How To Get Rid of Earwigs In Your Vegetable Garden – Organically!

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Are you tired of your vegetable garden being overrun by creepy crawlies? Do you scream at the sight of an earwig? In this article, we’ll show you how to get rid of those pesky earwigs in your garden – organically! You read that right; we will do it naturally without harmful chemicals. 

But before we get started with traps, barriers, and organic control methods, we must first identify and understand where these little creepy crawlies live, breed, hide, and eat. Once we establish how they live, stopping their progression into a full-blown infestation is much easier. 

earwig taking up home inside of a pink flower.

Identifying Earwigs

Earwigs, or pincher bugs, are small insects with a dark brown or black leathery texture. They have pincer-like appendages at the end of their abdomen, used for defense, mating, and freaking you out. Earwigs are primarily active at night, feeding on decaying matter and live plant material, like your prized dahlias. 

They can be found worldwide, with the European earwig being the most common earwig species in North America.

How to Identify Earwig Damage in Your Garden

Recognizing the signs of an earwig infestation in your garden is crucial to addressing the issue before it becomes a severe problem. Unfortunately, earwigs typically feed on plant material at night, making catching them in the act difficult. However, some telltale signs can help you identify their presence:

  1. Irregular holes or jagged edges on leaves and petals: Earwigs chew on leaves, flowers, and fruits, creating irregular holes or notches along the edges. These holes can be small or large, depending on the earwig size.
  2. Damaged seedlings: Earwigs can also target young seedlings, chewing on their stems and leaves. This damage can stunt growth or even kill the plant if the damage is severe enough.
  3. Presence of earwigs or their droppings: Finding earwigs in your garden or under plant debris is a clear sign of their presence. Additionally, watch for their small, dark droppings found on leaves or other surfaces where they have been feeding.
earwig on a white background. Image is used so readers can easily identify earwigs in the garden.


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Common Plants Affected by Earwigs

While earwigs can feed on various plants, they prefer certain species. Some of the plants commonly affected by earwigs include:

  1. Lettuce
  2. Strawberries
  3. Dahlias
  4. Zinnias
  5. Roses
  6. Marigolds
  7. Corn
  8. Potatoes
  9. Beans
Natural closeup on the common European earwig, Forficula auricularia in a yellow buttercup flower

The Earwig Life Cycle and Its Impact on Healthy Plants

The earwig life cycle consists of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult earwig. Here’s a concise overview of each stage and how it impacts healthy plants:


Female earwigs lay eggs in the soil or other protected locations, where they guard and clean them. While in the egg stage, eggs have minimal impact, as immature earwigs have not yet started feeding on plant material.


When the eggs hatch, nymphs emerge and start feeding on decaying organic matter and small insects. As they develop through molts, they may consume plant material. Larvae can cause damage to plants by feeding on tender leaves, flowers, and fruits. This damage can result in stunted growth, defoliation, or reduced crop yields.


Adult earwigs eat on both plants and other insects. As a result, they can cause harm to plants by chewing irregular holes in leaves and flowers or by consuming seedlings and tender new growth. However, adultearwigs also play a beneficial role in the garden by preying on other pests, such as aphids and mites.

Understanding the earwig life cycle and its impact on plants can help gardeners implement effective control measures at the appropriate stages. By addressing earwig populations during the nymph and adult stages, you can minimize the damage they cause to healthy plants while benefiting from their role as natural predators of other pests.

Related: Are spider mites a problem in your garden? Learn how to identify and control spider mite infestations with this article.

earwig laying eggs in the garden.

Organic Prevention Methods

There are several organic methods organic gardeners can employ to help prevent or eradicate earwigs in their garden.

Maintain A Healthy Garden Environment

To prevent earwig infestations, it’s best to create a healthy garden environment that deters them and promotes the growth of beneficial organisms that will make it difficult for them to take up residency. To achieve this, there are three critical factors to consider:

Plant Diversity:

To avoid earwig infestations in your garden, it’s helpful to include a variety of plant species. 

Different plants attract various insects, some of which prey on earwigs. So by cultivating a wide range of plants, you’ll create a more balanced ecosystem that supports the natural predators of earwigs, ultimately reducing the risk of infestations.

Additionally, some plants are less attractive to earwigs and can be planted as a barrier to protect more vulnerable species. For example, growing strong-smelling herbs such as lavender, rosemary, or mint around susceptible plants and fruit trees can help deter earwigs.

Always be cautious with mint; always plant it with a barrier as it is highly invasive, will take over your garden quickly, and will be nearly impossible to remove.

an image of mint used in the garden as an example of a strong scented plant that may help deter earwigs in the garden.

