Earwigs Outdoors

The Earwig (Forficula auricularia) is a curious-looking insect that sometimes invades homes and is often blamed for damage in the vegetable and flower garden that they don’t usually deserve. Although the earwig may look dangerous, it isn't. The common name, earwig, comes from an old European superstition that the insect could enter the ear of sleeping people and bore into their brains. They cannot. Earwigs are merely annoyance pests. They do not cause much harm nor can they reproduce inside the house.

Earwigs are slender reddish-brown or black insects from 3/4 to 1 inch long. They have a distinctive set of pincers that look something like little forceps, which protrude from the tip of the abdomen. Their cerci lack muscles, so although they will attempt to grasp your finger if you get too close, earwigs cannot do much more than hold on or give a slight pinch.

They hide in dark, damp places during the day and feed at night.

Immatures appear in April or May and eat only plant material. Adult earwigs are present from late June to early July and eat either plants or other bugs. With cooler weather in the fall adults burrow into the soil to hibernate for the winter.

Earwigs are more often allies than enemies.

As juveniles they eat plants, but as adults, their usual fare includes bits of rotting fruit, ants, decaying plant material, or perhaps a small caterpillar. They also feed on pest insects such as aphids, mites, fleas, insect eggs, and other pests. However, sometimes they will take bites out of the flowers and leaves of your landscape plants, especially when nothing more delectable is available.

When they become a problem:

If your seedlings are being eaten and you see half a dozen or more earwigs scatter when you lift a leaf it's time to act. The organic gardening books suggest trapping by rolling placing a rolled up dampened newspaper next to the plant. The earwigs will crawl inside and hide during the day. That's when you dump them into a container of soapy water. A more effective method might be the use Organic Preen with Spinosad.  


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