Getting rid of earwigs

kathyp(z9 CA)May 23, 2005

HELP! I have earwigs eating most of my plants. Is there a way other than DE to get rid of them? I have to water every day or two to keep even moisture in my soil, so DE is too expensive and time consuming to use. (Fairly new gardens, still trying to increase OM content, but mostly sand and clay.) Are there traps of some kind I can use? I must have killed 50 of the little buggers last night when I was harvesting chard, and more than that got away! Between the sow bugs and the earwigs, I'm going nuts!



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I sure would like to know too... sigh... they get in my artichokes really bad... I think I am going to try Tanglefoot for my chokes.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 4:53PM
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Most likely earwigs are not your problem.

Here is a link that might be useful: Earwigs

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 5:32PM
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shard(z9 CA)

I saw an episode of Paul James' "Gardening by the Yard" in which they advised that you take a small water bottle, cut the top one-third off or so, fill the bottle with tuna or tuna cat food, invert the top part that you cut off with the spout facing down and reattach it to the bottle. The earwigs can crawl in, and are attracted by the smell of food, but won't be able to get out again. It seems like an easy, non-toxic method that's worth a try.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 8:03PM
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wadded up newspaper or old cloth is a good trap. check each morning. I get them in my lettuce heads. In the right number they can be your friends, because they eat slugs.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 9:27PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Also, while it will give the b...ugs another place to hide, can you mulch your soil? It will help keep the moisture IN the soil and limit the amount of watering needed. As well, using soaker hoses will not wet the plants, so the DE will last longer. Either the "leaky hoses" or the holey ones, set so they just drip, will work. You will have to use trial and error to tell how much water, and for how long, you need to water your beds. You can lay the hose on top of the soil and mulch, or put the hose down and then mulch, or dig a shallow trench and put the hose just under the soil surface, depending on what seems best to you. The last 2 let the water get quickly to the soil, and offer less opportunity for evaporation, which is another benefit of soaker hoses - less water wasted from evaporation.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 10:08PM
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kathyp(z9 CA)

First, It is earwigs - I've seen them at night munching on my plants.

My gardens are mulched, that may be part of the problem. They are raised, lasagna-type beds. Our soil is really poor, so raised beds are a necessity. Drip systems are in the future - trying to do landscaping one section at a time (new house). We did do soaker hoses in our front yard, won't be able to afford the back till next year. I have a huge compost pile going, tons of earwigs in there, too! Hoping that next year, there will be enough OM in the soil to decrease the watering need. In the meantime, gotta battle the darn bugs!

Thanks for all the suggestions, I'll try both teh trap AND the paper - I have a LOT of earwigs!!


    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 10:58PM
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MonkeyGirl(Near SF, CA z10)

Beer traps! For about two weeks now I am getting a body count of 60-80 per night (throw in the random sowbug, beetle and slug). You dig a shallow depression in the soil for a small saucer so that the edge of the saucer is level with the soil surface. Pour in about 1/2 inch beer. I have found it best to change nightly so I can get a fresh body count. If I'm in a hurry, I just top them off with some fresh beer. Fresh beer seems to catch more than old beer, so I have not tried straining out the bodies to reuse the beer.

They munch most everything, but they seem to munch my chard, spinach, basil and any babies worst. Strangly enough, they munch my lettuce and arugula little.

I also tried wet rolled up newspaper traps and those did nothing for me.

I still have munchage, despite my trapping, and when I go inspect at night all I see are earwigs.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 1:46PM
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MonkeyGirl(Near SF, CA z10)

Also, I recommend that you continue beer trapping for a while even if the body count reduces. I went through a phase where mostly I caught babies, so I assume that there was a hatching that happened and I was there to kill them all with beer.

My friends have nicknamed my veggie garden The Killing Fields.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 1:48PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

During the day they like to hide in the shade of perennials so that's where we put traps. One trap that has worked well is: two strawberry boxes (quart, made of thin wood), one inside the other, placed upside down throughout garden. Leave overnight, pick up the next day, take the boxes apart over a bucket of soapy water and shake out the earwigs. They like to hide between the bottoms of the two boxes.