Soil Health:

Maintaining healthy soil is crucial for optimal plant growth and pest prevention. Ensuring the soil is well-aerated, well-draining, and enriched with organic matter creates an environment supporting beneficial microorganisms. 

How does healthy soil combat pests?

First, healthy soil can promote plant growth and vigor, making plants more resistant to pest attacks. Healthy soil gives plants the nutrients and water to grow strong and healthy.

Also, healthy soil can foster a diverse and robust microbial community, including beneficial bacteria and fungi, to help regulate pest populations. It’s fascinating! These microorganisms can compete with pests for resources and produce natural compounds that can repel or kill pests.

Healthy soil can also improve soil structure, making it more difficult for pests to access plant roots. 

Finally, healthy soil can promote beneficial insect populations, such as predatory insects that feed on and control pest populations.

Keep The Garden Free of Debris

Keeping the garden clean is essential to controlling earwigs because it helps eliminate their hiding spots and breeding grounds. Earwigs are nocturnal insects that seek shelter during the day, often hiding in damp, dark, and cluttered areas away from the sunlight until dark. Therefore, maintaining a clean and tidy garden can reduce their preferred hiding grounds. As a result, they may move on to find somewhere more hospitable.

Here are some reasons why garden cleanliness is vital for earwig control:

Removal of hiding spots:

Clearing away garden debris, such as fallen leaves, dead or decaying plant matter, and piles of wood or stones, helps eliminate the dark and damp spaces where earwigs like to hide. This makes your garden less hospitable, potentially encouraging them to move elsewhere.

Reducing breeding sites:

Earwigs lay their eggs in moist, protected areas, often in cluttered and untidy gardens. Keeping your garden clean and removing potential breeding sites for garden plants can help reduce the number of reproducing earwigs, limiting their population growth.

Improved air circulation and sunlight penetration:

A clean and well-organized garden allows for better air circulation and sunlight penetration, which can help to dry out the soil surface and reduce the damp conditions that earwigs generally prefer.

Easier detection of infestations:

A clean and well-maintained garden makes it easier to spot the signs of earwig infestations, such as damaged plants or the presence of earwigs themselves. In addition, good visibility allows you to promptly address the problem before it becomes more severe.

Proper Watering Techniques:

Earwigs thrive in moist environments, so proper watering techniques can play a critical role in preventing their infestation. Overwatering your garden can create damp conditions that attract earwigs, while underwatering can stress plants, making them more vulnerable to pest damage.

To strike the right balance, follow these watering tips:

  • Water your plants early in the morning to allow the foliage to dry throughout the day. Watering earlier reduces the damp conditions that earwig favor. 
  • Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water directly to the roots of your plants, minimizing the moisture on the surface of the soil and foliage.
  • Monitor soil moisture regularly and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Ensure the soil is moist but not soggy wet. 
a watering can watering healthy pepper plants.  The image is used to show proper watering techniques.  The plants are not too close together, there are no excess weeds and the soil is not overwatered.

Invite or Introduce Natural Predators

Another effective organic prevention method involves introducing natural predators of earwigs into your garden. These predators help maintain a balanced ecosystem and can contribute to keeping earwig populations under control. Here are three key groups of natural predators to consider:


Certain bird species, like robins, bluebirds, wrens, and sparrows, can help keep earwigs at bay. These birds will welcome earwigs as a tasty snack!

You must create a friendly environment to attract these birds to your garden. This includes providing nesting habitats like birdhouses, shrubs, and trees and a source of fresh water like a birdbath or small pond. 

Various food sources, such as berries, seeds, and insects, will attract diverse birds to your garden.   

birds in a bird bath enjoying themselves. Birds make great pedators for earwigs.

Frogs and Toads:

If you want to keep the earwig population in your garden under control, it’s essential to attract natural predators like frogs and toads. Frogs and toads are a lovely addition to your garden’s ecosystem and help remove unwanted pests, including ticks. If you provide the right environment, you will be surprised how quickly they show up. 

These creatures play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem by feeding on various insects, including earwigs. 

To encourage them to make their home in your garden, consider building a shallow pond or water feature that is easily accessible. 

Also, create hiding places like rock piles, logs, or leaf litter to provide the necessary shelter and protection they need during the day. 

Frogs in a ponds with some floating greenery nearby.

Beneficial Insects:

Several species of beneficial insects are known to prey on earwigs, helping to reduce their numbers in your garden. Some of these beneficial insects include:

  • Ground beetles: These nocturnal insects are predators of many garden pests, including earwigs. To attract ground beetles, provide hiding spots such as rocks, logs, and leaf litter, and avoid using chemical pesticides that can harm them.
  • Tachinid flies: These parasitic flies lay their eggs on earwigs, and the hatched larvae feed on their host, eventually killing it. Tachinid flies are attracted to flowers with nectar, so planting a variety of flowering plants can encourage their presence.
  • Lacewings: Both adult lacewings and their larvae feed on various garden pests, including earwigs. Planting nectar-producing flowers such as dill, fennel, and cilantro can help attract lacewings to your garden.
A delicate looking lacewing on a green leaf.

