Earwigs Are The New Cockroaches


Common earwig. (Euborellia annulipes)

It is said that the lowly cockroach has been roaming the surface of our planet for 354 million years, and will continue to do so long after we humans take our last breath. If the cockroach is considered Earth’s most versatile insect, arguably the earwig takes a close second. This bug’s got skills. Truth be told, earwigs are my garden nemesis; a formidable opponent that I have become completely obsessed with obliterating. Every winter I think I’ve won. And then I haven’t.

This year, like so many before, I prepare for battle. I refuse to share my prized vegetables with these disgusting good-for-nothings.

Here’s a little intel:

  • These nocturnal little pests live in cool, damp garden spaces, scavenging smaller insects, plants and flowers. They love to slurp rotting fruit, tender new vegetable growth, and decaying animal matter. They spend the daylight hours chilling in shady, moist garden spaces.
  • They have functional wings, but unfortunately they don’t like to use them. Instead, they are rapid runners, and love to burrow in loose soil.
  • Earwigs are just as at-home in your gutters, downspouts, hose and sprinkler heads. They’ll inhabit your kid’s favorite outdoor toy or disappear into the folds of your clean clothes on your clothesline. Ya, gross!

My strategy is to make my garden unappealing to them. I want them to move on to the next-best garden space- to set up shop somewhere, anywhere, just not in my backyard. I have some battle-tested organic methods that work pretty well. (One of my core values is to maintain an organic garden, so you won’t see advice on pesticides here.)

When I want them gone:

  • I remove debris, clutter, clippings and other organic material from the garden.
  • I’ve had some success spreading diatomaceous earth on plant stems and surrounding soil, and around garden perimeters. Earwigs don’t like the texture and it throws off the plant’s scent, while remaining harmless to plants, pets and humans.
  • Speaking of throwing off the plant’s scent, here’s a very effective way to confuse and deter earwigs: make an organic garlic spray insect deterrent. (this is worth a look, if you want a non-synthetic alternative to garden insect control.)

When I want them dead and gone:

  • I’ve used stale beer as an attractant. Earwigs are closet alcoholics. They’ll climb right in to a submerged can and drown their sorrows away.
  • I’ve soaked rolled up newspaper in water, and left it as an overnight trap. During my morning garden stroll, I just pick up the earwig motel and throw it out.
  • As it happens, earwigs can’t resist the odor of tuna fish. Grab an empty, unwashed can of tuna, bury it to the soil surface and fill it with vegetable oil. It’s a one-way trip for them.
  • When the infestation is particularly bad, I may choose to deploy one of the commercially available products that use volatile plant oils that won’t poison my space.

Am I alone in my disdain for this gangly garden pest? How do you cope with the little buggers? Place your comments below. 

This article is the fifth in a series of 26 consecutive articles, as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the whole month of April. Tomorrow, I’ll post an article with a title that begins with the letter “F”… So goes the rest of the alphabet, through the end of the month.

In closing, I have a little challenge for you. Because the letters “X” “Q” and “Z” pose a challenge of their own, send me a title idea beginning with those letters. If I choose to write your title, I’ll send you a small prize to show my appreciation.  Use the comments box below, or email your title to iwrite@chuckdouros.com

Editors Note: photo, courtesy Drees, Creative Co

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