Tuesday’s Tips — Controlling Earwigs

One of the most common garden pests is the earwig or pincher bug, a nasty-looking little bug that actually is not all bad.

Earwigs eat living and dead material in your garden, doing a lot of cleanup work. They love to eat soft-bodied bugs like mites and aphids and they’ll eat insect eggs too. In some respects they can be a beneficial force, but past a certain number they are very destructive. They are especially fond of soft fruits, sweet corn and seedlings. They can also do lots of damage to leaves and flowers on mature plants as this photo that Mary Beth took in her client’s garden shows.

Earwig damage

Earwig damage looks similar on leaves. You will find irregular holes or chewed edges. Signs that it’s something other than earwigs are frass or webbing which indicate caterpillars, or slime trails which are left by slugs and snails.

Once you know that earwigs are your problem it’s time to get things under control. Earwigs like dark, moist hiding places so you can take advantage of this habit to trap and eliminate them. There are several techniques that you can use.

  • Roll up dampened newspapers and place at the base of the affected plants in the evening. In the morning shake the earwigs which will be hiding in the rolls into a pail of soapy water.
  • Another trick is to use cut lengths of old hoses. Follow directions above.

You’ll probably have pretty good results with those two options, but here’s the very best way to trap earwigs.

  • Fill tuna fish or cat food cans 2/3 full of vegetable oil and a few drops of molasses. Earwigs love this concoction. In the morning they will have climbed into the cans and drowned.

Keep setting traps until you stop finding earwigs in them.

This is so much better and more direct than any chemical methods which will introduce toxic substances into your garden killing beneficial insects and making your plants less healthy. Organic is better!

12 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Tips — Controlling Earwigs

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  1. I have also heard the trick of turning up a plant pot and fillin it with straw. Then you just put it on a bamboo pole. The earwigs climb up in side during the night and you can just clear them in the morning.

    I like your vege oil concoction though. Great recommendation.

    James (aka Surreybeekeeper)

    1. James, I am a bee keeper originally from Southport now in Oregon, I have I believe a major infestation with earwigs in my hives, I have one hive thats really week and the earwigs look like they are laying the the built up super frames! there are other issues going on with that hive so I am trying to explore every possibility… I am going to try the can with oil.. wondered if you had any thoughts or suggestions.. I started bee keeping spring 2015 🙂 thank you!

  2. I’ve found you by googling earwigs and chickens because our chicken coop is full of earwigs. But other google results say chickens love eating earwigs- and as you say earwigs eat aphids and mites maybe it doesn’t matter that they proliferate in the coop? Should I try to eradicate them at all but let them continue as part of our garden’s life cycle?

    1. We’ve also heard that chickens love to eat earwigs, but if there’s a bad infestation things have probably gotten out of balance. We’d recommend that you trap them for a while. The oil and molasses in the can trap works really well — a friend of ours on the East Coast says she has trapped more than a thousand of them in the past few days. You can put the traps under a milk crate with something heavy on top to keep your chickens from getting into it.

      Earwigs are good for the garden life cycle, but that assumes that the natural checks and balances are working. When any aspect gets out of hand, it’s up to us to try to set things right again. Let us know how it works out.

  3. I don’t mind earwigs.

    Except.

    Except when they fall, dying, from my loofah sponge on my wet naked self in the shower. First thing in the morning.

    I don’t mind earwigs.

    Except.

    Except when they fall out of the faucet into my waterglass. First thing in the morning.

    I don’t mind earwigs.

    Except.

    Except when they shoot out of the steam-arm of my cappuccino maker, right into my milk. First thing in the morning.

  4. My laptop had earwigs. One just crawled out of one of the ports. We have chickens and they love the critters. I’m going to try the oil and molasses method. Thanks!

  5. I’m a beekeeper, and they get into my hives, maybe they are eating mites off the bees, I don’t think so, they get inside on top of the inner cover, I think, if nothing else, they agrivate the bees and slow their progress and production. Any one who has this problem, please respond.

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