Most of us accept earwigs as a fact of life. We see them outdoors, and then we go our separate ways.
When earwig populations get out of control, though, it’s time to pay attention. Large numbers of earwigs can eat your plants and take over your space. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with earwigs forever.
Keep reading to learn how to get rid of earwigs for good with a combination of our top DIY earwig control methods.
- Earwigs are common in gardens and moist, cool places in the home.
- There are more than 2,000 species of earwigs in the world, and they live everywhere except the polar areas of the globe.
- You can eliminate earwigs using DIY and chemical control methods, including homemade repellents and traps.
- Hiring a professional pest management company can be a great choice if your DIY control efforts fail or you need additional assistance getting rid of earwigs.
What are Earwigs?
Earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, are mean-looking insects native to Europe. Adults are about ¾” long with reddish-brown bodies and forceps-like pinchers on the ends of their abdomen.
The pinchers of males are thick, curved, and slightly separated, while females have straighter, thinner pinchers. Immature earwigs are smaller than adults but similar in appearance.
Earwigs are mostly nocturnal. They hide during the day in damp, moist, shaded areas of your home or garden and are active at night.
There are more than 2,000 species of earwigs worldwide and about 35 in North America. The most widespread is the common earwig.
What Problems do Earwigs Cause?
While earwigs look menacing, they’re unlikely to harm people. If attacked or threatened, an earwig may use its pincers to pinch a human, but the pincers don’t usually break the skin, and adverse reactions are rare in people.
In homes, earwigs are a nuisance, upsetting your peace of mind but not doing any real damage. In small numbers, earwigs may benefit your garden, consuming other mites and other pests and keeping plants healthy.
However, when earwig populations grow out of control, they feed on plant leaves, flowers, fruits, and buds. Swarms of earwigs can quickly decimate your garden, destroying young seedlings and causing large, irregular holes in plants.
What Attracts Earwigs to my Home and Garden?
If you’ve suddenly noticed high concentrations of earwigs in your home, yard, or garden, here are a few things that may be attracting them:
Earwigs love to eat soft, dying organic matter. In their natural habitats, earwigs eat leaves, flowers, fruits, buds, and other insects, including mites, aphids, and insect eggs.
Inside, an earwig’s diet includes man-made, high-starch food sources, such as flour, bread, and cookies.
Outside, earwigs shelter in damp, moist areas, like the space between a flowerpot and saucer, or in rotting organic matter.
Earwigs can’t live through harsh winter conditions, so they find their way indoors when the temperatures change.
Inside, earwigs are often found living in the trays of potted plants or damp, moist areas like the space under the sink.
They’re also common in basements and crawl spaces. Outside, they live under decaying leaf matter, mulch, or bark.
Signs of an Earwig Infestation
If you’re unsure whether you have an earwig infestation, look for these common signs:
- Foul smells. When scared or threatened, earwigs produce a yellow-brown secretion to ward off predators. While this secretion smells bad, it’s harmless to people. Another warning sign is a musty, moldy odor. Since earwigs congregate in damp areas, which are also prone to mold and mildew development, smelling mold may signify that ideal earwig habitat exists in your home.
- Dead plants and gnawed leaves. Outdoors, you may notice signs of earwig predation in your garden, especially on new growth. Pay close attention to any plants that are wilted, yellowed, or that suddenly have holes in their leaves. Inside, you may see holes in the leaves of your potted plants.
- Earwig sightings. The best way to confirm an earwig infestation is to see the insects within your home. Since these pests are nocturnal, you can spot them by using a bright light at night (earwigs are attracted to the glow) or by inspecting their hiding places, which tend to be basements, crawl spaces, the trays of potted plants, and other dark, moist areas.
- Earwig droppings. Earwig droppings are tiny, cylindrical, and black. They can be found near earwig hiding spots and are especially common in damp, dark corners and crevices.
How to Get Rid of Earwigs in Your Home
Sick of dealing with earwigs in your basement, bathroom, apartment, or house? Use these tips to get rid of them.
Get rid of earwigs in your home with these natural remedies:
1. Build a DIY trap
Looking for a pesticide-free way to get rid of earwigs? Consider making a DIY trap. Here are a few different methods:
- Cardboard or newspaper. One of the easiest methods to control earwigs is to use a magazine or rolled-up piece of cardboard and set it anywhere you’ve noticed earwig activity. Let it sit for a night. In the morning, pick it up and shake the earwigs into a bucket of soapy water, which will kill them.
- Soap and water. Make a lighted earwig trap to kill earwigs at night when they’re most active. Fill a bucket with four parts of warm water and 1 part of dish soap. Stir the mixture until it’s foamy, and then place it on the floor with a lamp shining onto the water’s surface. The earwigs will be drawn to the light, drop into the water, and drown.
- Soy sauce and oil. Pour equal parts soy sauce and vegetable oil into a plastic container. Seal the container and poke holes in the lid. The smell of the soy sauce will attract earwigs.
