbing up and devouring your hard work by forming a sticky barrier they can't cross.

The number of earwigs in and around your house can be reduced by using traps. A magazine or a roll of cardboard makes an effective trap. Put this where the earwigs can find shelter. The earwigs can be released into a bucket of soapy water the following morning by picking up the trap and shaking it. If you're interested in trapping insects, you could try your hand at making an oil trap or one out of terra cotta pots and straw.

Garden terra cotta earwig traps

Image Credit: Oliver Helbig / Moment

Occasionally, you may spot an earwig in your house or garden, but how can you tell if you have an infestation? If you find earwigs in your garden, take heart: they are performing the beneficial task of decomposing organic materials and enriching the soil for your plants, as well as eating plant-damaging nuisance pests. It could be earwigs if your plants are suffering, but it could also be something else. Inquiry is something you should do at this point.

Earwigs spend the day hiding in dark places, such as under paving stones or tree bark, inside dead logs or soil cracks, or even deep within flowers like dahlias. Nonetheless, care must be taken when prodding their hiding places. Some species of earwigs emit a putrid odor when they are crushed.

Earwigs are both predators and prey, feeding on decaying plant matter and insect remains while also killing and eating any living insects that happen to wander into their path. Depending on the type of earwig, they may cause damage to living plants by chewing holes in them or even eat the flowers. There may be earwigs to blame if you wake up to find skeletonized leaves on your plants. Similar to caterpillars, earwigs will chew holes in plant leaves, but their holes will be more asymmetrical. In most cases, the damage consists of a single hole here and there rather than a cluster of holes there. It's important to be on the lookout for slime. Slugs may be present if there is slime.

In order to treat a pest problem effectively, it is necessary to determine what kind of pest it is. Control measures may be ineffective if you don't know what pest you're up against. Since earwigs are active only at night, that is when you should go looking for them. Get a flashlight and look around any places you suspect may have earwigs. You should anticipate that they will try to escape your light, and that if you bother them too much, they may start to emit a foul odor.

The global distribution of earwigs can be directly attributed to international trade. Insects like these are drawn to humid, dense areas because they provide shade and prevent the insects from drying out during the day. In these damp, dark places, earwigs wait for nightfall so that they can forage for food (sometimes singly, sometimes in piles of dozens).

There will be an increased population of these pests near your house if there is an abundance of moisture in the soil. Since earwigs can stay afloat in water for up to 24 hours without drowning, it's not like they'd stop doing their thing if you submerged them.

Finding earwigs frequently in one area of your home may indicate that there is a moisture problem there. Earwigs require water, but they also enjoy the decay that wet conditions bring to wood and other organic materials.

A rare occurrence of earwigs inside Have you recently decorated your home with fresh garden flowers? Flowers with tightly closed petals, like dahlias, are ideal hiding places for earwigs. Flowers provide the pollen, plant material, and insects that earwigs need as food. Prevent bringing in rotten flowers by inspecting them first. Either gently shake the earwigs out or pluck them out with tweezers; then place them in a bowl of soapy water.

Earwigs are omnivorous, feeding on anything from decaying matter to live and decaying insects to fresh vegetation and plant debris. Earwigs love to live and feed in organic matter accumulations like compost piles, mulch, dead leaves, and manure. Earwigs are more likely to invade your home if these items are located nearby.

Some species of earwigs try to invade homes in the fall, when insects are searching for a warm, dry place to spend the winter. If earwigs are a common fall visitor to your home, take steps to eliminate or reduce the conditions that could be luring them in.


  • Are earwigs harmful?

    Earwigs rarely bite, but when they do it's usually painful. Bite incidents are rare but typically not severe.

  • Is there any chance that the earwigs will just disappear by themselves?

    A balanced ecosystem requires earwigs. If there aren't too many of them, it's probably okay to leave them alone. If there are a lot of them inside, you might need to call in the pest control experts.

  • The origin of earwigs:

    Earwigs have become a global problem due to the proliferation of global shipping and trade. They thrive in damp areas, where they can eat decaying vegetation and insects. They are a nuisance in the garden and can occasionally make their way inside.

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