Although earwigs can be pests in their own right, they deserve more widespread recognition as beneficial predators. They help control the common aphid as well as the particular aphid species that attack apple, plum, pear, spirea, dogwood, flowering crabapple, and flowering quince, among others. While it is true that they may inflict minor damage in the garden, particularly to seedlings, their presence is generally far more beneficial than detrimental.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Earwigs are reddish brown with short, leathery forewings and pincers on the tip of the abdomen, and measure about 3/4 inch long. The earwig's biggest problem seems to be one of image: its scary-looking pincers and a name which derives from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "ear creature" evoke unfounded fears dating back to old Europe, whence they were first introduced. Nevertheless, while used as a defense mechanism against predators, the pincers are not a menace to people. Another image problem stems from sheer numbers: if people see large quantities of earwigs in their gardens, they are likely to attribute to them damage inflicted by other pests. Therefore, conduct a nighttime check with a flashlight to determine if earwigs are indeed responsible for the damage in question before you decide to reduce their numbers.

Integrated Pest Management Strategies

1. Mulch your garden. This will provide a complex soil surface with many organisms on which earwigs can feed and should prevent them from inflicting major damage on your plants.

2. Grow seedlings indoors and transplant them outdoors when they are large enough to sustain some damage.

3. Use traps. Unbaited bamboo tubes or rolled-up newspapers are good traps. Place any of these traps on the soil around dusk and check with a flashlight 12 hours later or the following morning. Shake trapped insects into a pail of soapy water to drown them.