How to Get Rid of Earwigs: The Ultimate Guide

Learn what attracts earwigs to your property, best ways to get rid of them, and how to prevent the future infestation
By
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
reviewed
Reviewed By
Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: December 14, 2022
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The name “earwig” is such a misnomer. Also known as pincher bugs, they have nothing to do with ears at all; they’re not even interested. They’d much rather munch on leaves and flowers instead. They won’t even get anywhere near our ears, despite popular belief from the olden days. So why would anyone want to learn how to get rid of earwigs?

That’s because earwigs can be a destructive pest if left unchecked. Usually, they eat aphids, rotting organic matter, and other insects, but a swarm of them can seriously damage plants and trees. Does this sound like your problem? Continue reading to learn more about these pinchers and how to get rid of them.

How to Identify an Earwig?

The easiest way to identify an earwig is to look for the signature “forceps” at the end of their bodies. Earwigs use these forceps to defend themselves against predators and to help open their wings. Next, observe their color; earwigs are usually reddish brown and are about ¾ inch long. They also have wings, though they rarely use them. You’re more likely to see them crawling away from you.

These critters love hiding underneath dark and damp areas, so search for them underneath your garden pots, rocks, wood piles, and other potentially moist spots. Simply lift the item or stack, and you should immediately see them scurrying away. That’s because they love to congregate with each other during the day.

What Causes an Earwig Infestation?

If you’re looking at how to get rid of earwigs in the garden, remember that they like dark and damp environments. Stacks of old wood, piles of leaves, mulch, and even decorative rocks are perfect hiding spots for these pinchers. If you have many other insects in your garden and stacks of damp items littered around your yard, chances are you have some earwigs visiting you.

A few earwigs here and there usually aren’t enough to pose a problem. The main problem is when an entire colony is trying to take a bite out of the same leaf or plant.


They can also take a bite of your fruit before you can even enjoy them yourself. If you don’t want earwigs bothering you and your garden, make sure you’re not keeping items damp outside. Knowing what earwigs eat will also help you determine which plants are affected and how to treat them.

Signs of Earwig Infestation

Did you spot a stray earwig and are now worried that they might be more of them? A few earwigs here and there won’t hurt your garden, but an infestation can definitely cause problems. Keep an eye out for these signs:

  • Leaves of plants have holes, and the edges are ragged as if something took bites out of them.
  • Do not confuse earwig damage with slugs or snails. If your plants have slime trails, slugs and snails are the culprits.
  • Your plants show more signs of damage after a rainy day.
  • You find earwigs crawling away every time you lift the pot of a damaged plant.
  • You find signs of their droppings (they look like tiny black pellets) on the damaged plant.

Best Ways to Get Rid of Earwigs

If you determine that these crawlers are causing problems after your inspection, here’s how to get rid of earwigs, either in your house or in your garden.

Pesticides

You can always rely on the pesticides to eliminate these pests. They’ve been commercially proven to work, and professionals will likely use them as well. However, keep in mind that pesticides affect everything around them, so other beneficial insects will also get killed. And if you have pets around, they’re also at risk of accidentally ingesting the poison.

For planning how to get rid of earwigs pet friendly, take a look at the best pet safe ant killers. Most ant killers are also formulated to kill other insects, including earwigs. Talk about getting rid of two insects with one bottle!

Traps

Using traps can also be effective when thinking about how to get rid of earwigs in your house. If you don’t want to walk around the house with a bottle of spray, you can quietly trap them instead. They’re attracted to soy sauce’s scent, so combine it with oil and place it in a container. Make sure you punch enough holes on the container’s lid so that the earwigs can crawl in. The oil will prevent them from getting out of the container. Empty the trap every day and replace the mixture as needed.

To make your trap even more effective outdoors, consider placing a source of bright light near it. Earwigs are also attracted to lights during the evening, so they’re more likely to enter the soy sauce trap if the area around it is bright.

Natural Methods

Knowing how to get rid of earwigs naturally can be helpful if you want to keep your pets and other wildlife safe. This is especially helpful if you’re growing edible crops and they’re getting attacked; the last thing you need is accidentally ingesting the poison yourself! Here are some natural methods you can take when planning how to get rid of earwigs in potted plants and everywhere else:

