Under cover of darkness, a frightening looking creature crawls into the ear of a sleeping person, gets as far as the brain, burrows there and lays eggs. Feeding on the brain, the little monster grows while its helpless victim eventually dies. Actually, this myth associated with earwigs has nothing to do with reality. Earwigs are one of those few insect species that have fallen victims to human prejudice, but still, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without a fire. Earwigs can accidentally wander into the human ear canals, but that’s it! No terrible consequences outlined above would follow in this case.
Nevertheless, earwigs are pests and they cause damage to human property which is of quite a different nature. This is what the article is about. You will learn how to get rid of earwigs according to scientists’ recommendations, in particular, how to kill earwigs, as well as repel and trap them. The article covers the most effective methods of earwig control both in the house and in the garden. In addition, there is a review of the highest rated products available on to help you make a right choice.
Well, the chance of being bitten by an earwig is the last thing you should be worried about. They can nip but do it only when attacked and such a backlash will not have health implications either for humans or pets. Earwigs stop being harmless as soon as their population gets large and they become a sheer nuisance in your house. They can consume cookies, bread, and flour stored in the pantry. Not that earwigs are able to empty your supplies of food, it would not be hygienic to consume the items after earwigs have tasted them. Add to that their fearsome appearance, disgusting smell and craving for food in storage spaces and trash cans, and earwigs will turn into a huge headache for you throughout the summer.
And not just indoors. These greedy plant feeders cause considerable damage to crops and foliage in gardens and can completely destroy seedlings. Typically, they both consume leaves and injure fruits. As a rule, the most affected plants are those of fig, potato, cabbage, beans, as well as all kinds of flowers. Earwigs adore consuming berry bushes and orchard trees, favoring peaches and apples. They prefer ripe fruits over premature ones. In this way, they both reduce crop yields and cause aesthetic injury to plants and fruits. Do you have small and irregular holes in the foliage? If so, then earwigs are among the main suspects. These pests can also prey on other insects and sometimes are not above eating dead ones.
Now let’s have a look at who you are dealing with. The adult earwig is three-fourths of an inch in length, with the color varying from brown to black. Also, it has tiny wings which are used quite rarely though. But the main characteristic feature of this pest is pincers at the tip of its body — curved ones in males and straight in females. These pincers have a dual purpose: as a protection against predators and a convenient tool to catch the prey.
The type of damage earwigs inflict largely depends on the species they belong to. Out of over twenty species known in the USA, the European earwigs are the most widespread and troublesome pests. Being nocturnal insects, they need places to hide in the daytime. However, their shelter should meet certain requirements including shadiness, humidity, and coolness. In contrast, dry and hot conditions are deadly to earwigs, something you should put a pin in.
To find sites of a potential infestation in the garden, inspect loose clods of soil, boards, and dense growth of weeds. Indoors, earwigs hide in crevices providing enough darkness and moisture, as well as in potted plants and stacks of newspapers. Outside the building, they choose such locations as garbage cans or a pantry. Not individual insects but whole clusters of earwigs can be found in window or door frames in case the area is infested.
They do not breed inside the house, nor do they establish themselves there. Just hide. But this is where the problems begin. You may encounter them running rapidly around baseboards, window sills or any other surfaces that would make your dwelling resemble a dilapidated shed rather than a snug home. When crushed or disturbed, these pests emit a repulsive odor and an equally repulsive yellow liquid.
So, what should be done? There is a number of steps recommended by scientists that will help you get rid of earwigs. However, as Jeffrey Hahn and Phil Pellitteri, entomologists from the University of Minnesota, put it,, these measures will only decrease the number of the pests but will not ensure the problem solved if the infestation is heavy. And yet without taking these steps, no further earwig control efforts will be successful.
First of all, clean up debris serving as breeding and nesting places. These are fallen leaves, plant debris, ripe fruits, lumber, and bricks. Removing mulch or making it thinner will also be helpful. Prune the fruit trees and scrape off loose bark on their trunks. Arthur L. Antonelli, an extension entomologist from the Washington State University, advises wrapping a cardboard around the trunks to collect these pests as they move from ground to the branches. Once you have got enough of them inside the cardboard, remove it and crush the earwigs. Make every efforts to make your garden or yard a sunny and exposed area because this will be an unfavorable environment for earwigs. Secondly, if there is too much moisture in the garden, check drainage and irrigation systems to make sure that they function well. If they do not, you should repair or replace these systems. When irrigating the plants, do it frequently but more thoroughly. This will assist in reducing the humidity of the soil.
John L. Capinera, a scientist from the University of Florida, suggests exploiting natural enemies to control earwigs. Some of them have been imported from abroad specifically for that purpose. The best option is the European parasitoid Bigonicheta spinipennis, a fly which kills up to fifty percent of earwigs present in the treated area. However, take into consideration that using natural enemies does not guarantee the same result in different regions. It is not clear yet which factors influence on how many earwigs can be killed by these parasites, but still, this solution is worth trying.
