Help!! Earwigs attack

ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)March 28, 2013

I finally figured out what is eating holes in my plants! Earwigs!! I watched a horde of them tonight munchin on the tiny new leaves on my trees and brambles. They are also eating the blossoms.

Any effective organic control I can implement? There are literally thousands.

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Yes, bowls of vegetable oil; they can't resist it and drown by the thousands.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 8:35AM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

In high numbers, these suckers do a lot more damage than I suspected.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:23AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

The vegetable oil idea is a good one, applenut -- I'm plagued by earwigs, so I'll have to try that. I've long suspected that they're responsible for extensively damaging immature fruit on my plum and nectarine trees (I've caught a few in the act), so I'm going to try tanglefoot this year. That's only practical for trees, of course, and I don't even know how effective it will be. On the other hand, I've had good results with Sluggo Plus, a granular bait that includes Spinosad. When necessary, I use it around strawberries and in annual vegetable beds, and it definitely helps to control the ravaging hordes of slugs, snails, earwigs, sowbugs, and pillbugs (the latter two are often the worst offenders). I've also seen non-target insects eating it, though, so I try to use it only when absolutely necessary.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:36AM
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Snuggly wrapping a couple rings of 1" sticky-side-out masking tape around smooth areas of the trunk will help. Of course many rings may be needed if the first 2 get loaded up with some of the thousands, and their cousins just crawl over the bodies on their way to a good meal. Or, putting the veggie oil in a small frying pan beside the trunk.....I wonder if deep-fried earwigs also taste like chicken? ? ?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 10:45AM
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I use smaller cups now than what's in the photo; I get a stack of salsa cups in a bag and put them under every tree. I checked the cups last night and I caught earwigs, caterpillars, grubs, slugs, and snails. The source I learned this from said to use extra virgin olive oil, but the cheap-o gallon size corn oil works fine.

I've done the tanglefoot but I could swear earwigs could fly as I've checked by flashlight and they're still there in the tree after the application; I imagine they were hiding in the tree when I put the tanglefoot on. It is a law of nature that a big wind comes up right after I put tanglefoot on and blows leaves all over it. Somehow the cat rubs against it also, bringing in a sticky mess. The oil cups combined with spinosad spray keeps the hungry hoards at bay, and its almost time for the pherome mating disruptors for codling moth.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 3:59PM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

A few hours in, and the soybean oil is working. Catching several of the buggers.

Sadly, I only have canola oil left. Does that work too?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 1:55AM
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I had the same issue with earwigs. I used vegetable oil and soy sauce to trap them the first night. I caught a bunch as they still stripped the plants I had planted low. The next day I got rid of material they were using as nests. I raked the leaves away that were hugging my fence, I always moved piles of leaves about 4-5 feet away from my fence behind it in the empty lot behind my house, and I got rid of the mulch around Plum tree today. It was a big difference after getting rid of their "nests" I had planted some other plants (strawberries) and while they did chew a couple of holes, they did not strip the leaves off like they did with my bee balm and peppermint.

Included are pictures of the stripped bee balm after one night of being planted.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 4:03PM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

The oil in a bowl trick worked... But it seems to just slow them down. They are still attacking my trees and brambles.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 10:31PM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

I am now trying tangle foot

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 10:33PM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

Also trying diatomaceous earth. Anyone have any luck with these techniques?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 10:35PM
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If none of that helps, I would recommend removing all that mulch and that black tarp thing. Earwigs love hiding in dark, moist places. I removed nesting areas away from my yard and it worked. I have plants growing where they previously stripped plants in one evening's work. I removed my mulch from my tree as well. I do plan on replacing it later this week when I feel that the earwigs have moved on. Though, that doesn't guarantee they will not come back.

I don't mind a few of them as they can be helpful, however when you have an entire colony attacking, they can be devastating.

But then again, I really am just a beginner, but ran into the same issue and researched the crap out of it. I'm sure the more knowledgeable have better suggestions, but everything you are trying is what I have found in my research as well.

This post was edited by mtux96 on Tue, Apr 2, 13 at 4:08

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 4:07AM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

So the tanglefoot is working great, but I am not seeing much from the diatomaceous earth.

Has anyone had success with DE? How come they still walk all over it?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 3:21AM
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Ahajmano - You are sunset 23? I would assume you are in cali/mexico? Maybe removing the weed mat will work, but removing mulch will dry out the soil more and youll need to water way more.

