Earwigs In The Garden- Pest Control


Earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, are scary looking. Their scaly bodies and large pincer claws on their rears look menacing. Earwigs like to hide in dark, damp spaces which, in a vegetable garden, usually means the crevices of our cabbages, artichokes, lettuces, and the list could go on and on. I remember the first time we harvested a napa cabbage I was holding it in my bare hands and all of a sudden earwigs started dropping out as I walked towards the house. I shrieked and dropped the cabbage, which led a mass exodus all over our cement. It looked like something out of a horror movie and to this day I’m a little weary of newly harvested cabbage.

Regardless, in many cases earwigs are simply a nuisance and the food they inhabit is completely edible. In fact, with our napa cabbages they usually damage the outside leaves and the insides remain untouched. Either way, use caution when you bring produce inside and start processing your homegrown food. Tip: sometimes Sam and I tear off the outer leaves outside over our cement, so when the earwigs drop out we can just stomp on them and squish! Sorry, I know it sounds gross.

First, I always like to identify the pest I am dealing with before determining the best course of action. See below for a picture of earwig damage on my mature potatoes. You’ll notice the damage is more of a nuisance in this case rather than devastating. If you suspect earwigs, but haven’t seen them, try looking down in the crevices of the plant (like my artichoke picture above). If that doesn’t work, try a nocturnal investigative expedition. Sound funky? Bascially, earwigs are nocturnal, so you might have a better chance at seeing them chomping on your plants at night. Read on for different methods to control earwigs in your garden…

1) Manual Removal -this worked for us!

Earwigs are generally nocturnal. This is why you don’t really see them during the day, as they hide in those dark spaces of your plants. Since they typically feed on your garden at night, the best way to spot them is to take a flashlight and go out once it is dark. You’ll probably see earwigs feasting. I distinctly remember, back when our garden first started, earwigs were demolishing all my new seedlings. For an entire week, Sam and I went out at night with thick garden gloves and a flashlight and manually squished earwigs. We would find a hundred a night feasting on the leaves of our plants. I’m not kidding. With this very aggressive (and gross) method, we beat the earwigs!!! PS: you could drop them into a bucket of soapy water if the thought of squishing them is too much. While earwigs will always be in the garden, their population should be small enough that their damage would not take out entire plants.

2) Trapping Earwigs

Besides the manual squishing method outlined above, I decided to try some of the most popular earwig traps recommended online. See the results below.

♦Olive Oil & Soy Sauce/Molasses

At dusk time, take a dish (a little deeper is better so they can’t crawl out), fill it with a thin layer of one of these two mixtures:

Half Olive Oil & Half Soy Sauce

Half Olive Oil, Half Water, and 1 tsp Molasses

Bury it so the lip/edge is even with the soil level. Let the earwigs fall in as they feast at night! I didn’t notice a significant difference in the attraction abilities of either because both traps caught earwigs. The idea is that earwigs will be attracted to the smell, fall in, and then can’t escape because of the oil.

Cons: I did notice some little ants in these traps (see photos), so if you already have an abundant ant problem, you might want to skip this trap in fear that it would attract more ants to your garden. Also, if you have children or pets, you will want to keep them away from drinking the traps.

♦Newspaper or Cardboard Traps

Earwigs love to lounge in dark, cool places. This is why they will usually be under pots when you move them, in crevices, etc. So, this kind of trap aims to mimic a cool, dark crevice. Take newspaper (or cardboard), roll it into a tube,  and secure with tape. If you are using newspaper, make it a skinny tube. If you are using cardboard, roll it according to the photo below. Moisten the inside by running some water down it or misting the inside with a spray bottle. NOTE: newspaper gets damp very quickly so be really conservative with the amount of water. I used an old newsletter we had received in the mail which was a little thicker than newspaper.

Place these rolls on the ground around the base of your plants. I put mine right next to the bases of my artichokes. Make sure to place the rolls at dusk and then check in the morning.

In the morning, carefully collect the rolls (being careful not to tilt them!) and dump them into a bucket with water. I caught an earwig in each roll.

♦DIY Terra Cotta Pot Traps

This earwig trap is both adorable and effective. I did find that it took a few days to find earwigs in the trap, so I recommend this method for a more long-term, low-maintenance solution to your earwigs.

The idea: a terra cotta pot stuffed with newspaper mimics a flower’s petal crevices where earwigs typically like to hide.

You can use terra cotta pots of different sizes, but I find that a 3.5″-4″ pot isn’t too heavy to be supported by a branch, yet is large enough to create a good trap for earwigs. Simply take some newspaper and stuff it into the terra cotta pot. This mimics the dark folds and crevices that earwigs like to hide in during the daytime.

Take a thick branch and drive it into the soil where you would like the trap. Ideally, you want the terra cotta pot to sit at the same level as the flowers/blooms because thats where the earwigs usually find shelter. Place the terra cotta pot, upside down, on the thick branch.

To ensure the pot doesn’t fall down the stick, make sure the width of your branch is larger than the drainage hole of the pot, or that the branch has a knob that the pot can get stuck on.

Wait a few days and then check the trap during the day (as this is when earwigs are hiding in shelter). Since these traps look very cute in a cottage garden, you can leave them in long-term and periodically check for earwigs.


Remember, all of these methods are considered conservative approaches to dealing with pests. I like to exhaust my options or let beneficial bugs take care of the problem before moving to more aggressive methods. As our garden ages, I am seeing more and more benefits of letting things balance out. I know it can be tough, but the more I create this ecosystem and watch/observe, the more I see things working out on their own. Once again, gardening is teaching me patience.

Still Having Really Bad Earwig Issues?

I have written an article called “My Organic Pest Control Toolkit” that outlines some of the more severe means by which you can deal with pests. I only use these methods as a last resort! Remember, the goal is to have balance in the garden—-not insect free! Click here to read. Coming Soon!

PS: Tag me in your garden photos with #FreckledCA on Instagram!

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

For Growers & Gardeners from High Mowing Organic Seeds