Prevent Earwigs

How Do You Prevent Earwigs?

Earwigs prefer to live in cooler, damp or wet areas, usually under decaying vegetation outside where there is an ample supply of food. As with any insect pest, it is best to prevent earwigs, rather than waiting until the infestation requires extensive control. Earwigs typically feed on live sprouts or decaying vegetation and, in rare cases, some species are predators. Earwigs belong to the biological classification or taxonomic order Dermaptera, meaning skin- or leather-winged. This is due to the presence of harder solid wings in the winged species.

The best way to prevent earwigs is to utilize Integrated Pest Management, or IPM. IPM is a holistic approach to pest control. The basic steps of IPM include Inspection, Identification and Control.

In order to start the IPM process, it is important to understand the insect. Earwigs live and reproduce in moist or wet areas, typically outside where there is an abundance of decaying vegetation, the preferred food of most species. While some earwig species are predators, for most purposes, it can be assumed that the species encountered around homes are herbivores, or those preferring vegetation.

The inspection, the first step of IPM, is to look for signs of a buildup of leaves and other dead or decaying vegetation. This is not just an autumn occurrence, but during the summer it is common to have fallen leaves and old-growth plant debris fall onto the soil. With today’s watering systems, it is also common to have accelerated decay due to drip or lawn irrigation. Pulling away wet vegetation that has fallen might reveal if and where there is an earwig infestation.

Identification of earwigs and their living environment is important as well. Most life stages of earwigs have the telltale forceps, or pincers, extending from the abdomen. This attribute is the best method to make sure that the insect is, in fact, an earwig. Identification of conditions which lead to infestation, such as overwatered plants near the foundation, will point you toward finding earwigs and is a condition which should be identified during the inspection.

Finally, removing moisture and decaying vegetation will make conditions less hospitable for earwigs and will reduce their numbers.