How to Get Rid of Earwigs in Your Home and Garden, Dengarden

How to Get Rid of Earwigs in Your Home and Garden

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.

I’m a gardener so I don’t mind a lot of creepy crawlies such as snakes, toads, or spiders that frighten most people. There are a few creatures in my garden that do give me the willies. One of them is earwigs. Those pincers on the rear end scare me. And then there is belief that if they fly into your ears, they will burrow into your brain and lay eggs there. It’s just an old wives tale. Earwigs rarely fly and if for some reason they do get into your ear canal, they do not burrow in your brain. But I’d rather not take a chance if you don’t mind.

What are Earwigs?

Earwigs are members of the dermoptera order of insects. There are 2,000 species organized into 12 families. Earwig species are found on every continent except Antartica. Fortunately, here in the US we only have to deal with 25 species.

Earwigs are nocturnal. During the day, they hide in crevices, bark, mulch, leaf litter and logs which is why most of us only see them when we disturb them in their hiding places.

Earwigs are small, only about ¾ of an inch long and dark brown. Their bodies are flat so that they can hide in crevices during the day. The characteristic pincers on the rear are for defense against predators such as birds and toads. The pincers look scary but if they did pinch you, the grip is so weak that you wouldn’t feel it. They have two sets of wings, in the front and the rear. They rarely use them. They are called “earwigs” because their rear legs are shaped like human ears.

One interesting fact about earwigs is that unlike other insectss, the females care for their young. They dig holes in the ground in the fall and winter and lay 30 or more shiny white eggs. The eggs turn brown when they are ready to hatch in about a week. After they hatch, the female feeds them by regurgitating food. She also guards them from predators. After their second molt, the young will leave the nest at night to hunt for food and return to the nest to rest during the day. They are fully adult in 10 weeks.

Earwigs are omnivorous eaters. They feed on ornamental plants, vegetables, berries, fruit, aphids, plant lice and bluebottle flies. They don’t do as much damage as other insects but they are bothersome enough, especially when they get into your house, that most people want to get rid of them.

Use Traps

Probably the easiest way to get rid of earwigs in your garden is by trapping them. Take advantage of their desire to hide in small spaces during the day and lay 12 inch pieces of garden hose or sections of bamboo before dark in your garden or other places where earwigs have become a nuisance. Check the traps every morning before the earwigs emerge from hiding. Dump the insects into a container of soapy water to kill them.

Another easy way to trap earwigs is with oil traps. Using tuna cans or low sided pet food cans, fill them with ½ inch of oil and sink the cans into the soil up to their edges. Fish oil such as tuna or vegetable oil with a few drops of bacon grease are effective lures. The insects will climb into the cans and drown. In the morning, empty the content of the cans and refill with oil for the next night.

Use Borax

If you have a fireplace or wood stove, be aware that your woodpile is the perfect place for earwigs to hide during the day. To keep them out of your woodpile, sprinkle borax around it. This will repel the insects before they even have a chance to get into woodpile. Although it’s not poisonous, it is a good idea to keep pets and small children away from the area when you are using borax.

Use Poultry to Eat Earwigs

If you keep poultry or have a neighbor who does and is willing to lend your their flock, you’re in luck. Chickens and ducks love to eat insects including earwigs. Create a temporary pen in your garden and let the poultry loose to feast on the thrips. Birds and toads are also natural predators. Create a bird friendly yard by adding a birdbath. Invite a toad to take up residence in your garden with an old broken flower pot which makes a perfect toad «house».

Vacuum Up Thrips Indoors

When the weather turns cold, insects including earwigs, often find a way into our homes in their search for warmth. Put away your chemicals and get out your vacuum and broom. The easiest way to get rid of earwigs in your home is to either sweep them up or vacuum them up. I prefer the vacuum so that I don’t have to see them or deal them wiggling around in the dust pan.

Keep Your Yard and Garden Free of Debris

The best way to get rid of earwigs is to prevent them from infesting your home and garden in the first place. Don’t give them any place to hide during the day. Clear away any dead or decaying plant material in your garden. Rake mulch away from the foundation of your house leaving a strip of bare soil that is not an attractive hiding place. Do the same in your vegetable garden. Leave a strip of bare soil around the garden. They will look elsewhere for places to hide during the day.

