Earwigs are pesky insects that are not only unsightly but can also be harmful to your garden and home. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss ways to get rid of earwigs effectively and safely.
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Earwigs, also known as Dermaptera, are small insects with a pair of forcep-like pincers at the end of their abdomen. There are more than 2,000 species of earwigs worldwide, but the most common species in North America and Europe is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia). In this section, we will delve deeper into earwigs’ biology, behavior, and common myths associated with them.
Biology and Appearance
Earwigs are generally dark brown or reddish-brown in color and measure between 5-25 millimeters in length, depending on the species. They have two pairs of wings, but they rarely fly. The most distinctive feature of earwigs is their forcep-like pincers (cerci), which they use for defense and capturing prey.
Behavior and Diet
Earwigs are nocturnal insects, which means they are most active during the night. They are omnivores, feeding on both plant and animal matter. In gardens, they can be both beneficial and harmful. They prey on other insects such as aphids and mites, which can be helpful in controlling these pests. However, they can also cause damage to plants by feeding on flowers, leaves, and fruits, especially when their population is high.
Female earwigs are known to exhibit maternal care, which is uncommon among insects. They lay their eggs in underground burrows and protect them until they hatch. After hatching, the female continues to care for her nymphs (young earwigs) until they are ready to leave the burrow and fend for themselves.
One common myth associated with earwigs is that they crawl into human ears to lay their eggs. This is not true. While they are attracted to dark and damp places, earwigs pose no threat to humans and are not known to infest human ears.
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What attracts earwigs?
- Moist and dark environments
- Decaying plant matter
- Mulch, leaf litter, and woodpiles
Top Tips for Getting Rid of Earwigs
1. Eliminate hiding places
Earwigs prefer to hide in damp, dark areas during the day. By eliminating these hiding spots, you can reduce their population and discourage them from settling in your garden or home. Some actions you can take include:
- Clearing away dead leaves and plant debris
- Storing firewood off the ground and away from your home
- Regularly turning over mulch to expose earwigs to predators and sunlight
2. Keep the area around your home dry
Maintaining a dry environment around your home is crucial in deterring earwigs. Some steps you can take to achieve this include:
- Ensuring proper drainage to prevent standing water near your home
- Repairing leaking faucets, pipes, or hoses
- Installing gutter guards to prevent clogs and improve water flow
3. Seal entry points
To prevent earwigs from entering your home, it’s essential to seal any potential entry points. This can be done by:
- Inspecting your home’s exterior for cracks, gaps, or holes, and sealing them with caulk or other appropriate materials
- Installing door sweeps and weather stripping around doors and windows
- Ensuring that screens on windows and vents are in good condition and fit tightly
4. Use diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth is a natural, non-toxic substance made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae. When insects with exoskeletons, like earwigs, come into contact with diatomaceous earth, it damages their protective outer layer, causing them to dehydrate and die. To use diatomaceous earth effectively:
- Purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth from a garden center or online
- Sprinkle a thin layer around your home’s perimeter, especially near entry points and areas where earwigs are active
- Reapply after heavy rain or when the diatomaceous earth is no longer visible
5. Introduce natural predators
Encouraging the presence of natural predators can help to control earwig populations. Some of these predators include:
- Birds: Many bird species feed on earwigs. To attract birds, provide birdhouses, bird feeders, and birdbaths in your garden.
- Frogs and toads: Frogs and toads are also known to eat earwigs. Create a suitable habitat for them by providing shelter, water, and hiding spots.
- Nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that can help control earwig populations. They can be purchased from garden centers and applied to the soil according to the package instructions.
DIY Earwig Traps and Recipes
1. Oil and Soy Sauce Trap
This simple trap uses the attractive aroma of soy sauce to lure earwigs and the oil to prevent their escape.
- Small, shallow container (such as a tuna or cat food can)
- Soy sauce
- Vegetable oil
- Clean the container thoroughly and place it in an area where you’ve noticed earwig activity.
- Fill the container with a mixture of equal parts soy sauce and vegetable oil.
- Check the trap daily and dispose of trapped earwigs.
- Clean and refill the trap as needed.
2. Rolled Newspaper Trap
This trap provides a hiding place for earwigs, making it easy to capture and dispose of them.
- Rubber band or string
- Bucket of soapy water
- Roll the newspaper into a tube and secure it with a rubber band or string.
- Dampen the newspaper slightly to create a more attractive environment for earwigs.
- Place the rolled newspaper in an area with earwig activity before dusk.
- In the morning, carefully pick up the newspaper and submerge it in a bucket of soapy water to kill the earwigs.
- Repeat the process as needed.
3. Wet Cardboard Trap
Similar to the rolled newspaper trap, this method uses wet cardboard as a hiding place for earwigs.
- Corrugated cardboard
- Bucket of soapy water
- Cut a piece of corrugated cardboard into a square or rectangle.
- Soak the cardboard in water until it is damp but not dripping.
- Place the damp cardboard in an area with earwig activity before dusk.
- In the morning, carefully pick up the cardboard and submerge it in a bucket of soapy water to kill the earwigs.
- Repeat the process as needed.
4. Baited Jar Trap
This trap uses bait to attract earwigs into a jar, where they become trapped.
- Glass jar (such as a mason jar or empty pasta sauce jar)
- Bait (fish oil, tuna, or moistened bread)
- Petroleum jelly or vegetable oil
- Bucket of soapy water
- Clean the jar thoroughly and place the bait inside.
- Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or vegetable oil around the inner rim of the jar to prevent earwigs from escaping.
- Bury the jar in the soil up to its rim in an area with earwig activity.
- Check the trap daily and dispose of trapped earwigs by submerging the jar in a bucket of soapy water.
- Clean and reset the trap as needed.
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What attracts earwigs in your house?
Earwigs are attracted to damp, dark environments. They may enter your home in search of food, moisture, or shelter. Common reasons for their presence include leaky pipes, poor drainage, or cluttered areas that provide hiding places. To deter earwigs, ensure your home is well-sealed and dry, and minimize potential hiding spots.
Should I be worried if I find an earwig in my house?
While finding an earwig in your house may be unsettling, it is usually not a cause for concern. Earwigs are not poisonous, do not transmit diseases, and are not known to bite humans. However, if you find multiple earwigs in your home, it’s a good idea to take steps to prevent their entry and eliminate any potential sources of attraction.
Can earwigs come up through drains?
It is possible for earwigs to enter your home through drains, as they are attracted to moisture and can fit through small gaps. To prevent this, regularly clean your drains and consider using drain covers or screens to block their entry.
Do earwigs crawl on beds?
While it’s not common for earwigs to crawl on beds, it is possible. Earwigs are nocturnal and may venture indoors in search of food or shelter. To minimize the chance of encountering earwigs in your bed, ensure your bedroom is clean, dry, and free of clutter, and seal any potential entry points.
Where do earwigs lay eggs?
Female earwigs lay their eggs in underground burrows or hidden crevices. They prefer dark, damp locations, such as under rocks, logs, or piles of leaves. After laying their eggs, female earwigs exhibit maternal care, protecting their eggs and tending to their young after they hatch.
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By following the tips and tricks outlined in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be able to effectively get rid of earwigs in your home and garden. Remember to use a combination of preventative measures, natural remedies, and DIY traps to eliminate these pesky insects and prevent future infestations.