I used to go out at night with a sprayer full of dish-detergent-water and spray plants they were attacking but stopped, figuring this was probably not good for the soil in the long run, and could harm the beneficial insect population.
If you do use soap, real soap - the kind you have to grate - is supposed to be better than dish detergent. It helps to add a bit of rubbing alcohol to the mix - makes the soap go further/spread better/act quicker.

Another trap that works, at least in this zone, is dahlias - when we plant them in spring we leave the 8-10" dead stalks on. The earwigs use the stalks as a hotel during the day, so we go around pouring soapy water down them - lots of earwigs killed that way and it hasn't harmed the tubers. For some reason this works better than pieces of hose.

Hemlock sawdust - this spring somebody told me earwigs won't go over a barrier of hemlock sawdust. Haven't tried this yet but will, and only on the perimeters of the garden, not in the beds, in case it ties up nitrogen when it's tilled in the following spring.

Earwigs love cat or dogfood left out in a bowl on the porch overnight.

We've saved about a hundred tuna/brie cans over the winter and will use them again as traps, with soy sauce, molasses and water in them - the next morning we'll see crows feasting on the marinated earwigs. These don't work as well here as it has for others, though, and I hate to see beneficial insects drowned in them.

They seem to like to nest in sandy soil, so building up organic matter might help.

Your gov't agriculture dept. may have info on breeding, behaviour, timing - when to expect the first wave of earwigs - which is helpful - helps you get prepared. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 4:18PM
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Paul has a few suggestions which have worked quite well for us as well.

For the soya sauce, you can put just 25% soya to 75% water in the 'tuna' can. Next morning you can dump or expose it to the birds. This one works great!

Another is the pieces of hose, about 2 feet long. Make sure the inside is wet - if it's dry, you won't get as many. Next morning just take a bucket of soapy water and knock the pieces of hose against it and they will fall into the soapy water. Just check the roadside for people throwing out old hoses on garbage day if you don't have an old one.

Damp corrugated cardboard - they'll go in there. But I've never figured out what to do with corrugated cardboard full of earwigs...

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 9:23PM
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AdamM321(MA z5/6)


Did anyone read the link that Kimmsr supplied? I just went there and according to that information they don't eat plants they eat other insects. It might be worthwhile to take the bug that you call an earwig to a local nursery or Extension office and get the bug identified. Then again, according to the article, the earwigs could be there and be blamed for the damage while it is another insect doing it. If that is the case, getting rid of the earwigs wouldn't solve the problem.


    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 6:31AM
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Here in NC, the earwigs have also begun eating plants. The cooperative extension even says it's so.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 8:28AM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

Wisc Univ on earwigs
NC Univ on earwigs on earwigs

earwigs are omnivores and part of the decomposer community - they're everywhere there's organic material, especially around compost piles, and they eat living, dying, and dead plant material as well as smaller insects you didn't even know where there - note also that there's hundreds of varities of'em, and that they thrive in all parts of the continent, whereas Kimmsr's link sez: "There are very few earwigs in the Northern States of the United States" - thousands of northern gardeners would dispute that!!


    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 11:17AM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Yesterday I made a quadruple recipe of the slug dough somebody described on another thread: 1 Tbs. Molasses, 3 Tbs. Cornmeal, ½ c. flour, ½ c. water, and ½ Tbs. yeast . Let it foam up for a few hours, then put it out in a dozen tuna cans, about half an inch per can, in the garden. This morning there were no slugs in them but there were a number of baby earwigs. So - something else to try.