Another natural enemy, nematode Mermis nigrescens, can cause high mortality among earwigs, according to studies conducted in Ontario. The experiments showed that over sixty percent of the target pests could become infected by nematodes over the course of two years. Keep in mind that nematodes are beneficial and assist in controlling a wide range of pests damaging the garden. Therefore, their presence in the garden will only make its crops and plants healthier. Apart from that, earwigs have natural enemies among birds and animals. Toads, birds, chickens and ducks are able to eat many of them and could be considered reliable partners in your pest control strategy.
To control earwigs indoors, start with eradicating them outside the house. It would be useless to hamper their migration inside the building when all the necessary conditions for their breeding are created outside of it. David J. Shetlar, an entomologist from the Ohio State University, claims that reducing mulch layers as well as stones and timbers will make the infestation lower. Eliminate moist conditions around air-conditioning units and in crawl spaces. Create a dry border along the foundation.
When the weather is dry and hot, earwigs especially struggle to penetrate inside the house seeking cooler and more humid environment. Once detected indoors, they can be vacuumed up, wiped with a rag, killed by hand or trapped. Treat crevices and cracks with insecticides to kill earwigs on contact, but keep in mind that the effect will not last for a long period of time since new pests will arrive from the outside the building.
With that in mind, first of all, focus on prevention measures such as sealing around doors and windows to block their main entry points. Use caulking compound and stripping around doors, pipes and other openings through which earwigs can get inside the house. Pay a special attention to those located at the ground level. Also, take advantage of ornamental stones which can serve as an effective barrier against all kinds of pests. Think about the ways to make your house less visible to earwigs, given that they are active at night. One of the best solutions is to reduce outdoor lighting around doors and windows as bright illumination attracts them. M. L. Flint, a scientist from the University of California, suggests using either yellow or sodium vapor bulbs which can hardly be seen by earwigs and many other pests due to peculiarities of their biology.
An insecticide treatment should be considered a supplementary measure to non-chemical ones as it is a short-term solution. Steve Jacobs, Sr. Extension Associate from the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, recommends applying products containing such active ingredients as deltamethrin and cyfluthrin outside the building to create a barrier against earwigs. Spray the stuff early in summer and make several applications, do not confine the treatment to a single spraying. Read the label directions and warnings in order not to harm the household residents and animals. Focus on the areas where earwigs have been detected most often, primarily, treat building foundations, alleys and around trees.
Indoor insecticide treatment is believed to be less effective than the outdoor one because earwigs do not become established inside the building. Scientists from the Ohio State University note that both dusts and sprays may produce the desired result if applied at the ground level, in particular, beneath cabinets and around baseboards. To protect your garden from earwigs, treat mulches, flower beds, around trees and on their trunks. Scientists from the Washington State University consider products containing carbaryl to be the most effective at treating apricots, cherries, peaches and plums. However, be careful when using baits since those based on carbaryl include metaldehyde which is toxic to pets.
To make your pest control strategy successful, apply insecticides to those sites where earwigs like to hide in the daytime. You may also outwit the pests by creating your own handmade hiding place for earwigs to entice them inside. Place a cardboard or carpet on the tree trunks, wait until as many pests as possible are gathered there, then take it off and spray generously. Keep in mind that not all insecticides registered for earwigs can be applied around fruits and vegetables. Read carefully the manufacturer’s directions to clarify that point for each individual product.
Researchers from the California State University say that, among all insecticides, the products based on Spinosad should be preferred as they are not just effective but also environmentally friendly. Baits like SluggoPlus can be sprinkled around the plants and the house foundation. To enhance its performance, moisten the bait to make it more attractive. Nevertheless, two factors may significantly reduce the bait effectiveness. First, there should not be enough alternative sources of food. Secondly, the bait should be consumed by earwigs until they have got on the trees and plants.
Consider using insecticidal soaps which kill earwigs on contact, however, take into account that they do not have a residual effect. Also, you will have to use a lot of insecticidal soaps to cover the area an achieve a satisfactory result. Diane G. Alston, an entomologist with the Utah State University, provides a list of insecticides suggested for earwig control and available for house owners.
One of the methods of how to get rid of earwigs is trapping. W.S. Cranshaw, a scientist from the Colorado State University, outlines strict guidelines you should follow to obtain a result. Set traps in the evening and check them in the morning to remove captured pests. Although there is a number of trap designs, they should all resemble earwig harborage, in particular, to be dark inside. Note that placing one trap will not be enough, there should be a number of them throughout the garden, with a focus on sites located against fences or close to bushes and around trees.