Don’t grow plants that provide hiding places such as ivy and hedges. Keep your gutters clean. Don’t leave piles of newspapers outside. Get rid of fallen leaves, especially in the fall.

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Earwigs aren’t the worst insect nuisance that you have to deal with in your home and garden, but they are definitely one of the scary looking ones. Keep your home and yard earwig free using these simple steps.

Questions & Answers

How do you dispose of your oil contaminated by earwigs?

Oil that has been used in a trap and is full of dead earwigs can be disposed of the same as uncontaminated oil. I don’t know what the garbage or composting regulations are in your area so I can’t be more specific than that.


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17 months ago from USA

Thanks for sharing.

Caren White

Now you know what to do next time you see them, Mary! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Mary Norton

21 months ago from Ontario, Canada

I remembered having a few earwigs in my garden in our former house and I admit they scared me so I just left them alone. I should have read your steps to control their being there.

Caren White

I feel the same way! Thanks Viet for reading and commenting.

Viet Doan

21 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

Here in Hawaii we have the common dark black earwigs with large reddish pincers. Look scary but they are really harmless. My rule of thumb for any insect: as long as they stay outside, I leave them alone. If they go inside the house, they will be zapped! Thanks Caren for an informative and interesting article.

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Why Do I Have Earwigs in My Apartment or Home?

Most domestic earwigs prefer moist soil areas with adequate cover and food source. Frequently, people will find earwigs in their home or apartment and ask, “Why do I have earwigs inside?”

Apartments and homes become an unintentional host to earwigs for two reasons. These insects can invade by accident though human activities or they can actively seek to escape inclement outdoor conditions in our space.

How Did They Get Inside?

Earwigs enter homes by crawling inside through cracks, gaps and holes that lead inside the structure. These common entry points include gaps around poorly sealed doors and windows; through crevices and gaps in the areas where foundations meet siding; through unscreened attic and foundation vents; and through access doors leading into crawl spaces. In addition, earwigs readily enter structures through homeowner activities. For example, earwigs may get inside with bundles of newspapers, boxes, lumber, books and plants that are moved inside a home or business. It is also common for earwigs to move inside from their outdoor habitats and locations when lights attract them.

Also, earwigs might have been brought in accidentally. If boxes were stored in a wet garage area, for example, and earwigs found those boxes hospitable, they might have infested the boxes and when those boxes are brought inside, earwigs could surprise the homeowner. Another way for earwigs to be brought in is if they are living under plants between a plant pot and the saucer. If people bring these in for the winter, earwigs will be brought inside.

Weather Conditions

If conditions outdoors become inhospitable, earwigs will enter our living spaces. One example would be if temperatures drop and the earwigs invade, seeking warmth. Another possibility would be if conditions start to dry in the earwigs’ normal shelter. If there is a damp basement area with perhaps much clutter and even leaves that have blown in, there can be an abundance of moisture and cover. Wet basement walls can drip onto the floor and create hospitable conditions for earwigs. They are also protected from winter weather in this manner. It is also common for earwigs to move inside from their outdoor habitats and locations when lights attract them.

Earwigs do not typically prefer to thrive in our space, but through human activity or lack of good maintenance via screens, doors or conditions leading to excessive moisture, these insects can come into our apartment or house.

How to Get Rid of Earwigs in the Home and Yard

Earwigs can be frightening to find in the home. See what it takes to remove the pincher bugs and keep them from returning in the future.

Henrik_L/Getty Images

Earwigs can be a problem for homeowners inside the home and out. In the garden, an abundance of earwigs can chew up plants and flowers, eat through fruits and vegetables, and generally leave a mess in area you want looking its best. Finding an earwig inside the home can be a problem, so most people don’t want to share their space with other pests. With that, here is how you know you have earwigs and what you can do to keep them out and away from the home.

Signs of Earwigs

Earwigs are a nocturnal insect seeking cool and damp environments. They live and eat outdoors, thus making indoor encounters more rare and infestations unlikely. A few signs that might indicate the presence of earwigs:

  • Foul smell: Earwigs can produce a yellowish-brown secretion when scared or crushed. This strong scent can be an indication of the bug’s presence.
  • Night lights: Earwigs like to come out at night to search for food. This would be the ideal time to find them. Some species of earwigs are attracted to bright lights, so a location that harbors bright illumination could be a good place to start looking for them.
  • Dead plants and leaves: Earwigs preferred food source is dead and dying vegetation. The most common place to find earwigs are in the garden and in any leaf piles, as they get the benefit of protection and food in one location.
  • Cold and moist locations: Earwigs are sensitive to dry and hot air. They look for cool and moist environments to hide under and live in. In the house, the basement where air is colder and there is higher susceptibility to leak and water build-up is a likely place for earwigs to hide out in.