Hereabouts the earwigs start hatching out when the apple trees are in blossom. Swarms of adults move in about the time we put out squash and cucumber transplants.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 11:37AM
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oh, believe me, earwigs eat live plants! having the same battle. see thread "i quit, need moral support" and in pests forum same thread going under a different title.

kathyp, maybe we need to form a support group for therapy!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2005 at 8:03PM
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mdcscry(z5 CO)

Hey--beer man! Fresh Beer is my new mantra. Its almost easier to say what earwigs don't eat in my garden than what they do eat. Peas, strawberries, blackberries. They ate EVERYTHING else. This year they seemed particularly fond of turnip greens--which was fine--share and share alike. But when I dumped out 20 earwigs from a single head of lettuce yesterday morning...Game On! So I came upon this thread--that link above about earwigs not eating things...HA! Well then me and da kid poured out 3 Breckenridge Pale Ales into cat food tins and plastic cup bottoms and set them out. First earwig was toast in less than 5 minutes. This morning I ambled out and found the cat tins Full! and I mean full of earwigs. The plastic cups weren't so voluminous but still worthy. Tonight, we buy the malt liquor. Those little lushes will be so high ..just before they die. Do you think they're fussy about the kind of beer? I'll report back with more info on Colorado Earwigs Beer Preferences.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 12:13PM
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mdcscry(z5 CO)

Sorry I didn't get this in before-one other thing not mentioned above. Pyrethrins and insecticidal soap also work very well. But you end up cramping yer hand and feeling like a stone natural killa when you have as many of those buggers as I have. Beer is better :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 12:19PM
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Probably because of the gray and rainy weather we've been having my garden is getting chewed up by pill bugs, earwigs, and slugs.The last time I tried beer I mostly got drunken chipmunks but I'm going to try it again with the bowl sunk into the soil.
Thanks for all the tips everyone.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 10:17AM
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Um, Paul. Building up the level of organic matter in the soil will generate even more earwigs since their primary food source is decaying vegetation.
I won't use beer as a trap for anything since I have far beter uses for it.
Pyrethrins should be a last resort product, used only after everything else has failed, and this will also kill off the natural predators of earwigs compounding your problem since the earwigs produce new families faster than the predators will.
Since earwigs favored food source is decaying vegetation maybe those that do have major problems with them simply don't have enough decaying vegetation around to kepp them happy since they will eat almost anything else rather than starve.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 4:43PM
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"earwigs favored food source is decaying vegetation"--- unless they are european earwigs!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2005 at 6:12PM
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Why would european earwigs be different than the other 1799 species of earwigs?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 7:03AM
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of all the things i have read, "european" earwigs are the most likely to eat live vegetation. now, as i said, of what i read. i could always be wrong! they even eat the moss on my wooden privacy fence. i will admit that there is obviously some kind of imbalance in my yard for the population explosion i had to deal with. i will admit to having decaying vegetation since i am trying to increase organic matter in my garden. i don't think it was an issue of whether there was not enough or too much decaying vegetation, unless you take into account the great numbers of earwigs there. however, while the om was present, they chose my seedlings, echinacea, and other choice tidbits over any om.

just a pleasant debate :)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2005 at 7:04PM
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paulns(NS zone 6a)

Organic matter = decaying vegetation. Increasing the amount of decaying vegetation in the soil will increase the number of earwigs, which are eating my live plants because there's not enough decaying vegetation?

We quit mulching our plants because the earwigs lived in it.
We're having success this year with traps consisting of slug bait in tuna cans. But earwigs are much less of a problem in the garden this year, I like to think this is due to the time we spent last year trapping them. Maybe it's possible after all to get ahead of them.

I've been thinking about the suggestion that earwig infestations result from an 'imbalance' in the garden and I'm of two minds about it. Maybe these two ways of thinking are not contradictory.

One, this notion of imbalance is a kind of new age notion, like the idea that sickness is always the sick person's fault. The fact is, bugs happen and always have. Plagues of earwigs, plagues of locusts.

