Dealing With Earwigs in the Garden

What IS an earwig?

There are more than twenty species of earwigs in the United States. Some species produce a foul smelling liquid that they use for defense. Earwigs also produce a pheromone (scent). Scientists believe that this pheromone is the reason that earwigs cluster together in large numbers.

Everyone has probably seen an earwig at one time or another in their life. They are everywhere from Aachen to Zyryanka! They are one of the oldest insects on our planet. They will run toward you which makes you think they are aggressive but in reality they are running for the closest dark place to hide, like under your shoe!

What do earwigs look like?

  • Earwigs are about 1″ long (2.5 cm) with a hard, reddish brown shell and pinchers at the tail end.
  • They don’t bite but the pinchers on their tails can give a nasty pinch if they get trapped under you.
  • Earwigs are odd looking insects which have pincers or forceps protruding from the abdomen. These are somewhat intimidating looking but they are not poisonous, and they do not spread disease.


Where do earwigs live?

As with any other type of insect with multiple species, biology and habits vary. Most types of earwigs generally prefer wet areas which are cooler and undisturbed. Earwigs can be a serious garden pest if conditions are right. If there is adequate ground cover, wet soil, and food, the earwigs will do well.

If your plants are getting chewed to pieces and the roots are shredded then there may be earwigs in your garden. Flip over a rock or some mulch and if you see a bunch of them scurrying away then you definitely have an earwig problem. Earwigs typically feed on live sprouts or decaying vegetation and, in rare cases, some species are predators.

Earwigs are active at night. During the day they hide in cracks in damp areas. They live under rocks and logs and in mulch in flowerbeds. Earwigs eat plants and insects.

Solutions to an Earwig Infestation

  1. Use a floating row cover to keep your plants safe underneath. Lay it early in the season before earwigs start to get out and roam.
  2. You can make an earwig trap using empty margarine tubs or pop cans.


  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 shallow plastic container or lid, about 2 to 3 inches deep
  • Scissors

Cut your container if needed to shorten the depth to 2 to 3 inches.

Add the oil and soy sauce.

  1. Turn it on its side and bury the trap halfway in a shady spot in your garden or around the yard.
  2. If you can, use flat beer instead pf soy sauce and your traps will also catch slugs.
  3. Dig a shallow hole in the soil a few inches away from the plants being targeted. Bury your trap completely in the ground and fill dirt around the lip of the container. You will want your trap to sit evenly at ground level.
  4. After a couple of days empty and refill the trap with new soy sauce/oil or beer.

Alternately, you can mix 1/4 teaspoon (2 ml) dish washing soap to 3 cups (1 L) of water in a spray bottle.
Squirt the earwigs with the mixture when you find them hiding in damp places and under rocks.

If you have a severe problem with earwigs try this non-chemical method:

  • Put a damp, rolled up newspaper in the garden each night.
  • This will attract hundreds of earwigs in a heavily infested area.
  • In the morning, dump the newspaper into a large bucket of hot, soapy water to kill the earwigs.
  • Dispose of the wet newspaper in your compost pile.
The Ready Store
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease" ~ Thomas Jefferson

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