Although they look nasty and may nibble on your garden plants or pantry foods, earwigs won’t hurt you; they’re mostly just a nuisance. These are solitary insects, so large infestations are rare, but even a handful of earwigs is understandably unwelcome to most homeowners.
We’ll show you how to get rid of earwigs using repellents, traps, and insecticides and then share some prevention strategies to keep them from returning. We’ll also provide our recommendations for the best pest control companies to kill off an earwig infestation.
What Are Earwigs?
Earwigs are an order of winged insects with characteristic pincers or forceps on the end of their abdomens. The most common species in North America is called Forficula auricularia; these are known as common earwigs or pincher bugs. They are reddish brown and about half an inch (12–15 mm) long.
As omnivores, earwigs eat whatever organic material they can scavenge, anything from leaf litter to small insects. Earwigs rarely bite, though if you pick one up and handle it, it may try to pinch you. However, earwigs have no venom, and their pinch shouldn’t break the skin.
What Causes an Earwig Infestation?
Outdoors, your yard may provide a substantial food source for these insects, and in large numbers they can be destructive garden pests. Earwigs are active at night, so they spend the daylight hours in hiding places like wood piles, mulch, and crevices in rocks. If your lawn has a lot of these features, plus plenty of plant debris and small insects to snack on, it’s ideal for an earwig infestation.
Additionally, earwigs prefer a temperate climate without substantial changes in temperature, so they may try to come indoors during the colder or wetter months. They’ll likely be drawn to secluded, damp areas in your home like unventilated crawl spaces or basements.
DIY Methods to Get Rid of Earwigs
In some circumstances, earwigs can actually be beneficial to your garden since they eat aphids. However, if they become destructive to your plants, or if they infest your home, try the following methods to get rid of them.
How to Repel Earwigs
If the earwigs are in your yard, repellent measures may be enough to get rid of them. First, do your best to minimize both food sources and hiding places.
- Rake up fallen leaves and other dead plant matter, including fallen fruit.
- Prune away any leaves or branches that are dying.
- Move wood piles away from your garden and the sides of your home.
- Clean out gutters, especially if they’re full of dead leaves.
Once you’ve earwig-proofed the area as much as possible, you can use common household materials to make your plants less appetizing. Mix a solution of water and a few drops of gentle dish soap, put it in a spray bottle, and spray the leaves of your plants. You can also wipe down leaves with this soapy water, making them taste unpleasant to the earwigs.
Similarly, you can coat the stems of the plants with petroleum jelly, preventing earwigs from being able to crawl up them. Neither of these methods should harm your plants.
If you want a long-term solution, you can always make your yard or garden more bird-friendly. Birds are a natural predator of earwigs and other pests, and they can beautify your yard at the same time. Adding bird baths, birdhouses, or bird feeders will attract nearby birds.
How to Kill Earwigs
The main methods of killing earwigs are insecticides, traps, and other household materials.
An effective insecticide should contain sevin, malathion, or pyrethrins, but if you’re using it indoors, make certain the labeling of the package says it’s safe to do so. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and if you’re using it on or around plants, make sure to test a small amount of it on a single leaf first.
To be effective, insecticide needs to come in contact with each earwig, and it can be hard to find them all, so you might also consider making an earwig trap. There are several methods you can use.
- Get a cardboard tube or roll up some newspaper and dampen it. This will be an appealing hiding place that should attract earwigs.
- Combine equal parts vegetable oil and soy sauce in a can and leave it where you suspect earwig activity. You can also bury it flush to the ground outdoors. Supposedly, earwigs are attracted to the smell of the soy sauce, but the vegetable oil will prevent them from climbing out of the trap.
- Earwigs are nocturnal and attracted to bright light, so you can put a nightlight near any of these traps to increase their effectiveness.
- When you find live earwigs in your traps, dump them into a bucket of soapy water to kill them.
Finally, there are non-pesticidal methods of earwig extermination. Boric acid and diatomaceous earth are both organic substances that kill earwigs. Food-grade diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled in the garden, along baseboards, or anywhere else earwigs walk across, but be aware that this substance loses its effectiveness if it gets wet. Boric acid powder can be blown into cracks and crevices to kill earwigs, but keep it away from children and pets.
How to Keep Earwigs Away
Once you’ve gotten rid of the infestation, take some time to fortify your home and yard against a future earwig problem. Follow the instructions for repelling earwigs if you haven’t already, and seal up potential entry points like holes in screens, around vents and pipes, and near wires.
Patch up any cracks in the foundation or walls of your home with caulk. Move mulch or overgrown vegetation away from the sides of your home, creating a “moat” of dry, bare soil that earwigs are less likely to cross.
Indoors, fix leaky pipes or drains to prevent areas of moisture building up, and use a dehumidifier in damp, poorly-ventilated spaces. Check around windows and doors for any cracks where earwigs might be able to sneak in and patch them.
When to Call in the Pros
Since earwigs aren’t dangerous to your health, you can certainly start by trying to get rid of them yourself. However, if DIY methods fail, you can always call a pest control company. Professional technicians will have the right products, equipment, and training to kill earwigs in even the smallest hiding places. They can also help identify and seal potential insect entry points into your home.
Our Top Picks for Professional Pest Control
If you’ve got an earwig problem, here are the best pest control companies to call.
Terminix is a nationwide pest control company that offers earwig extermination as part of its general insect control services. The company’s technicians can perform a free inspection to see if there are earwigs hiding on your property. To schedule your inspection or receive a free estimate for treatment, call 866-569-4035 or fill out a quick form.
For more than 120 years, Orkin has been providing pest control services across the country. The company prides itself on the high level of training it provides its employees, and that includes methods of finding and eradicating earwigs. Provide your contact information or call 877-868-1416 to get a free quote from Orkin.
Lastly, Bulwark is available in only select urban areas across the country, but it makes our list for its exceptional customer service. Bulwark’s technicians are prepared to treat earwig infestations as well as offer prevention strategies. To find out more, fill out this simple form or call 844-567-2094.
Frequently Asked Questions About Earwigs
How do I know if I have an earwig infestation?
Of course, you may catch sight of the insects themselves, as they’re fairly large and distinctive-looking. However, there are more subtle signs of an infestation:
- Jagged holes in yard and garden leaves, particularly after heavy rainfall
- Trails of slime-like residue on plants
- Foul smell coming from crushed or dead insects
Why are they called earwigs?
The name “earwig” either comes from the unique shape of their wings or from an old wives’ tale saying that these insects like to burrow into human ears, and even into the brain. Fortunately, this is untrue, and you’re no more likely to find an earwig in your ear than any other insect.
Where do earwigs lay eggs?
Not in your ears, which is another urban legend! Instead, earwigs lay their eggs in the safest places they can find: cracks, crevices, under leaves, in wet mulch, and other hidden areas. You’re likely to see the adult insects before you see the eggs, but a single female earwig can lay as many as 50 at a time.
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