Earwig Control: Identification,
Remediation and Prevention

By Kealia Reynolds

Earwigs can be a serious home and garden pest if not removed quickly. Though there’s debate on whether they’re actually beneficial to your lawn and garden, most find that these pests ruin a variety of plants and flowers and damage stacks of books and paper within the home. Learn how to identify an earwig and how to get rid of this insect both naturally and chemically.

How to identify an earwig

An earwig is a slender, fast-moving outdoor insect with two pairs of wings and a set of pincers or forceps that protrude from the abdomen. The pincers are used as a defense mechanism. Earwigs have medium-sized bodies (getting as long as 1 ¼ inch) that are typically black or brown and a head that’s usually a reddish color. Depending on the species, some earwigs will have stripes on their heads or limbs.

Similar to sugar ants, earwigs produce a pheromone (scent) trail that allows them to cluster in large numbers. Some earwig species will even give off a foul-smelling liquid when defending themselves. While these bugs may look intimidating, they’re not known to harm humans, carry poison, or spread disease.

What do earwigs eat?

Earwigs are nocturnal feeders that primarily feed on plants, vegetation, fruit, and decaying organic material, like piles of leaves and mulch. Some earwigs will also feed on insects. Inside the home, an earwig will eat greasy foods found on kitchen countertops or items with a high cellulose content, like stacks of newspapers.

Where do earwigs live?

More than 20 species of earwigs are found in the United States. Most types prefer undisturbed outdoor hiding places that are wet and cool. During the day, these insects hide in cracks and crevices, under rocks, in logs, and within flowerbeds. Since earwigs are attracted to light, you might also find them flocking to your porch or patio lights.

How do earwigs get in your home?

While most earwigs stay outdoors, some may seek shelter in your home during drought-like conditions or when the weather gets cooler. They’ll enter your house through cracks and crevices in your walls and foundation or through open windows and doors. Once inside your house, decaying materials or items with a high cellulose content (like paper and newspapers) will be the main point of attraction for earwigs.

How to get rid of an earwig infestation

Whether you prefer natural or chemical treatment, here are a variety of methods to remove earwigs from your home and garden.

  • Reduce outdoor lighting—Since earwigs are attracted to light, turn off your porch lights at night or reduce the brightness.
  • Fix leaky faucets—Earwigs are attracted to moisture, so tend to any leaky faucets and clean up any pools of water underneath your sinks.
  • Use a homemade trap—Though time-consuming, this method is effective in removing individual earwigs. Place a burlap sack on mulch and shrubbery and wait for earwigs to crawl into the sack. You may also use corrugated cardboard, rolled-up newspaper, or bamboo tubes. Because earwigs like undisturbed, cool places, they have been found to flock to these types of coverings. Collect any earwigs that gather under the cover and discard of them promptly.
  • Spray insecticides—Apply insecticide treatment in the spring or summer (preferably in the late afternoon) around your home’s foundation, garden, and crawl spaces. Treat in a three- to six-foot band around the building to prevent earwigs from entering your house. Consider using the LambdaStar UltraCap 9.7—this product is odorless, long-lasting, and can be used indoors or outdoors with no visible residue.
  • Use a spray aerosol—If you’re trying to get rid of earwigs inside your house, use a crack and crevice aerosol, like the Crack and Crevice Invader. Apply along baseboards and beneath cabinets.
  • Contact a professional pest control service—It may be difficult to get rid of an earwig infestation on your own. If you’re having trouble removing this pest, call a pest management company, like Orkin or Terminix. These pest control providers specialize in getting rid of earwigs from homes and gardens.

How to prevent earwigs

Here’s how you can make your home less attractive to earwigs and keep them from getting in.

  • Avoid placing stones in your garden that earwigs can hide under
  • Avoid layering mulch more than two inches deep
  • Clean out gutters and make sure they’re positioned to carry water away from your home
  • Rake leaves and other debris and remove them from your yard
  • Since earwigs are attracted to damp areas, use dehumidifiers in your bathrooms or basement
  • Regularly vacuum floors and upholstered furniture and wipe down countertops
  • Caulk cracks and crevices in your walls and foundation

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