Erhan Gecili/Getty Images

How to Get Rid of Earwigs

To get rid of or kill earwigs in the home and garden, there are quite a few natural and chemical solutions to do so. With a few different types of earwigs common to the US, here are a few remedies to get rid of the pesky pincher bugs.

  • Dish soap and water: Mix dish soap and water to spray down areas where you have found earwigs to be crawling.
  • Rubbing alcohol and water: Mix rubbing alcohol and water together to spray at earwigs onsite. This method can be used to kill earwigs immediately.
  • Boric acid powder: Found at most hardware stores, boric acid is a treatment you can apply to those out of reach areas to kill earwigs that crawl near it. Warning though, this treatment should be kept away from areas that pets or infants will be near, as it can be harmful.
  • Light traps:Earwigs are attracted to bright lights when they scurry around at night. Use the dish soap and water method above, this time filling a small bucket. Point a bright light at the bucket and leave out to attract and kill nearby earwigs.
  • Oil and soy sauce traps: Combine olive oil and soy sauce in a small container and place in a location near where earwigs have been found. Earwigs will be attracted to the smell and climb into the liquid where they will drown.
  • Earwig pesticide: Purchase a pesticide to cover the areas where earwigs have been spotted. Various pesticides that will be effective against earwigs include sevin, malathion, pyrethrins, and diatomaceous earth. These methods are particularly effective for earwigs outside the home.
  • Vacuuming: For those pesky earwigs in the house and garden, a safe and easy removal method is to simply vacuum up any earwigs you come across. Look for any signs of earwig eggs to prevent further population. After use, look to dispose vacuum bag or empty into a bucket of water and soap as mentioned above to drown any found earwigs.
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How to Prevent Earwigs in the Future

Once you have you removed all the earwigs found in and around your home, make sure that they don’t come back. Here are some tips to prevent earwigs from returning to your premise.

  • Window screen holes: If you have any windows that use a screen for protection, make sure that they are fully intact. Cover and repair any holes in the window screens to eliminate a potential location where earwigs could enter the home.
  • Fill house cracks and holes: Check the foundation around your home, especially those near the entrances. Fill any cracks and holes to the house with caulk so that the pincher bugs can’t find those small crevices into the home.
  • Fix leaky drains and pipes: Earwigs look for cool and moist locations to scavenger and live. Look throughout your home for any pipes or drains that might be leaking . Fix these dripping hot spots to help eliminate the earwig’s ideal environment.
  • Remove leaf, stone, and wood piles: Earwigs prefer a natural home outdoors that contains a quality food source and protection. Remove piles of leaves , stone, and old wood that make a safe home for earwigs.
  • Keep vegetation away from the home: If you have any mulch, dead leaves, or vegetation, attempt to keep that away from the home’s foundation. As this is the ideal food source and living space for earwigs, keeping it away from the house will help lower the possibility of earwigs moving into the home.
  • Clean gutters and drainpipes: Make sure to fully clean your gutters and point drains multiple feet away from the home. Backed up gutters that create wet spots near and against the house is a perfect location for earwigs to travel to.
  • Tree and bush trimming: Get rid of overly shady and damp areas by trimming back the trees and shrubs in your yard.

Earwig Exterminators

If you come across an earwig infestation where large numbers are present or you keep having to remove earwigs week after week, call the professionals and hire an exterminator to evaluate the situation and determine the best solution to removing those pesky pests. Expect the effort to take time and happen over multiple weeks. Pest control isn’t something that happens in one day, as it often requires persistence and continued effort to effectively remove earwigs from the comforts of your home and yard.

Additional Earwig Information

For more information about earwigs and what it means when you find this pest in your home, check out these pest control articles.

