Organic Earwig Control

- Generally only a minor garden pest -

Summary: Earwigs are small to medium-size insects that feed on plants (not ears!). Their most distinct feature is a pair of "pincers" at the tail end. Earwigs chew ragged holes in leaves but generally do only minor damage. Control is generally possible with natural, organic insecticides.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Earwig identification

Earwigs (right) are small to medium-size (1/2"-3/4", a few larger), brownish colored insects. An earwig's most distinctive feature is a pair of "forceps", or "pincers", at the tail end [right and another earwig picture]. These forceps distinguish earwigs from some beetles with which they may be confused. Earwigs belong to the insect order Dermaptera.

Earwigs are harmless despite the fearsome appearance of the pincers. They can damage garden plants when they chew ragged, irregular holes in leaves, flowers and fruit. Earwigs require damp conditions and are generally found under some type of cover.

picture of earwig, young, eggs, adult

Earwigs - adult female, young earwigs, and clutch of eggs. Notice (look carefully, center right in image) the terminal pincers on adult which are characteristic of these insects.

Organic earwig control

Most of the time earwigs do not need to be actively controlled since healthy plants will outgrow small amounts of earwig damage. Limit moisture as much as possible and remove debris that might serve as hiding places. Occasionally, however, earwig numbers may build to the point that an active control program is needed.

To reduce earwig numbers treat foliage and flowers with a combination of neem oil insecticide and insecticidal soap. This combination is very safe and won't disrupt beneficial species. One such combination product is Bon-Neem. Always follow label directions carefully and you may need to retreat every few days until the earwig activity and plant damage stops.

New botanical insecticides can be safely used indoors and outdoors for a variety of pests including earwigs. See label instructions for these applications. As with any insecticide, please read and carefully follow these instructions (see Using Plant-based Botanical Insecticides).

Related Articles

Using Neem Oil Insecticide

Using Insecticidal Soap

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