THe DM, from what I understand is usually mixed with paint in the fall and painted in the trees for winter protection and protection from bugs in the spring (at least up here in zone 4). Ive never used it, so I cannot give anymore insight..

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 7:28AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Wow, thats a serious invasion! I get damage from those guys but it doesn't add up to enough to bother with. Earwigs don't fly much so the tanglefoot should do the job. You need to keep an eye on it for the reasons applenut mentioned. I use it on my cherry trees to keep the aphids off. Besides the initial application in spring I check it 3-4 times per year making sure there are no breaks in the barrier.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 8:04AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Add Sluggo Plus to your arsenal around your trees. Tanglefoot spread on tree wrap will also help (and keep the ants out of your trees as well. Organic and very effective and designed for snails and earwigs, specifically. Iron phosphate for the snails and Spinosad for the damned earwigs. We get this horrid earwig invasion every so many years here in S. California. I have very, very fortunately escaped this the last 4 years, but I know it's just a matter of time. Although earwigs technically have wings, the species we have here in California either don't fly or are very poor fliers fortunately.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 10:48AM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

Thanks everyone!

I am in socal, orange county.

Yea its pretty ridiculous right? I put a bag of potting soil on my concrete patio, and 24 hours latter i go to retrieve it. Two dozen of the SOB's scatter. I am so jaded now, i just smash them with my bare fingers! one of my oil traps is so full, (1/2" deep), i have to renew it!

i have considered removing the mulch, but when summer and autumn hit, it does too much good to get rid of. The weed barrier is already breaking down from UV. The main reason for the mulch and WB? Crab grass! I am invaded by crabgrass and at leaset the mulch slows it down.

I will add slugo plus, but i will need to check the pet safety, as I have a dog and a cat that roam.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 12:17PM
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"i have considered removing the mulch, but when summer and autumn hit, it does too much good to get rid of. "

Which is why I will be adding mine back before then, but you seem to have a larger area of mulch than I do to cover.

But I might need to invest in Sluggo as it looks like the threat has lessened, but they are still eating my plants, but just slower.

I'm in Orange County as well, but in Sunset 22.

This post was edited by mtux96 on Mon, Apr 8, 13 at 3:35

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 3:33AM
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Puggylover Zone 9B Norco, CA


The earwigs at my place are OUT OF CONTROL. They have eaten every pepper, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumber plant I sowed. They even got the tomato seedlings. I am so depressed over it. But I like you I have mulched my whole gardening area with wood chips 5-7" thick to suppress weeds, retain water and eventually improve my rotten clay soil (Fertile but a pain in my bones and muscles). And I am not removing a 1/4 acre of mulch. I am just going to have to be smarter than an earwig! ;)

In my experience the areas of where I have forked the soil over a few times with the wood chips and compost (Over a 2 year period) seem to be supplying them with enough food that they leave my veges alone. Crazy but that is the only difference within the beds. They are still there...they come running when I water. I read someplace that if provided the proper environment they will leave your vegetation alone.

Who knows but I sure do dislike them right now. I was blessed by three of them in my shower this morning. Needless to say they are swimming with the fishes!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 5:26PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA(10b Sunset 23)

Sluggo Plus is perfectly safe around pets, ahajmano. It is snail bait with metaldehyde that is very poisonous to pets. Sluggo Plus is Iron Phosphate and Spinosad. I use Sluggo specifically inside my yard where my dogs are out for that very reason. Outside my yard, in certain areas where I have a horrid snail problem, I'll resort to metaldehyde pellets. And, keep your kitty inside. The number one predator of our wonderful California native songs birds are house cats. My kitty stays inside, and has a ball watching the birds through the windows. Plus, he can't then become a meal for a coyote, either. Kinda attached to him, so he stays inside. :-)

Patty S.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 12:20AM
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ahajmano(sunset 23, Mission Viejo CA)

Last night, I mobilized the sluggo plus. Expensive stuff for only 1 lb worth. Let's see how that goes.

The earwigs seem undaunted by the Diatomaceous Earth. They happily pass right over it to get to my plants.

Although the trees are now successfully protected with tanglefoot, the brambles, herbs, and shrub flowers are being decimated.

Trying to keep up the good fight. I feel like neo fighting agent smith here...there are so many of them. I wish I could shrink down and take them on one at a time. Maybe i should get a pet tarantula?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 1:32AM
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