Earwigs are common insects which occur in or about homes, yards, and gardens. Earwigs cause concern because of their appearance but they are harmless, cannot sting, and are not able to bite or pinch hard enough to cause any injury to the skin of people. The European earwig is dark reddish-brown with a reddish head, about 1/2 to 1 inch long and is easily recognized by the prominent forceps or pincers at the rear. The young are much like the adults. In the spring, the female lays a batch of about 30 eggs in cells beneath the soil surface. The eggs are brooded by the female. After hatching, the female stays with the nymphs, keeping the nest tightly closed to prevent their escape. After molting once, the young nymphs disperse. Four nymphal stages occur before adult maturity is reached in 68 or more days. There is usually only one generation per year. Earwigs eat almost anything they can chew but prefer plant food and may cause damage to garden plants. Earwigs hide in large numbers in the yard under stones, boards, mats, boxes, newspapers, and in the crotches of trees. They invade homes, infest bedrooms and closets. The adults are winged and can fly, but rarely do so. They are active mainly at night.
Outdoor control of earwigs is best achieved by combining several measures. Reduce movement into homes by clearing the area next to the house of debris or other materials that provide shelter. This is particularly effective if a relatively dry barrier zone, disagreeable to earwigs, is established around the home.
Trapping and destroying the insects can provide limited control of earwigs in a garden. An effective trap is a moistened, rolled-up newspaper placed in the garden overnight and then disposed of or crushed in the morning.
Insecticides may be used in a variety of ways depending on the situation. Barrier treatments of insecticides sprayed along the exterior foundation walls and as a 1- to 3-foot swath along adjacent soil can prevent movement of earwigs into the home. Trunk banding may be considered if there are problems with earwigs damaging fruit trees. However, most earwig feeding is on insects such as aphids, which cause leaf curl and produce honeydew. Use of insecticides applied directly to crops is not recommended and should be done strictly in accordance with label directions.
Whole yard treatments of insecticides may be used for earwig control. However, such a practice generally must be considered an extreme response. Baits containing an insecticide also may be used for earwig control.
Use indoor controls only in addition to exterior treatment. Otherwise, results will be unsatisfactory. Exterior treatment includes sealing all cracks in the foundation and around windows and other openings to reduce earwig movement into homes. Individual earwigs found indoors may be vacuumed or spot treated with spray-and-wash indoor cleaners that kill by contact. Such insecticides, which are formulated for interior application, also may be used. Apply them only to areas in the home used for earwig shelter and not as general household sprays. Closely follow label instructions for these interior uses.
Have a Earwig control question? Post it on IPCO message board