Physical Barriers and Traps

In addition to creating a healthy garden environment and encouraging natural predators, you can employ physical barriers and traps to help control earwig populations. These methods can be highly effective and safe for organic gardening. Here are three types of physical obstacles and traps to consider:

Diatomaceous Earth:

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a natural, non-toxic powder made from the fossilized remains of microscopic aquatic organisms called diatoms. When earwigs come into contact with DE, the tiny, sharp particles cause damage to their exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and death.

To use diatomaceous earth as a barrier against earwigs, sprinkle a thin layer around the base of the affected plants or on the soil surface where earwigs are active. Be sure to use food-grade DE, and reapply after heavy rain or watering, as moisture can reduce its effectiveness.

A garden spade with diatomaceous earth  over some lettuce plants.

Sticky Traps:

Sticky traps are a simple and effective way to capture earwigs and other crawling pests. These traps have a flat surface coated with a sticky adhesive that ensnares any insects that crawl across it.

Place sticky traps against earwigs near the base of affected plants or where you’ve noticed earwig activity. Check the traps regularly and replace them when they become full or lose their stickiness. Be cautious when using sticky traps, as they can also capture beneficial insects.

Homemade Traps:

You can create simple, inexpensive, homemade traps to catch earwigs in your garden. One popular method involves using rolled-up damp newspaper or cardboard tubes. At night, you trap earwigs that will hide in these damp, dark spaces. Then, in the morning, you can collect the traps and dispose of the earwigs.

Another homemade trap option involves using shallow containers filled with a mixture of water and a small amount of vegetable oil or dish soap. The earwigs hide these traps near affected plants or areas with earwig activity. Again, the earwigs will be attracted to the water, but the oil or soap will break the surface tension, causing them to drown.

an earwig on a green blade of grass.

Organic Control Measures

You can turn to organic control measures when prevention methods and physical barriers are insufficient to control earwig populations. These methods effectively target earwigs while minimizing harm to beneficial insects and the environment. Here are four organic control measures to consider:

Neem Oil:

Neem oil is a natural, plant-based pesticide derived from the seeds of the neem tree. It acts as a repellent, antifeedant, and growth regulator, disrupting the life cycle of earwigs and other pests. To use neem oil against earwigs:

  1. Mix a neem oil concentrate with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and spray it directly onto affected plants.
  2. Apply the solution in the evening to minimize potential harm to pollinators and other beneficial insects.
  3.  Repeat the application every 7-14 days or as needed.

Insecticidal Soap:

Insecticidal soaps are a safe and effective way to control earwigs and other soft-bodied pests. These products work by breaking down the insect’s protective outer coating, causing them to dehydrate and die. To use insecticidal soap:

  1. Mix the soap concentrate with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and spray it directly onto earwigs and affected plants.
  2. Apply the solution in the early morning or late evening to avoid harm to pollinators and other beneficial insects.
  3. Repeat the application every 7-10 days or as needed.

Biological Control Agents:

Biological control agents are living organisms that help control pest populations.

One example of a biological control agent that targets earwigs is the parasitic nematode Steinernema carpocapsae. These microscopic worms enter the earwig’s body and release bacteria that kill the host within a few days. To use Steinernema carpocapsae against earwigs, mix the nematodes with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the solution to the soil around affected plants. Ensure the soil is moist before and after application to maximize nematode effectiveness.

Hand-picking and Manual Removal:

While it may be time-consuming, hand-picking and manual removal can effectively control small earwig infestations. To do this, simply collect earwigs by hand (eek!) or with a pair of tweezers, and place them in a container filled with soapy water to kill them. Hand-picking is most effective during the early morning or late evening when earwigs are most active.

By employing organic control measures such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, biological control agents, and hand-picking, you can effectively manage earwig infestations in your garden while maintaining a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

Pincher Bugs – Managed Organically

In conclusion, earwigs can be a frustrating pest for gardeners, but there are many effective and organic methods for controlling their populations. 

Gardeners can effectively manage earwig infestations while promoting a balanced and resilient ecosystem by creating a healthy garden environment, introducing natural predators, using physical barriers and traps, and employing organic control measures. By taking a proactive approach to earwig control and incorporating these methods into your gardening routine, you can enjoy a thriving and bountiful vegetable garden without the annoyance of earwig damage.

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