Pros: Easy, effective, affordable, non-toxic
Cons: Requires hands-on contact with the pests
2. Make a homemade earwig-killer spray
Make an alcohol-based earwig-killer spray by mixing equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a clean spray bottle.
Spray earwigs directly with the spray. The alcohol will penetrate the earwig’s protective coating and kill it immediately.
You can also use a spray bottle of warm water mixed with a few drops of dish soap. Spray the mixture onto the leaves of plants or in the damp corners of basements or crawl spaces.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting, non-toxic, safe for use around kids, food, and pets
Cons: Requires you to see and treat earwigs on contact
3. Use boric acid
Boric acid is a highly effective, natural insecticide that can kill earwigs on contact. Sprinkle boric acid in high-traffic areas where earwigs are likely to crawl through it.
Pros: Effective, fast-acting, kills earwigs on contact
Cons: Not safe for use around kids or pets
4. Vacuum up earwigs
Suck up adult earwigs on contact and go back over the area where you found them to collect any eggs that may be left behind.
Dispose of the vacuum bag in a tightly-sealed trash bag or empty the vacuum container into a bucket of soapy water to kill the bugs.
Pros: Effective, non-toxic, suitable for dealing with large quantities of earwigs
Cons: Will not eradicate hidden earwig populations
5. Use essential oils
Essential oils like citronella, lavender, and cinnamon can eliminate earwigs.
Simply place 3-4 drops onto a cotton ball and put the cotton ball anywhere you’ve noticed earwig activity. The scent is so strong it will keep earwigs from coming back.
Pros: Easy, affordable, effective, non-toxic
Cons: Will not kill earwigs
6. Reduce moisture
Reducing moisture will make your space less attractive for earwigs and other pests.
Here are a few tips:
- Fix any plumbing leaks, including leaks under sinks and indoor faucets or broken and leaky irrigation systems.
- Clean gutters and downspouts, which create damp places for earwigs to live. Additionally, ensure they’re draining properly away from your house to prevent water buildup that could attract earwigs.
- Avoid overwatering indoor and outdoor plants.
- Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture in your basement or crawl space.
Pros: Easy, effective, will reduce the numbers of earwigs and other pests, will protect your home from water damage, mold, and mildew
Cons: Will not kill earwigs
7. Remove or secure food sources
Earwigs are attracted to crumbs of human food and will infest pantries and kitchens. With this in mind, keep all potential food sources in airtight containers, clean up spills promptly, empty pet food routinely, and deep clean food preparation areas regularly.
Pros: Will make your space less appealing for all pests and promotes overall home hygiene
Cons: Will not kill existing earwigs, their eggs, or larvae
8. Seal cracks and gaps
Keep earwigs out of your home by using latex caulk to seal gaps and crevices around your windows, doors, and the foundation of your home. Repair or install screens and avoid leaving doors and windows open.
We also recommend adding door sweeps like these, which seal the gap beneath your door, keeping earwigs, drafts, and other bugs out of your home.
Pros: Easy, affordable, effective, non-toxic
Cons: Labor-intensive, requires annual maintenance
9. Clean up your yard
Remove earwig hiding places by removing leaf piles, fallen organic matter, excess vegetation, and woodpiles.
Keep mulch, dead leaves, and other vegetation at least 12” away from your home’s foundation, and trim shrubs to eliminate damp, shady areas near the house.
Pros: Reduces populations of earwigs and other pests and makes them less likely to come indoors
Cons: It takes a long time to control existing earwig populations effectively
10. Vacuum your home regularly
Keep up with earwigs and prevent them from taking over your home by vacuuming daily. In addition to sucking up adult earwigs, this process will also suck up the food crumbs they may be feeding on.
Pros: Removes adult earwigs, their eggs and larvae, and their food sources
Cons: Earwigs must be disposed of in soapy water to kill them or bagged securely and disposed of outside
If you have a severe earwig infestation, you may need to use insecticides to control the population.
11. Use Pesticides
The most effective earwig pesticides contain spinosad, sevin, malathion, or pyrethrins. These pesticides come in a variety of formats, including sprays and granules.
To kill earwigs, spray these pesticides anywhere you’ve noticed earwig infestation, being careful to adhere to all label directions.
For best results, apply the pesticides at night and combine chemical control methods with trapping and sanitation protocols.
Pros: Effective, fast- and long-acting
Cons: May not be safe for use around kids or pets, may contain toxic ingredients
12. Create a barrier
Create an insect-proof barrier around your home by using a perimeter pesticide.
Spray it around the outside of your house, as well as around your window and door casings and along baseboards.
This will kill earwigs and other bugs before they get a chance to come indoors.
Pros: Proactive, practical, good for preventing pests from entering the home
Cons: Requires regular reapplication
How to Get Rid of Earwigs in Your Garden
Want to get rid of earwigs in your garden, on your patio, or in your outdoor potted plants? Here are our top tips:
With Natural Remedies
1. Soapy water
Mix a few drops of organic liquid dish soap into a spray bottle filled with warm water.
Spray the mixture anywhere you’ve noticed earwig predation in your garden, or use it on your plants to keep earwigs off.
