Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Don't Wig Out Over Earwigs!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

During the summer, as you water your garden, you might find that a little pest is beginning to make a home in your produce.  The earwig, or European earwig, is a pest that you might find to be a nuisance as you spend time in your garden.

Earwigs mainly are a nuisance pest.  Their reputation is made worse by the widespread fear that many people have regarding these insects.  Several tales exist concerning alleged damage of earwigs: how they like to crawl into ears or how the forceps cause a painful pinch.  These stories have little basis in fact, although earwigs have been known to cause a mildly painful bite when sat upon or handled.  More than likely, their name comes from the fact that their wings are shaped like ears.
Earwigs like to live in dark and humid spaces and are active at night.  They are predators of other insects and they often feed on plant matter from leaves and flower petals to supplement their diets.  There is one generation of European earwigs but there are several earwigs present throughout the growing season.

Earwig control can be challenging.  Trapping can be effective, especially when combined with baits.  Many earwigs can be trapped which may help reduce numbers.  Traps can be of various designs but should produce dark hiding areas that the earwigs will seek out for daytime shelters. Rolled corrugated cardboard can be very effective, as can rolled or crumpled newspapers. Furthermore, the addition of some food bait within the shelter can greatly improve the use of a trap by earwigs.  Modifying the habitat to reduce available shelters for the earwigs can also help.  There are also insecticides available, including bait formulations, that can help reduce earwig numbers.  Bait formulations containing carbaryl as the active ingredient are listed as being effective. These are broadcast around the base of plants and are eaten by the insects.  Bait formulations are generally considered a means of using insecticides that have more selective effects compared to sprays. 

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