On the other hand, people I know around here who do not garden generally do not have earwig infestations. They see a few but aren't overrun with them. Other people I've talked to, who used to grow flowers, gave up because of earwigs. By gardening - especially flower gardening, it seems - we create feasts for bugs and encourage them to set up house.
But any garden is an 'imbalance' in the wild scheme of things. Gardening is an unnatural activity. Does that mean we should quit? Methinks not.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2005 at 11:17AM
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sandy1_ontario(Eastern Ontario)

It occurred recently to me that I hadn't seen any toads in our back yard this year, not a one, which is unusual. There are normally several big ones to be found. I don't know where they've all gone, except that there are a lot more neighbour's cats running loose on our property this year compared to previous years (despite repeated requests to rein them in). They've killed several birds and I suspect they may be going after the toads too.

And then, today, for the first time in ten years on this property I found dozens of earwigs clustered in my vegetable garden.

I think that the sudden decline of toads, which I consider to be an imbalance, is related to the abundance of earwigs.

So next project is to find ways of restoring the balance by encouraging toads to return... and stay again... they'll certainly have a food source when they do.... maybe they just need better hiding places from the cats...

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 5:35PM
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sandy, have you had the drought conditions this year? some places have an excess of rain, and my state is in drought. the toads just aren't moving around much. as soon as it rains i start to see them again (at work). my yard is unable to support toads, it seems. i have lots of food for them but not enough habitat. not to mention, lack of habitat and pesticide/herbicide use by neighbors.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 10:54PM
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cranberry15(Zone 5 WI)

Doesn't anyone have chickens?? Once the seedlings are grown up enough, I let my girls wander through the garden about once a week. Those earwigs don't stand a chance. Also dumping the live bugs from the traps anywhere in the vicinity of the hens - great spectator sport...

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:18PM
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I am having a horrible time with earwigs...after my family is asleep the come out....I'm finding 20 a night IN MY HOUSE!! I find the along the sides of our above ground pool and I can deal with that but not in the house. Today I trapped 4 of them into a container and threw in some DE which was supposed to kill them in 45 mins. Two hours dead...3 still crawling. So I put a drop (only one drop) of lemon oil (used for furniture polishing) swirled it around to get them all in it...within minutes they were all dead. Now just to figure out how to get this oil near the entry point if I ever find it or attract them to a container with some in it.
Just want to respond to a few post though...I live in the country...we have a well kept large lawn with almost no gardening but the back and sides past my lawn has more than ample vegitation dead and alive for any of the species to feed on and I still have them in my house. Also, my neighbour has chickens and the earwigs were gathering at night on top of the door to the chicken coupe so I wonder if any of it really matters. They used to creep me out. Now...the war is on. I have sprayed DE around the perimeter of the house and inside the house in a few locations and don't seem to have to many in the house tonight. I am still going go consider a diluted spray of the lemon oil. I had read another post that orange or lemon oil is usful in killing them. Poisonous or not...I'm going to take them down
Good luck everyone!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 11:02PM
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Great ideas! I am going to set up my own beer traps today.
The pests I see in my flowers and garden this year are earwigs and tiny black ants.
I suspect the earwigs are what is eating the basil, lettuce, cabbage, etc. In the flowers I suspect they are eating the marigolds! I previously thought marigolds are fairly resistant to about everything...but they are all but gone. The petunias, daisys, dalias, etc are all doing well still. Anyone have ideas on what may be attacking them if not earwigs?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 1:10PM
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Trust me - earwigs are a nuisance in central WI and they do eat plants, chew holes veggies and will actually try to move into your home during the hot summer months. However, they won't survive, at least that's what the Wood County Ag person has said. I'm definitely trying the beer traps but here's some very interesting info about European earwigs. They probably came here on some ocean going freighter as they first became a problem along the Lake Michigan shore some years ago. They've started to migrate across the state and we've had problem in CW for about three years. Now, some interesting info about these buggers. They can't survive and multiply in your house, unless you have a dirt floor. Early in the spring, they burrow about 2 inches in the ground and lay their eggs. This is the REAL interesting fact - they hang around, care for their eggs and when their young hatch, feed and care for them for TWO months. Very few insect do that. If I only found 1 or 2 I wouldn't freak out but when I was replenishing my bark around my trees, the old bark was crawling with thousands of them. I'm sure taps was played for the colony that day when I finished. I can't put my houseplants out this year for fear of bringing in earwigs that are hiding in the bottom of the pots or top soil. They may be caring parents but that will not save them in my yard. Will let you know about the beer traps though.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 8:50PM
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Beer traps are not working for me. I have tried several types of beer as well as changing the way I put the containers in the ground. I see them all over under the plants as I weed but only 1-3 are in each trap per night. Sigh...

