While you're sleeping, earwigs are getting to work. These nocturnal insects love socializing in cool dark places during the day, but at night they come out and feed in your garden. Though they enjoy feasting on other garden pests, such as aphids and armyworms, they also delight in eating your plants and vegetables.
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How to Identify Earwigs
Earwigs, also known as "pincher bugs," are ominous-looking insects that are best identified by the pinchers extending from their abdomen to their tail end. Though they look intimidating, they're harmless to humans. They're about a half-inch long and like living under rocks, wood piles, wet leaves and mulch. Earwigs have wings but rarely fly. If encountered, they'll run very fast to find a hiding place.
Earwigs are attracted to lights and gather on porches and patios when lights are on. When the sun comes up, they scurry to hide under pillows, wood piles and planters.
How to Tell if Earwigs Are in Your Garden
Earwigs especially love to dine on decaying plant matter. You can tell they've been in your garden by the damage to your plants. If you notice jagged holes in plant leaves and flower petals, it's a good chance you have earwigs. Most damage will happen overnight.
Another sign of earwigs is damage to your plants after heavy rains. The moisture drives earwigs out of their hiding places, and they climb plants to seek shelter under leaves.
How to Get Rid of Earwigs
If earwigs are ruining your garden, don't panic. There are ways to prevent them from damaging your plants or getting rid of them altogether. A coating of petroleum jelly around the stems of your plants will keep earwigs from climbing up the slippery surface.
You can also try to trap them with something sweet. Fill a container with molasses or syrup, and leave holes in the lid big enough for the insects to crawl into. The earwigs will enter the jar hoping for a treat but won't be able to escape the thick liquid. You can do the same with soy sauce, which is fatal to earwigs.
Another method to try is wet newspaper. Soak newspapers in water and lay them in your garden overnight. The earwigs will want to explore the newspaper but will have trouble finding their way out. Put the newspaper in a trash bag in the morning and close it tight before throwing away.
If none of your home remedies work, you can call in a professional. Pest control agents know how to remove earwigs in a manner that's safe to your plants and give you tips to prevent them from returning.
Deb Ng is a freelance writer and published author with over 17 years of experience in creating content for the web. Prior to her freelance career, she worked for over 12 years in traditional (print) publishing. In her spare time, Deb is an avid gardener who loves nothing more than bringing flowers and vegetables to life. She doesn't have as much time to spend outside as she'd like, however, because she's also assisting her husband with the DIY projects needed to complete their family home. See Deb's gardening and home improvement articles at LoveToKnow, Wisegeek, and Alloy.