Earwig Infestation in a Garden

Earwig (via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Earwig infestations in a garden can cause damage to various plants and flowers. They feed on leaves, stems, and petals, leaving behind holes, ragged edges, and curled or wilted plants. This can be especially problematic for gardeners who have invested time and effort into their plants and want to maintain their beauty.


  • Damaged leaves with holes or ragged edges, as earwigs feed on the foliage of plants and flowers.
  • Stems with nipped off tips, as earwigs feed on both the foliage and stems of plants and flowers.
  • Curled or wilted plants, as the feeding activity of earwigs can stress the plant and cause it to become stunted or withered.
  • Presence of earwig pests themselves, as they are most active at night and hide in cracks, crevices, and other sheltered areas during the day.

What is an Earwig

  • Physical features:
    • Approximately 0.5 inch long
    • C-shaped body with a pincer-like tail
    • Two pairs of wings, short forewings, and long hindwings
    • Dark brown or black in color, with a smooth and shiny exoskeleton
  • Body shape:
    • Narrow and elongated head
    • Thick and strong thorax
    • Abdomen that is broad and tapered at the end
  • Characteristics:
    • Nocturnal insects, active at night and hiding during the day
    • Poor fliers, preferring to crawl or run
    • Can produce a foul-smelling odor when threatened
    • Live in groups and can quickly infest an area if left uncontrolled.

Treating an Earwig Infestation

It may be necessary to use a combination of methods to effectively control earwig infestations in a garden. For example, removing hiding spots and handpicking earwigs can reduce their population, while insecticidal sprays or baits can kill any remaining individuals. Using multiple methods can also help prevent earwigs from developing resistance to a single method of control.

Cultural control methods

  • Clear out hiding spots: Earwigs like to hide in cool, dark, and damp places, such as piles of leaves, rocks, and debris. Removing these hiding spots can reduce their populations and make it more difficult for them to access plants.
  • Trim plants: Trimming plants regularly can reduce hiding and sheltering spots for earwigs. This can also make it easier to spot and remove any earwigs that are present.
  • Keep the garden clean: A clean and well-maintained garden can reduce the food and shelter available to earwigs. This can help keep their populations under control.

Physical control methods

  • Handpick earwigs: Checking the garden regularly and handpicking earwigs can be an effective way to control their populations. Dispose of the earwigs away from the garden to prevent them from returning.
  • Sticky barriers: Double-sided tape or similar sticky barriers can be placed around the base of plants or along garden beds to prevent earwigs from accessing them. These barriers should be checked and replaced regularly, as they may become covered with dirt or debris and lose their stickiness.
  • Traps: Rolled-up newspapers or cardboard tubes can be placed near plants as traps for earwigs. The earwigs will crawl into the traps at night to hide and can be disposed of the next morning.

Chemical control methods

  • Insecticidal sprays: Pyrethrin and similar insecticidal sprays can be applied directly to plants and flowers to kill earwigs. These sprays are most effective when applied in the evening when earwigs are most active.
  • Insecticidal dust: Diatomaceous earth and similar insecticidal dusts can be sprinkled around the base of plants to deter earwigs. This type of control is best used in conjunction with other methods, as it can be less effective on its own.
  • Bait stations: Boric acid or insecticide can be placed in bait stations around the garden to attract and kill earwigs. These bait stations should be checked regularly and refilled as needed.