KC left a comment on the slug bug post about earwigs and ants. I’ll talk about the ants in another post, but KC is not the only one noticing all the earwigs around the garden.
They are somewhat common but are really noticed after prolonged periods of wet weather. We have certainly had that!
Earwigs are pretty easy to identify… they have some pincers on the end of their abdomen. The females pincers are fairly straight, while the males are more curved. The pincers are used as both offensive and defensive weapons. Though they may try to pinch you if you capture and handle them, they do not harm people. They are about 5/8 of an inch long and adults are dark brown with a reddish head and pale yellow-brown legs. Juveniles are lighter in color.
They are outdoor insects that can usually be found in damp areas like under mulch, dead leaves, logs and piles of stuff that would keep moisture around. They can also be found in rotted wood where they feed on moist, decaying plant material. They have been known to attack living plants, including vegetables, fruit trees and ornamental plants but they are considered only minor pests of plants because the damage is widely scattered. They tend to hide in flowers and plants that provide some protection, like the top of milkweed plants where the leaves are folded together. They generally eat decaying organic matter, but can eat other insects (like aphids and mites) and plants such as vegetables, flowers and ornamental plants.
Earwigs will sometimes get into your house, but only by accident or when seeking shelter, especially in the fall. They don’t cause any harm or destruction, they are just an annoyance. You can just sweep them up in the house and dispose of them. Outside control is generally not necessary to keep them out of the house, but you can use barrier treatments around the house and on the foundation if you find a large number of earwigs are present.
Outdoor management of earwigs is not easy and there is probably no way to completely get rid of them from your yard, but you can trap them and physically destroy them. Place burlap bags, damp boards, damp newpapers or other materials on the ground for them to take shelter under and then collect the individuals and kill them. You can drown them in a bucket of water or introduce them to the bottom of your shoe.
As a last resort you can spray insecticides on the plants to reduce damage, but make sure to select a home garden insecticide labeled for this purpose. And always apply according to label directions. Avoid applying insecticides to flowers because they will harm the beneficial pollinating insects as well. And try to apply in the late afternoon since earwigs feed at night.
And, no… they don’t climb into your ear to lay eggs in your brain. They just crawl in to see if there is anything there. Naw! They don’t do that, either!