How to Get Rid of Earwigs

Earwigs (also called pincher bugs) are occasional home invaders. The earwig received its name from an old myth that states they can enter the ear canal and eat brains, causing dementia. This is completely false. Earwigs are scavengers of organic debris and can usually be found littering the carpet around baseboards, or outdoors in garden areas. They are equipped with a set of pincers called cerci, which are used for self defense. They will enter the home through cracks and crevices on the outside and are described as long and squirmy bugs. Earwig infestations are more prominent in slab homes. Learning how to get rid of earwigs is simple but requires a keen eye.

Getting Rid of Earwigs

Earwigs are nocturnal, meaning they prefer to come out at night - they are also attracted to light. They prefer to stay hidden beneath weed mats, rocks, pine-straw, or mulch where they feed on foliage and decaying organic debris. Earwigs have high moisture requirements and are not capable of sustaining life inside of a home. The mature earwig can reach up to over an inch in length. They have wings and can fly, but are rarely ever seen doing so.

Natural Earwig Control

You'd be amazed to know how many earwigs are probably coming in straight through the front door. You can test whether or not your door is properly sealed by focusing your attention where the door base meets the stripping. If you can see daylight coming through, it's more than big enough to let an earwig pass through. Consider getting a larger seal as this will likely solve the bulk of your problems. Do not procrastinate!

Make your own earwig traps: Stuff damp newspaper into a small tube in the room with highest activity. If you catch a bunch, you'll have a better idea of where they are entering on the outside.

  • Check to make sure all the entrance points are sealed. Use caulk or weather stripping where applicable.
  • Use boric acid or salt sparingly in corners. If you don't have boric acid, salt can be used as a substitute. Your carpet is weakest in the corners, providng access to a hollow space behind base boards. Earwigs require lots of moisture and will dry out quickly when exposed to either substance.
  • Check for gaps beneath sinks. Builders will often leave plumbing lines exposed, making an excellent hiding spot for earwigs and other bugs. Seal any cabinet voids using steel wool.

While interior treatments can help to get rid of earwigs, most of your efforts should be focused on the soil directly against the foundation of your house. Eliminating the source of the problem is the only way to establish earwig control.

Earwigs in the Garden

To get rid of earwigs in the garden or outside, a few techniques should be used. Earwigs like to feed on the roots and leaves of plants, causing potential damage to fruits and vegetables. The best product for use on edibles is Sevin, or any other product containing carbaryl (it's made from tree sap), and would best be applied at night when most earwigs come out of the soil. Others may opt to make their own earwig spray:

If you want to get rid of earwigs in garden areas, a combination of water, soap, and baking soda should do the trick. Baking soda is actually good for plant growth and the soap is fine too. However, the above formula should only be used in moderation, too much of anything will kill a plant quickly.

Earwigs are alcoholics. One home remedy suggests the use of half empty beer cans placed midway into the ground for bait - this makes total sense, because earwigs are attracted to fermenting liquids and will readily drown themselves at the opportunity for some beer. Using glue boards or sticky traps in areas with heavy activity will aslo help.

Professional Earwig Control

Deltamethrin is the drug of choice when it comes to choosing the right earwig insecticide. This is the active ingredient in commercial products like Suspend SC (as well as some over the counter sprays) and will drastically reduce earwig activity in as little as 3 days. Insecticides should be used around the soil immediately against the foundation and around doors and windows. While Deltamethrin is preferred, the following techniques can be used with virtually any product labeled for earwigs.

  • Focus on cracks and crevices, lightly soaking the expansion joint where patio slabs meet the foundation. Pull back any door mats and spray.
  • Lightly spray areas underneath rain catchers and other moist areas. This includes weedmats, walls, bricks, etc. - pretty much anything within 5 feet of the house.
  • Entrance points are crucial. Focus treatment efforts along and around windows, AC lines entering the house, and most importantly, doors.
  • Spray the entire foundation around the perimeter of your house. Sprays are best applied after dark or before sunrise when activity is highest.

Doormats will often collect moisture and grass clippings - they should be positioned further from the door if earwigs are found beneath them. Dead grass and plant debris should be properly bagged and placed away from the home. Heavy earwig activity around your home could indicate problems with moisture or poor sealing. Using proper exclusion, sprays, and trapping techniques can greatly decrease earwig activity in the house.

Do Earwigs Bite?

Earwigs can bite, but they are completely harmless to humans. Contrary to popular belief, earwigs cannot sting or hurt you (they have no poison glands). They will try to pinch you with their cerci, but it is an incredibly weak and harmless defense.