Should you kill earwigs?

Earwigs are small, brown insects with distinctive pinchers on their abdomen. They are found worldwide and are often considered garden and household pests. But should you kill earwigs on sight or are they beneficial in some ways? Here are some quick answers to key questions about earwigs to help you decide:

Are earwigs dangerous? No, earwigs are not dangerous to humans, pets, or plants. They have pinchers to defend themselves but seldom bite. Their pinch is harmless.

Do earwigs damage plants? They can feed on plant matter but usually cause minimal damage. Heavy infestations may chew holes in leaves and flowers.

Are earwigs helpful predators? Yes, earwigs are omnivores and eat other small insects like aphids, mites, and fly eggs. They help control pests.

Do earwigs come inside homes? Yes, earwigs may enter homes by accident through small cracks and crevices. They do not infest structures.

Overall, earwigs play a beneficial role in gardens by preying on tiny pests. But they may damage some flowers and vegetables when in high numbers. Read on for more details to help inform your earwig control decisions.

Do Earwigs Bite, Sting, or Spread Disease?

Earwigs are not dangerous insects. Here are some key facts about earwigs and humans:

– Earwigs do not bite or sting. Their pinchers are for defense only and cannot break human skin.

– Earwig pinchers can grasp human skin and cause a slight pinch sensation. But they cannot cause injury or draw blood.

– Earwigs do not spread diseases to humans, pets, or plants. They do not bite like mosquitoes or ticks.

– Earwigs do not infest homes or human food. They cannot reproduce indoors.

– Earwig pinchers secrete a musky oil used in defense. The oil has a foul taste but is not toxic or harmful.

So while earwigs may look creepy, they pose no danger to people or pets. Their pinchers are harmless and used strictly to defend themselves from predators. Earwigs should not be feared as dangerous or disease-carrying pests.

Do Earwigs Damage Plants in Gardens?

Earwigs are omnivores and feed on a variety of plant and animal matter. When in high numbers, they may chew holes in plant leaves, petals, or soft fruits. But earwig plant damage is usually minor for the following reasons:

– They eat a wide variety of foods and do not focus on just one plant.

– Each earwig eats a very small amount of plant matter per day.

– Healthy plants can withstand minor cosmetic damage without impacting growth or production.

– Earwigs prefer munching on tiny insects, pollen, and mold over live plant tissue.

– The small holes left behind help increase air circulation and lower the risk of fungal diseases.

– Earwigs mostly feed at night and hide in dark, damp areas in daylight.

While they may take an occasional nibble, earwigs are unlikely to severely defoliate or kill a plant on their own. If plants show major damage, other pests are likely responsible.

Plants More Susceptible to Earwig Damage

Some plants may be more at risk of noticeable earwig damage:

– Seedlings – tender new growth may be clipped off.

– Flowers – petals are soft and appeal to earwigs.

– Ripe soft fruits – nibbles and holes may occur on strawberries, raspberries, etc.

– Corn silks – feeding may impact pollination and kernel development.

If earwig populations are high, they may contribute to cosmetic damage on these susceptible plants. But their feeding is rarely significant enough to cause large losses in yield or plant health.

Are Earwigs Beneficial Insects for Gardens?

Yes, earwigs are helpful predators that feed on garden pests. Here’s how they benefit gardens:

– Eat aphids, mites, slug eggs, and other soft-bodied insects.

– Consume moth eggs and young caterpillars.

– Feed on insect eggs hidden in plant crevices.

– Help control populations of tiny pests like thrips.

– Are active at night when other beneficial insects are inactive.

– Hide in daytime shelters near insect pests.

– Roam plants hunting for prey and plant debris to eat.

– Do not damage plant roots, stems, or structures. Focus on leaves, flowers, and fruits.

In essence, earwigs are generalist predators and serve as free pest control for gardens. Their feeding on other insects outweighs minor plant damage.

Encouraging Earwigs in Gardens

If earwigs are already present, you may want to take steps to conserve these beneficial insects:

– Avoid use of broad-spectrum insecticides that kill earwigs.

– Leave damp wooden debris as shelter for earwig populations.

– Maintain areas of tall plants and dense ground covers.

– Allow a small amount of moldy leaves and mulch to accumulate.

– Keep outdoor lighting to a minimum at night when earwigs roam and feed.

Providing a safe habitat will allow earwig numbers to thrive and keep infestations of tiny pests in check naturally.

Do Earwigs Come Inside Homes?

Earwigs are mainly outdoor insects but may find their way into homes by accident. Here is how they behave indoors:

– Cannot reproduce or establish populations inside homes.

– Enter through cracks, crevices, open windows, doors, or under siding.

– Often appear in homes after rainfall forces them to seek dry shelter.

– Attempt to escape back outdoors and do not spread deeper into buildings.

– Hide in dark, damp areas like basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

– Feed on mold, fabric lint, grease, and crumbs if plant matter is scarce indoors.

-May pinch if picked up or trapped against skin. Cannot break the skin.

Earwigs found inside are likely lost solitary insects that wandered in by mistake from their outdoor habitat. They do not purposely infest or nest in structures.

Location Prevention Tips
Doors Install door sweeps and weatherstripping
Windows Ensure tight seal when closed, use screens
Siding Caulk cracks and gaps in exterior walls
Vents Cover vent openings with fine mesh
Outdoors Reduce exterior lighting and moist debris

The above table outlines steps for sealing entry points and making the indoor environment less appealing to prevent occasional earwig invaders.

How to Get Rid of Earwigs

If earwigs become problematic in gardens or homes, it is fine to control them using these approaches:


– Create moist traps from rolled up cardboard or corrugated paper. Earwigs will hide in these during daylight. Throw away sealed traps in the morning.

– Use commercial traps designed for earwigs that have oil reservoirs to drown captured insects.

– Partially bury dishes filled with oil or soapy water under plants. The slippery sides prevent earwig escape.

Diatomaceous Earth

– Apply food-grade diatomaceous earth dust along garden beds, foundation walls, and potential indoor entry points. The sharp powder dehydrates and kills earwigs.


– Manually vacuum wandering earwigs in basements, garages, and storage sheds to remove them without insecticides.

Sticky Barrier Tape

– Wrap double-sided sticky tape around container plants, vine stems, or other surfaces to trap earwigs attempting to climb bushes and trees at night.


– Use natural insecticides containing oils, soaps, or boric acid instead of chemical pesticides which may kill beneficial insects too.

– Spot-spray insecticides directly onto clusters of earwigs rather than entire gardens to minimize impact on other species.

Key Takeaways

In summary, here are the key points to consider about earwigs:

– Earwigs are harmless to humans and pets, their pinchers cannot break skin or spread diseases.

– Minor plant damage from earwig feeding is usually aesthetic and does not affect plant health or production.

– Earwigs are beneficial predators that help control tiny insect pest populations.

– Occasional earwigs indoors are accidental invaders, not evidence of an infestation.

– Focus control methods on excluding earwigs from structures and targeting groups directly rather than entire landscapes.

– Maintain populations in gardens to allow their important role as natural pest control agents.

For the most part, earwigs are valuable insects to have around outdoors. Be selective about managing them only where they conflict directly with human interests. Their ability to devour garden pests usually outweighs the minor negatives. Carefully weigh whether earwigs truly need to be killed or if they can be tolerated or encouraged on your property.