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 4:06PM
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Take everything Kimmsr posts with a grain of salt. He seems to search out articles that agree with his preconceived notions and ignores anything to the contrary, even first hand observations from other gardeners. For instance it is true that earwigs will eat aphids, but it is also true that they will eat live vegetation (my lettuce and Swiss Chard for example, or the dogwood tree they killed back in New York in our backyard when they got under the bark and ate all the cambrium). On another thread he also claims roly polys only eat decayed vegetation, which anyone who has had their seedlings or tomatoes eaten by roly polys knows isn't true. Roly polys will eat anything they can reach, live or dead. From a gardeners point of view I think both earwigs and roly polys do more damage than good in the garden.
Here is a link from University of California, Davis that describes the damage earwigs can do.

Here is a link that might be useful: Earwig damage to plants

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 12:39AM
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I saw on a different page the suggestion to use a shallow can/bowl, buried to the soil line, with a layer or soy sauce and a layer of cooking oil. The next day... Eeewww! It worked!! Thought I'd pass along the info. Good luck everyone!
-your friendly fellow ammature gardener.
Ps. The leftover beer left sitting on your patio works better than stick tape for flies! If the hubby has a beer I make him leave an inch at the bottom and set it out. The next couple days it accumulates flies like crazy.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 1:47PM
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WIll neem oil not work on earwigs? I'm surprised not to see it mentioned in this thread, since it seems to be popular with many people in this forum.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 5:25PM
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Pest here in Victoria during Spring growing season. Starts off with numerous young under anything that is lying very flat. Flash a torch at night and they can be seen munching on the leaves of vegetables. Also eat the growing shoots of the vegetables. I lay flat boards along the garden bed borders. In the morning earwigs are packed together under the boards. I use boiling water to give them a hot backside. Time no problem as I am retired. Layer of cooking oil on top of water in tin very successful.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 4:57AM
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Why a 6 year old post is resurrected instead of creating a new post is always a conundrum but if you create an environment that earwigs like, cool, moist, well stocked with food, you will have earwigs. Organic gardens create just those conditions as will any other garden that keeps the level of soil organic matter in an optimal range, uses mulches, and otherwise has cool, moist conditions where the earwigs can live. Understanding your problem can be a great help in controlling that problem and that is why I often post articles, from knowledgable people, that most often echos what I do tell people, ie articles I "agree with".

Here is a link that might be useful: controlling earwigs

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 7:17AM
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I've also found beer to be mostly ineffective for the earwigs around here. They just don't seem to care for it. However, olive oil traps work wonders.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 10:08AM
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Heck I dont know about everybody else but all I caught in my beer traps was my son Bobby Joe!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 11:01PM
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kathyp(z9 CA)

Love the fact that folks are still responding to what is undeniably a VERY old post...

The earwigs and I have learned to co-exist. I guess I have mellowed - the pests are gonna be there whatever I do. So I lose a few veggies... the world will continue to spin! And the birds and other critters are happy. I will admit, snails and slugs will NEVER be allowed - those I hunt to extinction in my yard. Kind of cathartic - my kids call it barbaric, but it lets me take out my frustrations on the slimy buggers that try to eat my plants!

Thanks for all the advice - I have been a lurker for a few years now, due to life, kids and work. But the garden is still thriving, earwigs not withstanding.

