Down Garden Services



Scientific Name: Forficula auricularia

Earwigs are omnivorous and feed on live or dead aphids, other small insects and some plant material. They tend to attack the petals, buds and flowers of ornamental plants, particularly clematis, chrysanthemums and dahlias; sometimes the soft tissue between leaf veins. They hide inside flowers and debris during the day, and feed at night. Earwigs like a narrow crevice to hide in during the day, preferring to have contact with the upper and lower surfaces of their body. This is probably how they got their name, when they crawled into the ears of people sleeping on straw beds - there is an 'old wives tale' that they attack eardrums, but there is no evidence for this. They also possess fan-like wings which are greatly folded under what looks like a golden waistcoat, but are rarely seen in flight. The male has curved pincers at the rear and females have straighter ones.

picture of a female earwig guarding her eggs
A female earwig guarding her eggs, found under a stone.

The female lays about 80 eggs in a nest underground or in rotting wood, between November and February. These take about 10 days to 3 months to develop depending on the temperature. The nymph goes through 4 changes over a 40 to 50 day period. The mother guards the eggs and the first stage of the nymph. After this the nymphs leave the nest and fend for themselves feeding on small invertabrates like aphids. They resemble the adult but are paler and lack wings.

Remove debris and hiding places close to vulnerable plants. Use inverted flower pots stuffed with newspaper or straw perched on a cane as a trap, check regularly and dispose of the contents or move them to another part of the garden where they can do no harm. Indeed if you don't grow prize flowers they are best left alone. The father of the famous author and barrister Sir John Mortimer waged constant war on earwigs as they attacked is dahlias and used the inverted pot method, then drowned them in a bucket of water.
If you want to hunt them down, try spraying them with soap and water. They will die right away.

Diatomaceous Earth is a mined product and consists of tiny fossilised diatom remains. It works by sticking to the exoskeleton of the earwig by static attraction and abrades it as it moves around resulting in holes which lead to dehydration and death. It is applied as a fine powder to paths and areas where crawling insects are present.