Earwigs get their name from the myth that they crawl into sleeping people’s ears and tunnel into the brain (not true!). Also called pincher bugs, they are most active at night. During the day, they gather in moist, dark, tight hiding places in the garden – under rocks or stones, boards, around vegetables, dense growth of vines or weeds, in flower blossoms, or even within fruit damaged by other pests. As moisture-loving insects, they thrive in moist conditions where they can remain active all year. And, if it gets too dry, too hot or cold outside, they may take up residence indoors. 

They’re generally scavengers but feed on plants when it suits them. They eat both living and dead tissues of a great many different plants and insects. Since they’re not particularly discriminating, they consume both insect pests and beneficials.

Should you be concerned about earwigs in your garden? Yes, if you are growing vegetables, herbaceous flowering plants, sweet corn, or plants with soft fruits such as strawberries and apricots. No, if your garden is primarily lawn, trees, and woody ornamentals or native plants. To manage them:

Reduce outdoor hiding places.

  • Eliminate dense undergrowth of vines, ground cover, and weeds around vegetable and flower gardens.
  • Remove leaves, boards, boxes, trash, and other debris from planting areas.
  • Move flowerpots and other garden objects and structures that can harbor earwigs.
  • Check plastic or organic mulches and remove them to limit earwig numbers.

Trap earwigs until they’re gone.

  • Trap earwigs with rolled newspaper, bamboo tubes, or short pieces of hose. Place these traps on the soil near plants just before dark and shake accumulated earwigs into a pail of soapy water in the morning.
  • Fill a low-sided can with vegetable oil and a drop of bacon grease or fish oil to attract and trap earwigs.
  • Daily trapping will reduce earwig populations to tolerable levels.
  • And check out some easy ways to trap them.

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