If you want to learn how to get rid of earwigs, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide is designed to teach you how to deal with earwigs, whether they’re assaulting your precious crops or taking up residence in your basement. Below you’ll find:
- Background information about earwigs
- Ways to remove earwigs from your home and garden
- Tips for preventing earwig infestations
We also provide some useful information about hiring a professional pest control company for earwig control if they prove to be too difficult to manage yourself.
What Are Earwigs
Earwigs — or pincher bugs — are any of 2,000 species of insect from the order Dermaptera that share a common ancestor and have broadly similar characteristics. Their origin can be reliably traced back over 200 million years, and they owe their impressive survival as a species to their omnivorous eating habits and resilient armored bodies. Both male and female earwigs have long forceps on their abdomens, making them easy to identify and granting them their evocative name.
The origin of the name earwig is a matter of some debate. In English, the word earwig comes from an evolution of the Old English words for ear (ēare) and insect (wicga). The name most likely comes from earwigs’ pincers, which resemble a long pair of ears in an abstract way. A common wive’s tale is that earwigs get their name from their tendency to burrow into human brains through the ear canal, a claim that is pure fiction. The names for earwig in other languages — ”ear worm” in German and “ear piercer” in French — are equally unsettling.
Unless you’re a gardener, you probably haven’t given much thought to earwigs as pests since they typically live in damp areas rich with decaying organic matter like garden beds and woodpiles. However, earwigs are common garden pests in hot, humid climates and thrive on devouring plants, seeds, aphids, maggots, nymphs, and small worms. They are especially common in North America during the summer and are prevalent mostly in the Southern and Mid-Atlantic states.
If their population is left unchecked, earwigs can become a problem for gardens since they live for about one year and reproduce quickly. A single female can lay between 20 and 80 eggs per clutch, and the eggs hatch after about one week.
Luckily, managing an earwig infestation doesn’t require harmful chemicals or dangerous pesticides. Below you’ll find the eight best ways to eradicate earwigs from your garden or home with items you probably already have around your house.
8 Ways to Get Rid of Earwigs
Below, we’ll provide some different DIY techniques for how to get rid of earwigs.
- Use soap and water. A soapy mixture in a spray bottle is one of the easiest ways to stop earwigs from chomping on your plants. One or two drops of dish soap dissolved in warm water are enough to create a natural earwig deterrent. Simply spray your plants with a light coating as needed.
- Create a damp earwig trap. Earwigs are attracted to dark, damp hiding places, so use that information to build an earwig trap. Lightly dampen a rolled-up newspaper or paper towel roll and place it in your garden before bed at night. Then, empty the trap into a bucket of soapy water in the morning.
- Diatomaceous earth. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a natural, chemical-free insect repellent that works on earwigs. Sprinkling it around the base of your garden plants and vegetables will protect them from earwigs, although it will also drive away pollinators, so only use it where necessary. Unfortunately, diatomaceous earth is less effective when it gets wet, so try to use it when there’s no rain in the forecast.
- Clean your basement regularly. If you have earwigs inside you’re home, vacuuming regularly and removing debris is the best way to get rid of them. Earwigs are often found in cluttered, damp basements, so keeping your storage areas clean and dry will help avoid earwig infestations. If you already have earwigs, the easiest way to get rid of them is with a vacuum or dust buster. You should also make sure your basement doesn’t have excess moisture by running a dehumidifier a few times per week, especially during the summer.
- Make a homemade oil trap. Coat the bottom of a small plastic container with equal parts vegetable oil and something aromatic like soy sauce or a similar salty condiment. Then make holes in the side of the container large enough for an earwig to pass through. Place the container in your garden overnight. Earwigs will enter the trap, hoping to snag an easy meal, and get stuck in the oil. You can empty and reuse the trap several times until your garden is earwig-free.
- Traditional pesticides. If you’re not against using chemical-based insecticide in your garden, pyrethrins, carbaryl, and malathion are all effective against earwigs. You should use caution before applying pesticides indoors. Make sure to read the label carefully and verify that the product is safe for use indoors before using it in a basement, garage, or living area. Boric acid is also a viable option, although it must be used with care and kept away from children and pets.
- Petroleum jelly. Coating your plants’ stems with petroleum jelly is a safe and effective earwig deterrent. The only downside to this method is the constant need for reapplication.
- Alcohol spray. Alcohol is an effective spot treatment for killing earwigs on contact, but it takes some effort to make. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and 70% rubbing alcohol. If you only have access to higher concentration alcohol, mix 1 part alcohol with 1.5 parts water.
How to Know You Have An Earwig Infestation
Seeing earwigs in your garden is the most obvious sign that you have an earwig infestation. Even though earwigs are nocturnal, it’s not uncommon to see them during the day. Earwig infestations work kind of like rodent infestations; if you see one, there are probably more.
Just because you don’t see any earwigs doesn’t mean you don’t have them. Damaged crops are another common sign of earwig activity. Leaves with holes in them or leaves with ragged edges that look like a torn piece of paper are usually caused by earwig damage. Earwigs prefer to feast on flowering plants, leafy greens like lettuce and cabbage, celery, and fruits, so check these plants regularly if you think you might have earwigs.