  • Earwig Guide
  • Types of Earwigs
  • Earwig Life Cycle
  • Earwig Infestations
  • How to Get Rid of Earwigs
  • How to Prevent Earwigs
  • Earwig Safety
  • Earwig Facts

How to Get Rid of Earwigs Naturally

Earwigs are one of the most misunderstood insects, misunderstood due to the false belief that they get into a person’s brain through the ear, hence the name. In actuality, earwigs are neither dangerous nor do they get into the brain; they are just crawling insects that are attracted to fruit and vegetables and in the process make their way into your home. Following are some tips on how to get rid of earwigs naturally.

Step 1: Keep Away from Green Plants

Stay clear of plants and vegetables in your garden that hold a special attraction for earwigs. These insects tend to congregate in great numbers there and if you happen to pick up that particular plant, they will get inside your home causing destruction. Avoid over watering the plants in your garden because earwigs like moist and damp places and conditions and this encourages their growth. Also spray soapy water on those plants that are close to your house to discourage earwigs.

Step 2: Use Vapor Lights

At night sodium vapor lights are better than bright white lights for earwigs because white lights attract the rest of the earwigs. White lights are acceptable if you want to catch the earwigs. Place a bowl of soapy water under the white lights, and the earwigs will fall into the bowl and drown.

Step 3: Trap Earwigs in Newspapers

Since earwigs like moist places and vegetable oil, try dampening a newspaper and rolling it up. Add drops of vegetable or fish oil in the newspaper and keep it where you know the earwigs will crawl into it. Soon after crawling into these newspapers they get stuck and be will be unable to crawl back out, eventually dying.

Step 4: Dry Out Moist Areas in and Around your House

Deal with all the moist areas in your house. Go all around your house and check out places like fountain, ponds or just general moist patches and dry them out. Remember earwigs are attracted to moist and damp areas and once dry, they will move away.

Step 5: Apply Boric Acid

Boric acid powder is a natural insecticide that is easily available and effective at killing all the bugs. Spread the boric acid evenly over all the suspect areas like windows fittings and doors, cracks and baseboards. Boric acid is digested by these insects and then it swells up in their stomachs killing them fast. Killing with boric acid is quick and easy provided you take extra care if you have children or pets in your house. Make sure you put the powder in places where the children or pets can’t get to it, like under or behind furniture.

Step 6: Keep a Clean House

Once the earwig menace is tackled, make sure they don’t come again. If you clean your house thoroughly checking every nook and cranny, chances are you will not have any problem with earwigs revisiting your home. Vacuuming is a great help in getting into difficult areas and removing earwigs that are hiding under furniture and boxes. Good luck!

Outsmart earwigs in-house and out

Taking extreme measures for earwig control is rarely necessary. Still, it doesn’t hurt to learn how to get rid of earwigs (or how to get rid of pincher bugs, a name used in certain regions). Just remember, treatment methods are always best handled and applied by professional service technicians.

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‟Earwig control should be carried out wherever this pest becomes numerous. Pest management options cover a range from partial control (physical methods) to near complete control (extensive insecticide application program). Both physical (crushing) and chemical methods can be used inside or outside of the home. Select the method or combination of methods best suited to your circumstances. For serious infestations, contact a commercial pest control operator.”

The University of California at Davis Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) adds, ‟Keep in mind that earwigs are omnivores and are beneficial in some situations, such as when they feed on aphids, and don’t need to be managed in (all) situations.” Here’s what you need to know about removing earwigs in and around your home.

How to kill earwigs on your property

Entomologists at Utah State University give excellent advice about earwig removal and control, saying:

‟For earwig control, focus on the outside of the home where populations increase during spring and summer. To reduce their entry into your home, create a clean, dry border using gravel or stone immediately around the foundation wall. Eliminate hiding places near the foundation such as groundcovers, climbing vines, weeds, thick mulches and vegetation and piles of debris, leaves or wood. Earwigs hide under mulches in plant beds during the day, so be sure to select mulches with smaller-sized particles to reduce refuges.

Seal cracks and crevices around windows, doors and cable holes in walls. Apply insecticides … around the foundation, flowerbeds and turf within several yards of the home. In late spring to early summer, suppress earwig populations by targeting sites where they congregate (sites where females brood their young), and on plants when injury appears.