Rolled cardboard or crumpled newspapers will certainly do the job and will assist in mass trapping. They will not eradicate the entire infestation, especially if the population is large in the area. However, if you persist in your efforts, a good deal of earwigs can be eliminated. Also, it is crucial to put some food bait to lure earwigs inside. According to scientific studies, wheat bran is the most attractive bait to these pests. Scientists from the Colorado State University, outlines punching holes at the top of a plastic yogurt container and burying its bottom in the ground near sites frequented by earwigs.
You may also use shallow cans with odorous oils as a trap and bait simultaneously. Oils of vegetable and fish are also effective. Such bite is recommended to be put in a small cup sunk into the ground. An advantage of this solution is that the target pests will not only be captured but will drown as well. In this case, you will not need to care about how to kill earwigs in the trap. All you have to do is to discard the dead. For that purpose, collect the traps into bags and throw them in the trash. In case your trap does not kill earwigs, shake them out into a container with soapy water, that’s all! Also, you can crush the captured pests inside the plastic bag if it is sturdy enough. For traps set indoors, use a broom or vacuum to effectively remove earwigs.
Effectiveness Scale: 1 being the most, 10 being the least effective.
|clean up debris |
|habitat modification||Eliminates breeding and nesting sites; earwigs will not have shelters to hide in the daytime.||Will not eradicate the entire infestation; labor-consuming.|
|natural enemies |
|killing||Environmentally friendly solution; once beneficial insects released, human participation is not required; presence of nematodes will make plants healthier.||Scientific studies show different effectiveness depending on the region; natural enemies cannot be controlled.|
|physical elimination (vacuuming, killing by hand etc) |
|killing||Helps decrease the number of earwigs in the house or garden; does not involve using insecticides.||Labor-intensive; you will have to dispose of the dead; will not stop new earwigs from arriving in the house; a short-term solution.|
|sealing entry points |
|exclusion||A long-term solution; will stop new earwigs from penetrating the house.||Labor-intensive; not all openings and crevices can be detected in the building’s exterior.|
|reducing outdoor lighting |
|habitat modification||Using yellow bulbs will make your house less visible to earwigs.||Does not eliminate existing infestation.|
|killing||Regularly set traps significantly reduce the number of earwigs; no chemicals are required.||Should be checked on a daily basis; only a number of traps will work; you will have to dispose of dead earwigs or kill them after capturing.|
|insect growth regulators (azadirachtin) |
|insecticide||Solves the problem in the long run as the treated earwigs will not be able to reproduce; is registered in the USA as “relatively non-toxic”.||To produce an effect, IGR should be used in a combination with other solutions as sterilizing the females does not eliminate existing earwigs and newcomers; has a slow effect.|
|insecticide||Considered by scientists to be the most effective at treating apricots, cherries, peaches and plums; works on direct contact; does not have an odor; stable to heat, light and acids under storage conditions.||Can be very toxic to humans; baits must not be available to pets as they are extremely toxic to them; short-term solution.|
|insecticide||Organic; recommended by scientists as effective and environmentally friendly solution; does not affect beneficial insects; has stable residues.||Should be used in a combination with other methods.|
|insecticide||Kills earwigs by disrupting their nervous system; the most commonly used organophosphate insecticide in the territory of the USA.||Should be considered as a supplementary to non-chemical measures; can pose a health risk to people in inhaled; highly toxic to beneficial insects and fish.|
|Synthetic pyrethroids (bifenthrin, cyfluthrin etc) |
|insecticide||They are most effective when applied as a barrier along the perimeter of the building and in the garden; recommended to be applied directly to earwig hiding places.||Should be considered as a supplementary to non-chemical measures; short-term solution.|
|Diatomaceous earth |
|insecticide||Kills earwigs by dehydration; is not toxic to humans; recommended by scientists; natural solution.||Should to be reapplied several times; effective only in the dry state what makes the application troublesome as earwigs live in moist conditions.|
In the product review below, we have picked up the most popular products intended for getting rid of earwigs both indoors and outdoors. By means of these solutions you will be able to launch a counterattack against earwigs on all fronts. Special yellow light bulbs will help trick out these pests so that they are not able to see your house. Sticky traps will hold tight the pests which have penetrated indoors while diatomaceous earth will kill those hiding in crevices and cracks. Eco-friendly pellets based on Spinosad will be a great solution for the garden treatment but in case you prefer sprays, a powerful concentrate can be an option for you. Pellets with the active ingredient metaldehyde will play a terrible trick with earwigs — attract them to kill. If you stake on natural solutions only, take advantage of nematodes which will infect earwigs when released in the area.
This bulb neither kills nor repels earwigs, but it accomplishes a very important task — makes your house invisible to earwigs. As part of a complex pest control strategy, this function is a crucial one because you will be able to leave porch lights on in the evening and at night and will not risk attracting earwigs which are active at the nighttime.
