Earwigs make up a beneficial part of the garden environment, but have received a ‘bum’ rap because of some old folk tales. Here’s how they received their name, and the advantages of this member of the insect world.
If earwigs have a bad reputation, it’s unjust and unearned. It may have started in Europe, their place of origin. The unconfirmed tale is that an earwig would enter the ear of a sleeping person and bore its way into the unsuspecting person’s brain. Hollywood movies have added to the yarn by using a similar type of creature for the purpose of torture and horror. There is absolutely no truth to the tale.
Benefits of Earwigs
Earwigs are, although ugly, more beneficial than they are destructive to your yard care program. While some species will feed on plants or ripe fruit, they mostly feed on other insects or decaying vegetation. Their appearance is made threatening by the long pinchers on their posterior. These are, actually, used to defend against predators. The pinchers may look menacing, but they will not harm people. The female lays her eggs in the top couple of inches of soil. She is one of the few insects that tend to her eggs, gathering them up if they get scattered. She defends her young for the first couple of weeks of their life. Babies only a mother could love.
Earwigs in the Home
Earwigs may enter homes looking for food or a place to hide. They may be a pest, but they are not a threat. If you do find them, use a vacuum to suck them up.
To keep them from entering your home, seal any cracks or crevices. Maintain a dry border around the house by removing any excess mulch or other organic material that lies against the house. It is a good idea to prune any branches that may be touching the house. This is a good idea not just for earwigs, but termites, ants, and numerous other pests.
Earwigs in the Garden
If there are large numbers in your garden, trapping them is a better alternative than using a chemical control. Earwigs are night foraging insects so you need to go out at night to determine who is causing the damage. Earwigs are often blamed for damage caused by other night feeders. Earwigs will feed on plants when there is no other source of food, so good organic mulch around your plants will supply food for the earwigs and be good for your plants to boot.
If earwigs are feeding on your plants, place rolled or crumpled newspaper in the area at sunset. They will creep into the folds and crevices of the paper to hide from the daylight and their natural enemies. Referring back to the information provided by “Common-Sense Approaches to Pest Control,” the authors suggest you then shake the newspaper into a bucket of soapy water and they will drown.
As I mentioned, there are natural enemies of the earwig. These include Yellow Jackets and a tachinid fly that relies on the earwig for food. Unless levels become intolerable, however, advanced yard control measures are usually not required.
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