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How to Get Rid of Earwigs or Pincher Bugs


Here are tips on how to identify and get rid of earwigs, also known as pincher bugs or dermaptera, in the garden.

What is an Earwig or Pincher Bug?

Earwigs can be found in almost any zone, although they more likely to inhabit southern climates. You might have trouble spotting one—not only are they quick movers, they are also nocturnal, and tend to hide out during the day when you are tending the garden. They like decaying wood and plant material, and dark, damp spaces. Often times they can be found in basements and woodpiles. The name "earwig" comes from the Old English ear-wicga, which means "ear insect", and it is named so because its hind legs are shaped like human ears.

How to Identify Earwigs

  • These one-inch long dark brown insects are easily identified by their forceps.
  • Pincher bugs feed on other insects, such as aphids and spidermites, which is one benefit. Unfortunately, they will also feed on the rest of your garden.
  • They are especially fond of flowers, lettuce, celery and fruits.
  • Leaves will appear jagged and full of holes.

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How to Get Rid of Earwigs

Generally, earwigs are not as much of a threat to your garden as other pests like Japanese Beetles, but they are just as big of an annoyance! Try these remedies:

  • Lay one-foot sections of bamboo or garden hose in the beds between your plants. Check these “traps” each morning, and dump the earwigs into a bucket of soapy water.
  • Spread petroleum jelly around the stems of your plants. Earwigs won’t crawl over it.
  • If they are infesting your woodpile, try sprinkling borax around it, but keep pets and children away from this area after doing so.
  • Combine equal parts soy sauce and olive oil, put it in a small plastic container, and secure the lid. Punch holes in the top of the container, near the lid. Make the holes large enough for the earwigs to get in. Bury the container in the soil just up to the holes. The soy sauce will attract the earwigs, and the oil will prevent them from escaping. Change the mixture as needed.



This article was originally published in 2010 and has been updated.

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How do I keep earwigs out of

How do I keep earwigs out of my dahlias?

Hi, Teri: Earwigs love

Hi, Teri: Earwigs love moisture. Do a test. Take 3 plastic butter or deli tubs and bury them top-edge-deep in three different places. Put a half inch of water in each. Put a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil in the first, of soy sauce in the second, and of molasses in the third. See which trap catches the most for three nights (rotate their positions twice), then convert all to that method. If you have problems with critters or pets, put the lids on the containers with a slot cut in them for the earwigs to crawl through. Or: Roll up newspapers, put a rubber band around them, wet them thoroughly (i.e., soak), and set them in your bed. Well, flower bed, we mean. In the morning, lift them up quickly and totally immerse them in a bucket of hot, soapy water. Don't succumb to curiosity and inspect them or try to count earwigs or see if anybody's home. Just lift and dunk. Lift and dunk. Bye, bye, wiggies.

I sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth

I sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around my plants & yard. This also works well against Fleas. It can be purchased in the pool center of your home improvement store.

Diatomaceous earth works

Diatomaceous earth works wonders; a good natural defense against unwanted insects! However, it is best to use a food-grade quality, ensuring no harm will come to any animal it comes in contact with (other than the bugs it will destroy, of course). The kind used in pools does not meet this standard. I buy mine in a 40lbs sack at my local feed store. Remember, it is no longer effective once moisture hits it, so you must reapply often.

I am so happy to read about

I am so happy to read about others using Diatomaceous earth for earwigs. I have food grade DE that I am using for my garden and was curious if it worked well for these buggers. Thanks all you DE users :)

Earwigs have invaded our

Earwigs have invaded our grill by the hundreds. How can I get rid of them? Its very disturbing to see them crawl all over the hood and grates when its heating up. Actually they can withstand quite a bit of heat!! :)

Earwigs like moist dark

Earwigs like moist dark places, so you want to keep surrounding areas sunny and dry and open, including the grill!
For a DIY method, clean out a tuna or cat food can and fill it nearly to the top with water. Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Place the can in an earwig-infested area near the grill. If you have lots of the pests, place several cans in the area. When the bugs come out in the evening, they will crawl into the cans for a swim, but the vegetable oil will prevent them from getting out.
The best way to get rid of earwigs is to trap them. Here's a good link that explains how to do it: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG....

Don't be so kind to earwigs.

Don't be so kind to earwigs. They will exfoliate the whole plant. A horrible import from overseas, the only thing that will partially eradicate them from temperate climes is a very cold winter which kills most of them. I spray my marigolds every two days with neem oil or I'll have no marigolds left.

Another great way of getting

Another great way of getting rid of earwigs that I learned from http://www.domyownpestcontrol.... is attracting birds onto your property. They take a liking to earwigs so have them solve your problem for you. To welcome birds near and around your garden, one simply needs to place bird baths or bird feeders in the vicinity and let them come!

Does this truly work?

I'm quite worried about my vegetable-garden-to-be. I've been tilling the soil and have found all sorts of earwigs. I've been told they like to eat through all the vegetables. I love birds though... well most birds. I just don't want all the effort to be wasted.

And the question is…what to

And the question is…what to do? Read the responses above, esp the one from the Almanac staff about the tuna can as a deterent. If you have that many earwigs (as many as you imply) you may also have poor soil, soil that holds too much moisture (see above; they like dampness). Search this site for advice on soil and improve your with compost and other additives suited for the proper pH for the plants you plan to grow. 

If you don’t do this, you may wish you did in six—or fewer—months. Why go to the trouble to plant if the site is not suitably prepared?

Good luck!


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