  • Diatomaceous Earth, or DE for short, is great when you want a relatively hands-off earwig killer and deterrent. DE is non-toxic for humans; in fact, you can buy food-grade DE to add to your diet! Simply sprinkle it around any plants and trees you want to treat and watch it work its magic. Keep in mind that this won’t work during rainy weather as DE will get dissolved, so you’ll have to reapply it every time it rains.
  • Petroleum Jelly is another household item you wouldn’t expect when studying how to get rid of earwigs in your house naturally. All you need to do is rub a coat of petroleum jelly around the stem of any affected plants. If applying on a tree trunk, wrap a section of the base with plastic film before using the petroleum jelly. This stops the earwig from crawling up to the leaves, as the surface will be too slippery.
  • Rubbing alcohol or grain alcohol dissolved in water is a practical yet safe way to get rid of earwigs. Just mix equal parts alcohol and water in a spray bottle, and then you can start spraying it on earwigs directly. You can also spray this solution directly onto the leaf, but test it on a small area first to ensure it doesn’t affect the plant adversely.
  • Essential oils such as peppermint and lavender oil can also drive earwigs away. Create an all-in-one insect repellent by mixing 15-20 drops of essential oil with two ounces of water. Knowing how to get rid of earwigs with essential oils can be helpful when dealing with other insects later. And as a bonus, your home will smell wonderful!

Get Professional Help

If your plants and trees suffer from a heavy earwig infestation, or if they’ve invaded your house en masse, it might be time to throw in the towel and get professional help. Licensed exterminators can do a thorough examination of your property, and they can give you helpful advice on how to prevent a re-infestation. They can also use pesticides and repellents normally unavailable for public use.

How to Prevent an Earwig Infestation

Are the earwigs finally gone? It doesn’t take much for them to return, so here are some steps you can take to stop them from returning in your garden or inside your house.

Keep Earwigs Away From Your Garden

If earwigs were a nuisance in your garden or backyard, here’s how you can repel them and keep them away:

  • Dispose of dead leaves, lumber, or cardboard piles around your yard. Earwigs love to take refuge there, especially when damp.
  • Create a solution of water and a drop of dish soap. Spray this to the leaves of your plants to make them unappealing to eat.
  • Consider including structures that will attract birds into your yard. Birds love to eat insects such as earwigs.
  • Coat the plant stems and tree trunks with petroleum jelly. Reapply as needed.

Keep Earwigs from Entering Your House

If these pincher bugs somehow made their way into your house, don’t worry. Here’s how you can stop them from returning:

  • If you have mulch around your house, consider placing them away from the walls of your home to maintain some distance. If this isn’t possible, be careful when moving things from your yard to inside your house. Some earwigs may have hitched a ride.
  • Clean the gutters around your house to ensure there isn’t a buildup of damp dead leaves.
  • Check and repair any leaks inside and outside your house.
  • If there are cracks on your walls, make sure you fill them with caulk immediately.
  • Make sure there aren’t any overgrown vines attached to your house, especially near the bathroom window. Earwigs can get attracted to all the extra moisture generated in the bathroom. If you’re trying to plan how to get rid of earwigs in the bathroom, start by inspecting outside and eliminating any potential entry points they can use.
  • Keep damp items away from any spots where bright lights could shine. Earwigs are nocturnal but are attracted to bright lights, so if the environment is right for them and light is plentiful, they’re likely to stay there.

FAQ

Earwigs might not be something you’d worry about every day, but this changes when pets and potted plants are involved. Here’s how you can protect your beloved plants and pets while still driving earwigs away from them:

How to get rid of earwigs in potted plants?

If earwigs are attacking your potted plants, how to get rid of earwigs in potted plants will depend on where the plant is:

  • If they are outdoors, lift the pot and see if you can relocate it somewhere else. Make sure there aren’t any earwigs hanging off at the bottom; if so either sweep them away or kill them with a spray. Make sure you’re relocating the pot to a dry area. If relocation is impossible, you can try spraying the earwigs directly with pesticide, either a commercial or a homemade one.
  • If they are indoors, use your vacuum to immediately get them off your plant. Then, rub some petroleum jelly on the stems to prevent others from climbing up the plant. Avoid using chemical sprays indoors, especially if you have kids or pets.

How to get rid of earwigs pet friendly?

Trying to get rid of pests such as earwigs when you have pets can get tricky; after all, you don’t want them accidentally ingesting the poison instead! Here’s how to get rid of earwigs pet friendly:

  • Try spreading diatomaceous earth around the affected plant. Any earwigs that come into contact with DE will slowly dehydrate and die.
  • Spray the leaves with a dish soap solution. Pets won’t like the taste of soap, and neither will earwigs!
  • If you can keep the pets away, try spraying the earwigs directly with a homemade solution of rubbing alcohol and water. Because this solution kills earwigs on contact, this is ideal for spraying critters hiding underneath the plant pot.

Final Thoughts

Earwigs are not really a pest on their own; when there are a lot of them, they can get destructive very quickly. Knowing how to get rid of earwigs can be handy when the situation calls for it. And you don’t even need commercial earwig killers most of the time. Most homemade remedies and general housekeeping should be enough to keep the critters at bay.

But if somehow the infestation gets overwhelming, don’t fret. Professionals are always ready to lend their expertise to help you get your home and garden back to normal. As long as you’re diligent with preventive measures, your earwig problem shouldn’t rear its ugly head again once it’s done.