Earwigs are a suborder of insects known as Dermaptera. This group consists of more than two thousand species found in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
They often have long and flat bodies that allow them to squeeze into small spaces. Most of them are quite small, and the smallest one is approximately a quarter of an inch in length.
Do earwigs eat plants? The answers are given in the following sections.
Biology and habits of earwigs
The earwig’s pincers are one of its distinguishing features.
These parts are located in the insect’s abdomen. You can differ between females and males just from the shape of their pincers.
The male pincers are more curved. Most earwigs have wings, but a few species do not. They can fly, but you find this action is rare in nature.
Earwigs have a life expectancy of one year.
They shed their skin to grow a new one. It occurs between four and six times in their life.
They mate in autumn when a couple of earwigs are found together in autumn and winter. The majority of the species have a nocturnal habit.
They live mainly in places where organic debris, bark, or fallen wood is easy to find. However, certain earwigs from Hawaii and South Africa have also been discovered in caves.
Occasionally they invade homes and can be found on ceilings and walls. They do not cause severe damage and can be easily removed and replaced outdoors.
What do earwigs eat in nature?
In the garden, earwigs are a blessing. They feed on other insect pests. On the other side, they also consume a few plant species but usually minor damage.
The most vulnerable parts are flowers and young leaves. Small holes may appear, but these do not destroy the plants.
They prefer a cool, moist environment, so the risk is higher for any vegetation located in a dark spot of the garden. Those plants are foods with high potential for earwigs.
They feed on tiny invertebrates, and their pincers are occasionally used to hold onto their prey. Earwigs even have the urge to break their eggs to consume their siblings. Their baby is called a nymph.
Earwigs will eat anything dead or decaying
Earwigs help decompose organic material by consuming decaying waste. Composted grass, leaves, vegetables, and moist mulch are all tasty treats.
They consume nutrients, including the carbon contained in dying plants. Regarding dead animals, they are not picky. They even take larger animal carcasses. Eating them will provide much protein for the earwig.
Small insects and plants are also ideal
Earwigs will also eat live insects. However, the size should be small enough to take direction without conducting problems.
For example, the aphid is one of the top problems in the garden. This insect is smaller than an earwig. Gardeners should consider accepting the minor damage of eaten leaves to enjoy the earwigs’ ability to eat aphids. This method is a trade-off you should consider.
Mites, beetle larvae grubs, and small spiders are among the small creatures eaten by earwigs. You can use earwigs to overcome issues related to unwanted intruders in the garden.
They also consume algae, fungi, and moss. Unfortunately, these insects bring damage the vegetables and plants you want to grow. Dahlias, chrysanthemums, and clematis are particularly at risk.
Earwigs only come after sunset and feed their way through their favorite food, such as flowers and young leaves. Nevertheless, they also like to eat fruit and vegetables, and a whole range of them.
Radishes, chard, potatoes, and cabbage are popular vegetables for earwigs, while apricots, plums, and peaches are popular fruits.
Controlling earwigs in the garden
The most popular advice to get rid of earwigs in the garden is to reduce or eliminate damp, dark conditions in your garden.
However, it is virtually impossible to eliminate these conditions in a healthy garden. A well-maintained garden includes a compost heap and mulched beds.
Instead, make an effort to remove all unimportant materials that could create these conditions to minimize the number of places in your garden where earwigs can thrive.
You can also try creating barriers around the edges of the garden. Earwigs cannot move very far, especially in dry weather.
Earwigs can be kept out of garden beds by making a small trench of permanently dry material such as gravel or coarse sand.
Earwig traps and pesticides are used to remove them
Earwig traps can also be set up. Dampen a piece of newspaper and roll it up. Place the damp newspaper roll in the garden area where you have an earwig problem.
Leave it there overnight. The earwigs will burrow into the newspaper as it provides ideal conditions for them.
The following day, either burn the newspaper roll, douse it with hot water, or soak it in a water and bleach solution.
You can also use pesticides to get rid of earwigs, but be careful because pesticides kill both earwigs and beneficial insects such as ladybirds and butterflies.
This is a risky alternative, and you should be aware of the consequences. If the situation is out of control, this is the last resort.