Scott Winegarden/istockphoto

DCL

I like to think of myself as a person who is fairly in tune with nature. I've gotten over my fear of spiders (for the most part) and I'm all about having plenty of insect life in my garden.

But earwigs totally give me the willies.

They can be garden pests, on top of just being generally creepy-looking. Earwigs can cause serious damage to seedlings, and chew holes in soft fruits, corn silks, and the foliage of annual flowers. If your landscaping consists mostly of trees, shrubs, perennials, and lawn, they aren't something you need to worry about. But if you're growing fruits and vegetables, they can become a nuisance.

Luckily, it's easy to get them under control. You don't need to focus on your entire yard, just the area in which they are making pests of themselves. Earwigs don't travel far, generally never leaving the same small area in which they hatched. So if you get them under control in your veggie garden, for example, you won't have to worry about new ones moving in and taking their place. I wish cabbage loopers were more like earwigs, come to think of it...

How to Trap Earwigs

Trapping earwigs is simple. Simply take a section of newspaper, slightly dampen it, and roll it up. Place it on the ground in your garden wherever you have seen earwigs. You can also do this near your newly planted seedlings to trap any earwigs before they damage your plants. Let the newspaper sit over night. Earwigs are most active after dark, so they'll find their way to your trap then.

In the morning, it's time to check the traps. The first thing you need to do is get a bucket of soapy water—dish soap works perfectly. Take the bucket to where your traps are.

Now comes the hard part (for me.) Pick up your newspaper trap and shake it out over the bucket of soapy water. You can also unroll it slightly to jar the earwigs loose. The earwigs will fall into the soapy water, and die. You can dump the water, with earwigs, into your compost pile.

It's not a bad idea to set your traps for a few days, or until you are finding very few if any earwigs in them. Once you've reached that point, your earwig problem is solved!

There are commercial earwig traps that you can order through gardening catalogs, but they really are unnecessary. The newspaper trick works perfectly. You can also do this with corrugated cardboard if you have that on hand.

Earwigs are not always a pest, so I don't advocate wiping them out if they're not causing a problem. They do eat aphids and other garden pests, so it's a good idea to measure their benefits against any damage they may cause. Like much of organic gardening, it's about observing your garden and striking a balance between intervening and letting nature run its course.

Like this article? Dig deeper in our Organic Gardening feature.

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