Apart from that, there is one more strong point. The bulb is equal to a 40W incandescent one but uses only 5W contributing in such a way to enhanced energy consumption in your house. The Bug Light Bulb has scored 4.2 out of 5 stars in reviews. “I have a home in North Carolina, and before this bulb it was impossible to sit on the porch at night with all the bugs around the light. I can honestly say this solved the problem,” a customer comments.
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These traps designed specifically for earwigs and the like are available in a package including 30 sheets of 3 traps each. Depending on how many sites you want to cover, you may separate each of the traps or use a whole sheet, for example, in a place of heavy infestation. The critters are captured on a sticky surface with strong adhesives lasting up for a year. A very effective and reliable solution, however the product has an evident downside — it is intended for indoor use only. The manufacturer suggests placing the traps behind furniture, in attics, basements or behind toilets.
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These pellets based on Spinosad are recommended by scientists as effective and eco-friendly insecticide. It is compatible with organic crops, be it vegetables or fruits, and is relatively safe. It can also be applied to trees, shrubbery and flowers, in other words, almost everywhere! At the same time, this is a powerful solution since the stuff kills target pests at all stages from eggs to adults. Sluggo Plus is definitely popular with customers, with a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars in the reviews.
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The concentrate labeled for earwig control has the active ingredient gamma-cyhalothrin. Among its evident strong points is durable effect lasting up to three months and a large area coverage amounting to more than 5,000 square meters. The solution is for outdoor use and intended to be applied to plants, vegetables, flowers and trees in the garden. Using Triazicide, you will get a stuff killing the pests both above and below the ground.
To make applications, attach the bottle to a hose and spray the infested areas. Pay attention to earwig hiding places around the tree trunks and under plant debris. Despite being a chemical insecticide, the concentrate is safe for pets and children but only when dried. In sunny days, it usually takes no more than an hour. Triazicide concentrate has scored 4.0 out of 5 stars in reviews. Analyzing customers’ feedback, one may come to the conclusion that sprays are not as effective against earwigs as dusts and pellets are.
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A powder based on diatomaceous earth is cost-efficient solution as it can be applied both indoors, sprinkled into crevices and cracks, and outdoors to reduce a pest infestation. The stuff kills insects either by ingestion or dehydration within a couple of days. According to the manufacturer, the product is labelled for a number of notorious pests including earwigs.
DE rates 4.1 out of 5 stars in customer reviews. Some of the users have shared their successful experience in earwig control with the help of diatomaceous earth. They highlight that the product is great for pet owners because, unlike chemicals, it is absolutely harmless for the animals. “Bought it to spread on the ground around bee hives to eliminate earwigs – works great and no danger to bees,” one of the satisfied customers says. “It is a bit messy when applying, but the results are worth it,” another one notes.
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These pellets are a kind of death trap for earwigs: they first attract the pests and then kill them. With active ingredients including Bitrex, ingestion deterrent and metaldehyde, the product provides a long-lasting earwig control of up to a month. It can be applied around vegetables and fruits, however, check the label to learn which ones. Among its advantages is that the stuff is a rainproof and does not need to be reapplied after irritation of the garden.
It seems that Ortho pellets are really in demand, rating 4.4 out of 5 stars. According to customer reviews, the product does the job but some users point to the fact that it is quite toxic and homeowners should be careful with it. In general, the customers agree that the solution kills earwigs: “This is great against earwigs that were turning my plants into lace leaves,” one of the customers says. “It’s really helped clear out my earwig infestation. While I wanted to rely only on essential oils, the earwigs had gotten out of control”, another buyer shares his experience.
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Using beneficial nematodes to kill earwigs is a good, organic solution but should be considered a supplementary measure though. The idea has come from the biology of nematodes known as Steinernema carpocapsae which kill pests by releasing bacteria. Scientists from the University of California Davis claim that earwigs are susceptible to infection of these nematodes. According to the study conducted by them, the larger the earwig is, the higher mortality rates were observed.
Steinernema carpocapsae nematodes rate 4.0 out of 5 stars. “They have been in the ground about a week, and I see much less earwig damage on my beans and other veggies,” one of the customers describes his experience in using nematodes.
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|LED Yellow Bug Light Bulb||illumination|
|Trapper Monitor, 90 items||trap|
|Monterey LG6575 Sluggo Plus, 1 Pound||pellets|
|Spectracide Triazicide Insect Killer, 32 fl oz||concentrate|
|Ortho Bug Geta Plus, 3 Pound||pellets|
|Safer Brand, 4 Pound||diatomaceous earth|
|Live Beneficial Nematodes, 10 Million||earwig natural enemies|