Earwigs are creepy bugs that always surprise you by their sudden appearance. These insects love to hide under rocks, inside grills and in mulch. Once they’re exposed to light they scramble to another hidden location.
As fairly large insects, earwigs are also a bit scary looking since they have huge pinchers that look quite menacing. The truth is they aren’t interested in biting you (or pinching) and would rather just snack on the plants in your garden and flowerbeds.
There are a number of methods for controlling and eliminating earwigs. To do so, it’s important to understand what makes them tick.
What Are Earwigs?
There are about 2,000 species of earwigs, and these elongated insects are best recognized by their rear-facing pincers. Though they have wings, they rarely fly. Instead, these caramel-colored insects are speedy runners. They are mostly nocturnal and dash for cover when suddenly exposed. Earwigs are also highly social, so it’s not uncommon to see multiple – maybe even dozens – congregating in a single area as they look for food and hiding places.
Earwigs often seek out dark, cool places during the day, which can lead them into contact with humans. They will live under rocks and flowerpots and amid mulch. You can also find them in leaf litter and in thick vegetation, such as ivy. In fact, it’s wise to remove any thick vegetation from areas close to your vegetable garden, since they may hide there in the day and then venture out at night to feed on your plants.
Earwigs may also enter your home, often to escape extreme weather conditions or if they’re accidentally transported inside. The good news is that without a supply of food and moisture, they are unlikely to live long.
Earwig Damage to Vegetables, Fruits, Flowers and Berries
While earwigs won’t destroy your crops they can leave their mark. Here’s how they interact with typical garden plants:
- Seedlings – Tender seedlings of any kind can be targets for these insects.
- Lettuce – Earwigs chew irregular holes in lettuce leaves of all kinds. They may also use the layers and folds in the plant’s leaves as shelter.
- Corn – Earwigs will eat the silk strands on corn. This activity prevents or limits pollination and can hinder kernel development.
- Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries – Earwigs will often chew holes in leaves and on their edges. In extreme cases they will skeletonize leaves. Be aware that snail damage may look similar, but those creatures leave tell-tale slime trails.
- Stone fruit – Peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots are targeted by earwigs. The insects leave deep holes or gouges in the fruit.
- Flowers – The only “crop” that earwigs can severely affect are flowers, and they particularly enjoy butterfly bush, dahlias, hollyhocks, marigolds and zinnias. Confirm they’re the problem by checking the flowers at night, when earwigs will be found on the plants.
Why Are Earwigs in My Grill?
Among the most common places to sight earwigs are in and around a barbecue grill. These creatures appear to be attracted to grills for a number of reasons, including the darkness a grill offers during the daytime and the grease and oil that collect on it and in its drip pan.
Opening up a grill that’s been taken over by these bugs often sends them scattering, much to the chagrin of the cook!
Here are a few tips to keep them away:
- Set it in a Sunny Location – Earwigs prefer cool, secluded places to hide in the daytime. Set your grill in a location that gets sunlight through most of the day. This will warm up the inside of the grill and make it uncomfortable for these bugs.
- Regularly Clean Your Grill – After making a meal, thoroughly scrub down the grill to remove all food debris that may have stuck to the grate or fallen through it. Remove any cinders or ash piles that may provide shelter.
- Empty the Grease Trap – Most grills have a small drip pan that catches grease so it doesn’t drip oil on the ground under the grill. This pan should be removed and cleaned after the grease cools down.
- Pre-Heat the Grill – To drive earwigs and other bugs away from their hiding spaces, preheat the grill for a good 15 minutes before putting food in it. You may also want to scrape the grate, too. These measures should destroy and incinerate any traces of your insect invaders.
Earwig Control Options & Earwig Traps
Earwig control isn’t a simple task. For one thing, females lay their eggs underground, which makes it hard to target them at that stage. As noted above, earwigs are also fast-moving insects, so squishing them or even directly spraying them is difficult. Safer® Brand, however, has several products that can keep earwigs at bay.
- Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer – This spray can be used on your plants until the day of harvest. Apply whenever earwigs (or other insects) are present.
- Diatomaceous Earth – Apply this mechanical killer in flowerbeds where earwigs are active. The fine dust shears through their exoskeletons, killing within 48 hours of contact.
- Rose & Flower Insect Killer – Protect roses and other flowers from earwigs and other insects that target your flowers.
- Insect Killing Soap – Use Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids to weaken insect exoskeletons, ultimately killing earwigs by dehydrating them.
- 3-In-1 Garden Spray – A triple-acting spray that targets insects, fungal infections and plant diseases.
You can also set up a simple earwig trap. Here’s how to set up an oil trap to capture and kill earwigs:
- Get a small plastic bowl and poke pencil-sized holes in the lid.
- Fill the bowl about halfway with a soy sauce-vegetable oil mix.
- In the area of concern, dig a hole just deep enough to set the bowl inside.
- Cover the bowl up to the lip and leave the lid uncovered. Earwigs should be able to crawl directly onto the lid.
- The earwigs will seek out the soy sauce, fall in and drown in the oil.
- Replace the mix regularly.
Another trap uses the earwigs’ instinct to hide against them. Here’s how to set up a newspaper trap to catch earwigs:
- Wet a newspaper and roll it up into a tube.
- Set the newspaper roll near your plants before sunset.
- Collect the newspaper in the morning and dispose of it in a sealed plastic bag.
- If you want, you can carry the newspaper away from the area and open it to check the effectiveness. Be prepared to see lots of earwigs, though!
Safer® Brand Helps in the Home and Garden
Rely on Safer® Brand to help you keep pests away from your home, garden, flowerbeds and lawn with its wide array of OMRI Listed® pest control solutions. When a pest control product earns an OMRI Listed® designation, you know that it’s compliant for use in organic gardening.
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