How to Prevent Earwigs
Earwigs aren’t especially difficult to get rid of, but it’s still easier to practice earwig prevention than attempt to get rid of an entrenched population. Thankfully, most earwig prevention involves making improvements to your home and garden that you probably want to do anyway.
- Make your yard a bird haven. Birds are natural predators of earwigs, so encouraging some feathered friends to hang out in your hard is an easy way to control the earwig population in your garden. Putting out a few birdbaths and bird feeders will instantly increase the bird activity in your yard and protect your plants from hungry earwigs.
- Keep your garden tidy. Removing “dead and down” material from your garden deprives earwigs of their favorite food source and shelter. Once per week, give your garden a quick scan and remove any debris and dead leaves you find. It’s common to find grass clippings and trimmings in your flowerbeds after you mow your lawn, so make a garden check part of your weekly landscaping routine.
- Avoid growing ivy or bushes near your garden. Thick underbrush and ivy are earwig havens, so try and keep your garden away from them, especially if you’re growing earwig favorites like lettuce or celery.
- Keep the perimeter of your house clean. Most species of earwigs seek out habitats rich with organic material and leaf litter, so make sure you don’t let these things accumulate near your house. Mulch is often home to large numbers of earwigs, so keep mulch in your garden and away from the perimeter of your house.
Hiring a Pest Control Company
If all of the above sounds like too much work, or if you’ve tried some of these tips and still have earwigs, consider hiring a professional pest control company like Terminix. Professional exterminator services have the experience and tools required to eliminate any pest problem from your home or garden quickly and safely. Most companies also offer free quotes and inspections, making it easy to see what they have to say about your earwig problem before committing to a service agreement.
Best Pest Control Companies
When hiring a pest control service, you have tons of choices, and the difference between the best companies and the average ones is substantial. You don’t want to settle for mediocre pest control, especially if you need treatment in your garden around the fruits and vegetables that you and your family plan on eating. Here’s a quick look at the two best pest control companies we recommend for dealing with earwigs.
Terminix is the best overall pest control service, not just for earwigs but for everything from ants and spiders to rodents and roaches. The company’s technicians are pest control experts and will work with you to design a customized plan that fits your specific set of circumstances.
Terminix divides its services into separate plans. The company’s general plan includes basic treatments for simple pests like ants and roaches, and its specialized plans package treatment and monitoring for more involved pests like rodents, termites, and bed bugs.
- General pest control ($600 – $800)
- Termite treatments ($2,000 and up)
- Bed Bug treatments ($500 – $1,500)
- Flea and tick control($300 – $500)
- Mosquito treatments ($200 – $600)
- Wildlife trapping ($300 and up)
The company charges higher prices for more severe infestations and larger property sizes, so the above estimates are only rough guidelines. Scheduling an appointment with Terminix is easy. You can fill out a form on the company’s website or give them a call. A Terminix representative will be happy to get you set up with your local branch.
You can check out our full Terminix review for more information.
Orkin is another excellent choice if you need pest control, although the company is more suited for emergencies where fast service is required. Still, Orkin has a long history of providing outstanding service, and the company is more than capable of helping you sort out your earwig problems.
Most Orkin customers sign up for an annual plan that includes monthly visits and covers an impressive range of pests from ants and earwigs to walking stick bugs and weevils. Like Terminix, Orkin bundles specialty services for termites and bed bugs separately, so don’t forget to include those costs in your estimates.
- Annual pest control contracts ($550 – $720)
- Termite treatments ($1,500 – $5,000)
- Tent fumigation ($3,000 and up)
- Bed Bug treatments ($400 – $1,200)
- Flea and tick control ($200 – $400)
- Mosquito treatments ($200 – $500)
- Carpenter ants ($100 and up)
The above estimates are based on an average 2,000-square-foot home, so you may be charged more if you live in a larger house.
Orkin offers a convenient online form for scheduling a free inspection with one of its technicians or you can call and schedule an appointment over the phone. Orkin is known for its excellent customer service and fast response times and has an emergency line that’s available 24 hours per day.
If you’re considering using Orkin Pest Control, take a look at our in-depth Orkin review first.
Today’s Homeowner Rating & Methodology
Our research process involves a multi-step process to get real insights into the customer experience for each company. We contacted each pest control company directly and spoke to representatives via phone and online chat (if available). This allowed us better understand the company’s treatment offerings and customer service. We also consider BBB accreditation and what customer reviews say about each company. Additionally, we fact-check and update company data regularly to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.
We developed a 100-point rating system to compare the companies numerically.
- Plan options (35 points): Companies with more plans and flexibility on services to address specific issues were given a higher score.
- State Availability (5 points): Those that offer coverage in fewer than 45 states were deducted points for availability.
- Trustworthiness (10 points): This is based on whether companies have money-back guarantees, service guarantees, and additional satisfaction assurance measures.
- Customer Service (30 points): We considered accessibility (including on weekends and holidays) of technicians and customer support.
- Additional Benefits (20 points): Companies that offer further conveniences such as an app, comprehensive resources, and other benefits were rated higher.