Earwigs belong to a group of insects related to grasshoppers and crickets. They have a long, slender, and flat body when they are adults. The length will range from 4 to 78 millimeters. The color, meanwhile, will range from black to brown and can have yellow or light brown spots. They have a large head and small eyes. The most distinct characteristic is the large pincers or forceps. Located at the back of the abdomen, this is what scares most people who see an earwig. They use this part of their body to defend themselves. Earwigs may not be excellent flyers, but they walk fast.
The eggs of earwigs are found in the soil, where the females will lay them in clusters, usually up to 40 eggs in one group. The female earwig will lick the eggs every day, which is a way of preventing fungal damage. In the first weeks of spring, the eggs will hatch. They will live on the ground and their mother will continue to take care of them until they fully mature. They are commonly active at night. It is not unusual to find them in clusters around bright lights. During the day, they hide under mulch, trash, or decaying vegetation. They like damp and shady areas. They can also survive indoors, such as in the bathrooms or basements.
Identifying Earwig’s Damage
They feed primarily on plants and they have a diverse range of hosts. They can feed on either garden plants or commercial crops. They like flowers, shrubs, ornamental trees, and vegetables. To be specific, some of the most common host plants include chrysanthemum, dahlia, raspberry, apricot, and nectarine, among others.
Earwigs are damaging n the different parts of the plant. The symptoms will be different depending on the specific host. Generally speaking, the following are some of the most common indications of their presence:
- In fruit crops, you will see shallow and irregular shapes on the surface, which are the feeding areas of earwigs. The entry holes on the fruit will make it susceptible to rot since it attracts pathogens that can also be damaging to its health.
- In flowering plants, on the other hand, such as in the case of dahlia, they will eat the leaves and the petals. There will be chewed edges and holes, which will also inhibit the growth of the plant. With this, it is unusual for the host plants of earwigs to suffer from stunting.
Results of Infestation
Earwigs can cause damage on the different parts of the plant, regardless if they are young or old. The infestation is more serious in young seedlings, which can result to stunting. Their feeding habits inhibit the transport of nutrients to the different parts of the plant, making it unhealthy. With the damages that it can bring in fruit crops, they will end up being unmarketable and unfit for human consumption. In turn, this will equate to significant economic losses for the growers.
How to Get Rid of Earwigs
Natural and Organic Solutions
The elimination of earwigs in the garden and inside the house should not be a hard task. Below are some of the easy solutions that you need to consider:
- Among others, one of the simplest solutions is to create traps that can lure earwigs. This is especially a good choice if there is a small population that needs treatment. A shallow can with vegetable oil is one trap that will work. Rolling an old newspaper and placing it at the base of the host plant just in time for sunset will also do the trick. You can also use sticky traps.
- You can also make your own insecticidal spray so that you won’t have to resort to those that contain toxic chemicals. All that you will need are alcohol and water. Mix around 70% alcohol and 30% water. Spray it on the plants where earwigs are present. This will penetrate the waxy coating of the pest and will kill them in an instant.
- Another simple solution that you might not have thought of is the use of petroleum jelly. Cover the stem of the host plant with petroleum jelly. This is a sure-fire way for the earwigs to not crawl on it.
- Removing debris and cultivating mulch will also help. This will prevent the earwigs from finding a suitable spot as their habitat. Also, it will kill the eggs before they grow into destructive pests.
- Biological control will also be a promising solution. Encourage the presence of natural enemies in the garden. You can also buy these predators commercially and release them. Toads are some of the best to have. To attract toads in the garden, planting shrubs will help. It will also be good to place nest boxes or bird feeder, which will draw birds in the garden. They will feed on the earwigs, making it easier for you to control their population. Tachinid flies are also equally promising in dealing with earwigs.
As much as possible, stay away from chemical control. Pesticides containing chemicals are harmful to beneficial insects, as well as for your pets and the environment in general. If you will resort to the use of chemicals, however, some of the most popular are those that contain cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, and fipronil. To be specific, some of the products that contain these active ingredients include Attatox, Tempo, Solfac, and Baythroid, among others.
For the highest level of success, proper timing is crucial when applying chemicals. In addition, be sure to also read the instructions from the manufacturer, which is also vital in ensuring safety in the use of these pesticides.
How to Prevent Earwigs
Earwigs prefer areas that are moist. With this, one of the best preventive measures is to avoid moisture, especially inside homes. It is also important to make sure that the garden is regularly cleaned. Check the gutters and the drainage system. Create border or trap plants. As much as possible, plant varieties that are resistant to earwigs so that the pest will not be a problem in the first place. It will also be good to switch to sodium vapor lamps with yellow tints. Bright lights attract earwigs, so you should get rid of the especially in the garden.