Enjoy the summer!


    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 1:44AM
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I guess earwigs are a never ending problem! The link early on in this post mentioned earwigs don't eat live vegetation (bull), aren't in the north (I'm in Idaho... I have them. more bull). There is no use for the pincers on wingless earwigs (once again, bull). I like throwing (non beneficial) insects into spider webs for a circle of life show. I lightly damaged an earwig so it would still jiggle and advise the spider that dinner was ready. Spidey came out, and the earwigs pincers curled up and was definitely being used as a defense mechanism. Reminded me of a scorpion. I get about 4 or 5 spider webs (or as I like to think of them, non-electric bug zappers) so I fed them all earwigs one day. The earwigs have to be either a little smaller than the spider, and/or a little more injured so they can't defend themselves. I got the right balance on one of the webs - spidey sucked the goo out and left an earwig exoskeleton.

I'm going to try the beer and soy/molasses combo to get ride of my earwigs.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 7:55PM
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This has been a great thread! I will try the beer trap tonight and will report back. I live in Northern Ca, Auburn CA to be exact. Wish me luck See the picture. Oh this is a cabbage leaf.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2012 at 4:23PM
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Supper easy and reliable...check it out

Here is a link that might be useful: Earwig Trap that Works

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Use olive oil, or Canola Oil

Here is a link that might be useful: Earwig Trap that Works

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 1:43PM
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Is there anyway before planting to rid yourself of earwigs? That is non-toxic to pets? John

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 8:23PM
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So glad to have found this forum and so interesting the thread is still alive. I've been trying for a few years now to grow a limited garden using large planters and thrown so much money away, i might as well have shopped at Whole Foods instead. Earwigs here in SE Michigan seem to get worse every year and they are eating everything. For the first time this year, they destroyed my giant sunflowers. I have to get ahead of this problem before next spring. Since it's a warm fall and they are still out and about, although fortunately no longer in the house, I'm going to try some of the ideas here to control the population. Also happy to have an excuse to buy more beer.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 6:24PM
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Like slugs, snails, Roly Polys, Pill Bugs, Sow Bugs, and numerous others Earwigs need a cool, moist environment to live and reproduce in. Proper organic gardening practices are very good environments for these wee buggers, mulches and soils with a lot of food sources organic matter. Understanding something about the insect pest you wish to control can help with that control.

Here is a link that might be useful: About Earwigs

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 6:29AM
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Thanks everyone for your posts. I was mulching with cut grass and developed an earwig infestation on my (usually) wonderful herbs plants.

Took everyone's advice: 1) removed grass clipping mulch, 2) trapped some at night with the beer trick, 3) in the heat and light of the day, dug up a bit of dirt around edges of pots to disturb remaining earwigs and sprayed with soapy water and/or removed them from pot. I found they hibernate below surface in pockets. I think I got most of them. Hopeful for future!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 5:31PM
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I live in an apartment in downtown Boise, Idaho. My fiancée has bail and some other flowers and plants in containers on or patio. The basil hadn't been doing so well; last night I watched as a half dozen earwigs climbed from a neighboring shrub and continued chewing holes through his basil. I'm trying the tin can with beer approach tonight. If that doesn't work I'll try other bait. If need be I'll stay up all night and catch them one by one. Thanks to this thread I hope that won't be necessary. Thanks for all the ideas and information!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 2:12AM
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I was surfing around on Twitter and found this. Don't know much about it but will be checking it out. @seedhaven. Check out the Swiss Chard photos.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2014 at 3:17PM
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hi, to get rid of earwigs in the garden, all you need is to sprinkle a little bit of lime to infested area, check area out next day and they all disapear. mickt

    Bookmark   November 24, 2014 at 6:52PM
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Sprinkling lime around the garden to control insect pests is no a good idea since that can change your soils pH and adversely affect the health of the plants growing there. The link I posted above will give anyone that reads it information they need to control these insects.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2014 at 7:08AM
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