Earwigs are unwelcome guests in most everyone's garden or home. These three-quarter-inch- long, reddish brown insects look particularly formidable, with their rear pincers and quick movements. Earwigs can damage your plants, but they rarely bite people. Sometimes it seems they are taking over the garden, but it is a fairly simple task to control earwigs.
Earwigs are native to Europe and were accidentally introduced to the United States in the early part of the 20th Century. Since then, the population has spread quickly across the country, although they are less prominent in areas that experience harsh winters.
Their name comes from an old European superstition that these nocturnal insects will crawl into the ears, and then into the brains, of people while they sleep. Remember the chilling earwig scene from the movie "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan"? Creepy, but pure fiction!
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Earwigs overwinter and lay their eggs in the soil. They hide during the day and come out at night to feed on insects and plants. Earwigs will eat aphids, mites, fleas and the eggs of other insects. But for most folks it is necessary to control earwigs, as their bad habits outweigh the good. They'll also feed on a variety of flowering plants and hostas, along with some garden vegetables.
Earwigs will hide under well caps, inside electrical outlets and any other dark, damp place they can crawl into. Earwigs need moisture and are attracted to damp areas. They will also hide under mulch, piles of firewood and dead leaves. After a long period of wet weather, the earwig population will increase.
To control earwigs, some experts suggest removing possible hiding places from your yard to create a dry, sunny environment that earwigs will avoid. But if a dry, sunny yard is not your cup of tea, there are chemical and organic methods for controlling the nasty beasties.
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Sevin and some other chemical insecticides will kill earwigs. Ask your local garden center what they have available to control earwigs, and follow the directions on the package. Organic insecticidal soaps will kill earwigs on contact, and should be sprayed in the evening when the earwigs are active.
You can also control earwigs by trapping and disposing them. Try placing damp, rolled up newspapers overnight in the areas they frequent. Gather the newspapers in the morning and shake out any earwigs into a bucket of soapy water. If earwigs get inside your house, just vacuum them up. Earwigs will come inside to find a hiding place, but they do not breed indoors. To keep earwigs from coming indoors, caulk around pipes and add weather stripping around doorways.