I used to think that earwigs were just creepy looking insects that did not real harm. They are said to feed on plant debris and hide out in damp corners. Apparently they mistook my Hosta plants for debris and riddled them with tears and holes.
What’s an Earwig?
I’m sure you seen earwigs before. They’re those scrambling insects that look like elongated beetles with a set of pincers at the tail end. The good news is they don’t bite people. But they can do a lot of damage to plants. Since they hang out in damp areas and under leaves, their damage is often blamed on slugs. (Before you start feeling badly for the slugs, they may be cohorts in the damage.)
What Do They Do to Plants?
Earwig damage is often rougher looking than slug damage, as though something has been tearing at the leaves. They can do a lot of damage in a short time and on a wide range of plants, including: butterfly bush, dahlias, hollyhocks, Hosta, sunflowers, not to mention cauliflower, lettuce, beans, and assorted fruits. And they’re pretty disgusting to look at, too.
Now, What Can We Do About Them?
If you suspect earwigs are damaging your plants, here are two way to trap them.
1. Roll up a piece of newspaper and place it under or near your plants. Do this on a dry evening. Thoroughly dampen the newspaper and leave it there overnight. In the morning, there should be several of the icky culprits hiding out inside. You’ll probably want to take a look, but do that over a pail of soapy water, because they can fall right out. Then toss them into the pail and dispose of the whole thing. You’ll need to do this a few times, to really cut down on the population.
2. I haven’t tried this method, but it seems earwigs are attracted to oil. Place a shallow can, like a cat food or tuna can, near the chewed up plants and add some vegetable oil to it. The earwigs will climb in and drown. Lovely. You can toss them out the next day and reset the traps.