There are lots of earwigs in my garden . I handpicked them at night time, but there are too many . Is there a better way to control them ?


Thank you very much for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your question about earwigs.  Earwigs are common garden insects but also eat other pests such as aphids and slugs.  The incentive to control earwigs is if they are eating your plants.  Seedlings and some types of flowers (e.g., Zinnias are common targets) are earwig favourites.  Larger, more established plants are less likely to be affected.

As you point out, earwigs actively feed at night, so looking with a flashlight to confirm that they are the insect damaging your plants, and not some other pest, is important.  Earwigs seek out moist, cool spaces to hide out during the day.  Control of earwigs requires an integrated approach.  This begins with removing the earwigs preferred daytime habitat.  Clean up debris, prune back thick ground cover around plants and remove weeds.  Keep nearby grass from becoming overgrown and remove unnecessary moisture or standing water.  Trapping earwigs is the next management component.  Shallow, ground level traps containing vegetable oil work well.  Some references suggest adding a dash of bacon grease or tuna oil to help attract the insects but oil alone is fine.  A small can (e.g., tuna can) or dish can be sunk into the ground with the rim at ground level. Fill the container with about 1/2 inch of oil.  Locating traps under a plant or leaf, near a fence or partly covered with a board or rock helps to mimic the desired habitat.  Check the traps every day or two, remove the dead earwigs, refresh the trap and start again.

Robert Pavlis is a Canadian garden writer who has a helpful blog post about earwig management can can be found here Getting rid of the Pincher Bug.  You may also be interested in this page from the University of California Earwigs Management Guidelines.

Best of luck with controlling the earwigs!

July 28, 2021