University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Earwigs Again a Problem in Homes

June 29, 2000

Once again, earwigs are appearing around homes, yards, and gardens. It's not likely they can be eliminated, but there are some steps to take to help reduce earwig problems.

Earwigs are most active at night, and like to hide in cool, dark areas during the day, such as cracks and crevices of tree trunks or in mulch. Earwigs are elongate insects, usually reddish-brown in color (nymphs may appear darker), with pincer-like projections on the end of the body called forceps. They may appear like roaches, but are not related.

Earwigs primarily scavenge on dead plant materials and dead insects, although may feed on live plants. Common targets include marigolds, dahlias, zinnias, roses, lettuce, and strawberries. Plants defoliated overnight, with no sign of pests in daylight, might be being attacked by earwigs.

Earwigs are not poisonous, and do not bite or sting. Possibly they could pinch with their forceps, however, if handled. While they are not considered harmful, large numbers appearing in and around the home certainly makes them a major nuisance.

To reduce earwig numbers around the home, eliminate favorable habitat, in particular around the foundation area. Remove leaf litter, stones, and mulches next to the foundation. Try to establish a zone of bare concrete or soil that will dry out. Trim shrubs and other vegetation in this area.

Next, work on reducing entry points for these and other insects. Check door thresholds, windows, and screens for a tight fit. Caulk cracks and crevices around windows, doors, cables coming into walls, and in the foundation itself.

To control earwigs, pieces of hose or similar material may be put to trap earwigs at night, then emptied in the morning. Insecticides may also be used. Diazinon may be used to help manage earwigs. Apply a spray to the foundation and adjoining one-foot strip of soil. Plants being devoured by earwigs may be treated with carbaryl (Sevin). Be sure to read and follow all label directions when using this or any other insecticide in the yard or garden. Keep insecticides away from blooms of plants.

Using a vacuum cleaner may be the best bet if several earwigs are present inside the home. In addition, ready-to-use insecticide sprays are available for application to baseboards, doorframes, and cracks/crevices. Be sure to follow label directions.

 

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