Oh yes, earwigs are definitely creepy and kooky – this is one home-invading insect that looks like it belongs in the Addams Family. This insect’s ability to make homeowners race around the house, flailing their arms in alarm the first time they spot one creeping across the counter is nearly unmatched in the insect world. After all, earwigs look more like something from outer space than an insect that spends its life in close proximity to humans.
These unusual, reddish-brown, elongated insects reach upwards of 3/4 inch long and bear some fearsome looking pincers, located at the end of their bodies. Males bear distinctively larger and thicker pincers than females, but both tend to hide in tight, dark spots during the day and emerge at night to hunt.
Earwigs can be extremely beneficial as predators, but not all species are bloodthirsty. Those that are will keep many other insects, spiders, and mites in check. They will also happily eat through plant materials, decaying matter, and garbage, and are often attracted to compost piles for the variety of organisms that grow there.
Earwigs prefer living in areas that are moist and cool and frequently appear where irrigation is common. Home landscapes draw them in droves, providing these insects with everything they need to thrive and reproduce. Eventually, they may find their way indoors, where they invade every nook and cranny looking for dark places to hide. Although it’s uncommon for earwigs to set up shop indoors permanently, they may be found in basements and crawlspaces during hot weather.
Discouraging Earwigs with Habitat Modification
Landscapes offer a variety of rich habitats for earwigs. Uncovered compost piles, areas with thick mulch or out of control ground cover plants are great spots if you’re an earwig. When earwigs invade your home, start by going around the yard, cleaning up any debris you find. Trim suckers away from the bases of trees and remove brush piles. Dry out any sources of standing water, such as leaky faucets, since earwigs need moisture to survive.
While you’re running around outside your house, fill any cracks or gaps on the outside of your home with caulk and make sure to fit your crawlspace and any vents with tightly-woven screens to prevent more earwigs from coming inside. The tighter the seal on your home, the less likely you’ll have future earwig problems. Earwigs aren’t dangerous and rarely bite, so don’t hesitate to check your crawlspace for nests with a flashlight if you can’t tell where these insects are originating.
Earwigs are easily trapped, if you’re a dedicated hunter. They will greedily feed on fish oil or vegetable oil mixed with a drop of bacon grease. Place small shallow containers the size of a tuna fish can, filled halfway with oil, around the yard or in your basement when earwigs persist despite habitat modification. Check these traps daily, dumping any that have caught earwigs and refilling them with oil as necessary. When you have gone several days without seeing an earwig body, you can discard the traps.
Indoors, you can also trap earwigs with cardboard boxes baited with oatmeal or bran. Just poke a few pencil-sized holes along the sides, near the bottom of the box. Suck any earwigs you catch out of the trap with a vacuum or toss them outside. Since earwigs won’t live long once they’re indoors, a small infestation can be ignored if you’re confident the problematic entry point has been sealed. You may find a few bodies, but earwigs don’t carry disease or otherwise cause problems for humans.
Sometimes perimeter sprays are necessary, especially in older homes with stone foundations, where creating a perfect seal may be impossible. There are many products on the market for homeowners, but if your earwig infestation is severe, you should consider calling a professional pest control expert. They have access to highly effective chemicals and know how to protect landscape plants from perimeter sprays. A pest control expert may also be able to point out earwig habitat that you may have missed, helping you prevent future outbreaks.
John Samuel is a gardening expert and loves to share tips and advice through his writing.