Pros: Easy, effective, fast-acting, non-toxic
Cons: Requires regular re-application, especially after a rainstorm or whenever you water your garden
2. Diatomaceous earth
Diatomaceous earth kills earwigs and other soft-bodied pests without toxins or harsh pesticides.
To control earwigs outdoors, sprinkle DE around the roots of your potted plants or crops or in garden areas where earwigs have been common.
Pros: Effective, affordable, non-toxic, fast-acting, suitable for controlling earwigs and other pests
Cons: Requires regular re-application
3. Vinegar or essential oils
The same essential oils you use indoors (like citronella, lavender, and cinnamon) can eliminate earwigs in your garden.
Simply mix 15 drops of the oil of your choice into 4 ounces of water. Spray the mixture anywhere you’ve noticed earwigs. While the mixture will not kill earwigs, it will repel them.
You can also mix ¼ cup white vinegar with a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. This mixture will kill earwigs but shouldn’t be used on plants since it will kill them.
Pros: Easy, affordable, effective, non-toxic
Cons: Essential oils will not kill earwigs, and vinegar may burn plants
4. Natural predators
Looking for a pet-friendly way to get rid of earwigs?
Attract natural predators like frogs, wolf spiders, centipedes, birds, and tachinid flies, which will consume earwigs and help keep populations in check.
Pros: Effective, affordable, safe for kids, pets, and the environment
Cons: Not a fast-acting solution
5. DIY Trap
Bury several half-empty containers of beer level with the groundline of your garden. The beer will attract the earwigs, who will fall in and drown. You can also use duct tape with its sticky side up to capture and trap earwigs.
Pros: Effective, affordable, easy to use, non-toxic, fast-acting
Cons: Requires you to replace and re-set traps
6. Naturally-derived pesticides
If you want to get rid of earwigs, you don’t always have to invest in hard-hitting chemicals. Instead, you can use products made from naturally derived compounds.
Two options we like are Essentria IC-3, which is a perimeter spray designed for use around the outside of your home, and Essentria Contact Spray, which is effective for use around the doors and windows of your home.
Pros: Non-toxic, safe for use around kids and pets
Cons: Requires regular re-application
7. Artificial drought
One easy way to get rid of earwigs in your garden is to keep the soil as dry as possible between watering cycles.
Because earwigs thrive on moisture, creating an artificial drought can make the area inhospitable for them and help control earwig populations.
Pros: Easy, effective, non-toxic
Cons: May not be feasible during hot or dry periods of the year, when plants will wilt and die without adequate water
With Chemical Methods
1. Spray pesticides
To eliminate earwigs in a particular area, consider spraying store-bought pesticides. These pesticides kill earwigs on contact and can help you reclaim your outdoor space.
Plus, they can help you kill earwigs in ornamental and edible gardens since many are rated for use on plants for human consumption.
Pros: These pesticides are quick-acting and easy to use, they kill earwigs on contact
Cons: These pesticides must be reapplied frequently
2. Granular pesticides and bait
While we don’t recommend spraying your yard with a liquid insecticide since this can kill beneficial insects and other non-target species, scatter baits like Niban granular bait are an effective, targeted way to get rid of earwigs.
Niban granular bait is designed for application in yards and gardens. It works when pests ingest the formula. This product contains 5% boric acid and targets a variety of garden pests, including earwigs, cockroaches, crickets, and ants.
To use granular pesticides, add them to a lawn spreader and take a few laps around your outdoor space.
When you water the granules, they release their active ingredients and kill earwigs on contact.
Pros: These products are quick-acting and easy to use, they kill earwigs quickly
Cons: These products must be reapplied regularly – especially after rain
How do Pest Control Companies Get Rid of Earwigs?
Here’s the process professional pest control companies use to eliminate earwigs indoors and outdoors:
Step 1: Inspection
First, the team will visit and inspect your property. During this inspection, they’ll assess the severity of the infestation and the degree of earwig damage.
Step 2: Treatment
Next, the team will deploy earwig treatments. Effective earwig management requires an integrated approach focusing on habitat management and complementary treatments like trapping and pesticides.
Step 3: Follow-up
After the initial treatment, the team will visit your property to assess progress and provide follow-up treatments, as needed.
Are Earwigs Invading Your Home or Garden? We’re Here to Help
Nobody wants to live with earwigs. Fortunately, you don’t have to!
Whether your DIY efforts have failed, or you want more support, contacting a local pest control company to help can be a great idea.
Fortunately, we have a broad network of reputable partners in your area that can help you eliminate mosquitos and reclaim our outdoor space.
Call (844) 598-0241 or send us a message to get a free earwig control quote
Earwig Control FAQs
Earwigs will seek out moist, dark places to nest once indoors. You’ll usually find them under kitchen and bathroom sinks or in basements and crawl spaces.
No. Earwigs have no venom and do not bite or sting. They are not poisonous to humans and are not known to spread harmful bacteria.
While some people claim that coffee grounds repel earwigs, there’s no evidence to suggest that’s true. We recommend using proven methods, like chemical and homemade repellents and traps.