Apply an effective insecticide in the late evening just before earwigs come out to feed. Recommended insecticides include permethrin, esfenvalerate, bifenthrin, pyrethrins, carbaryl, malathion, azadirachtin and diatomaceous earth. Use enough water in the application to cover plants and carry the chemical into the top layer of soil or mulch where earwigs hide. Not all insecticide products are registered for edible plants. Read the product label carefully before making an application.”

After uncontrollable hiding areas have been eliminated, the UC IPM explains how to get rid of earwigs using traps, advising:

‟A key element of an earwig management program is trapping. Place numerous traps throughout the yard, hiding the traps near shrubbery and ground cover plantings or against fences. A low-sided can, such as a cat food or tuna fish can, with 1/2 inch of oil in the bottom makes an excellent trap. Fish oil such as tuna fish oil is very attractive to earwigs, or vegetable oil with a drop of bacon grease can be used. These traps are most effective if sunk into the ground so the top of the can is at soil level. Dump captured earwigs and refill cans with oil.

Other common types of traps are a rolled-up newspaper, corrugated cardboard, bamboo tubes, or a short piece of hose. Place these traps on the soil near plants just before dark and shake accumulated earwigs out into a pail of soapy water in the morning. Earwigs can also be dropped into a sturdy plastic bag and crushed. Continue these procedures every day until you are no longer catching earwigs.”

Washington State University expands on this method of getting rid of earwigs, saying:

‟Quickly remove the cover of a hiding place, and then either physically destroy the earwigs or rapidly spray the area with a suitable pesticide. On tree trunks, wrap corrugated cardboard around the trunks to collect earwigs as they travel from ground to tree branches. At a suitable time (when they have collected inside the cardboard), remove it from the tree and physically destroy the earwigs.”

How to get rid of earwigs in my house

Getting rid of earwigs indoors requires a different approach, as pointed out by the UC IPM program:

‟Earwigs may seek refuge indoors when conditions outside are too dry, hot, or cold. Large accumulations of earwigs can be annoying but present no health hazards. Sweep or vacuum them up (be sure to kill and dispose of them promptly so they won’t reinvade) and seal entry points. Earwigs eventually die indoors because there is little for them to eat.”

They go on to say:

‟Insecticide treatments indoors aren’t recommended, since they will do little to prevent invasions.”

If you are set on using insecticides to get rid of earwigs inside your home, heed the advice of Washington State University entomologists, who warn:

‟Use a cyfluthrin-containing pesticide registered for indoor home use. Apply according to the directions, and only in areas where earwigs have been seen and physical control has only been partially successful.”

The easiest way to get rid of earwigs is to call Terminix® and get a free pest estimate to keep you and your family safe, especially during an earwig infestation.

Natural Methods for Getting Rid of Earwigs

Earwigs, also called pincher bugs, are small reddish-brown insects. They have a set of pincers at their rear end to use for defense. Earwigs are scavengers that feed on organic debris. They are commonly found in the garden and can get into your home. Earwigs may try to pinch you, but they cannot sting you or hurt you. You can control earwigs without using harsh chemicals.

Earwig Traps

Make your own earwig traps. Tightly roll damp newspaper, securing it with rubber bands, twist ties, clothespins or other suitable means. In the evening place the roll in the area that you have seen the earwigs. They are attracted to dampness and will enter the newspaper only to become unable to find their way out. Discard the newspaper roll containing the trapped earwigs in the morning. Seal the trap in a plastic bag before discarding it.

Earwig Spray

Mix a earwig spray repellent from household products. Add 2tbsp. of baking soda to an 8-oz. spray bottle filled with water. Shake well. Add 1 tsp. of dish-washing soap. Spray the repellent around plants, light fixtures and door frames to keep the earwigs away. You can also create a spray repellent from a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar.

Bury cans half full of beer in or near your garden. Bury it deep enough that the top of the can is even with the ground. The earwigs, attracted to the scent of beer, will fall in the can and drown.

Sticky Trap

Make a sticky trap to trap the earwigs. Cover a piece of cardboard with duct tape, sticky side up. Place the cardboard under couches, tables or anywhere you are bothered by earwigs. The insects will crawl across the trap and get stuck. Dispose of the entire trap, earwigs and all!

Seal Entrances

Earwigs often enter your home through doorways and areas near your foundation. Inspect your home for any gaps that they can enter through. Seal gaps near water pipes, baseboards and windows to prevent them from entering your home. Install a rubber door seal to keep them from coming through the front door.

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