Earwigs can be easily identified by their pincers at the tail, and antennae at the head. Their pincers are used as a defence mechanism, usually against other earwigs. There are around 2,000 different species with only four found in the UK. Adults can grow to a size between 5-25mm and have 6 legs.
Like other insects, earwigs produce a pheromone that acts as a marker to lead large groups in outdoor areas. They typically don’t pose a problem until their population gets out of control. The damage they cause is comparable to that of caterpillars or slugs: irregularly shaped holes in leaves and gnawing on shoots.
Earwigs feast on young sprouts or dying vegetation, preferring to hide in moist or damp conditions and becoming active at night, or when their cover has been disturbed. Like woodlice, they can be beneficial in garden areas, helping to break down garden waste. When living on fruit trees they target aphids as a food source, helping to protect your crop. Earwigs enter homes when seeking shelter from colder weather conditions.
Signs of infestation
Because they’re attracted to damp and moist areas you are more likely to spot earwigs in kitchens, bathrooms or utility rooms. Infestations of numerous earwigs are rare - you’re more likely to spot the odd few.
For a dry treatment in the home you may prefer to use chemical powders, such as the Defenders Ant Killer Powder or Zero In Ant & Crawling Insect Killer Powder; although labelled for ants, they’re effective on other crawling insects too, like earwigs. You may find these preferable for use near electrical supplies, where water-based treatments aren’t advisable. These powders can also be used outside and won’t affect plant growth.
There are also fast acting insect killers in Zero In, including Total Insect Killer available in an aerosol spray and water-based spray. The Zero In Ultra Power Natural Insect Killer Bomb is a one-shot aerosol that kills a variety of insect pests inside the home, including flies, fleas, bed bugs and earwigs.
- Remove places of shelter for the earwig. They like anywhere that’s dark and damp.
- Remove wood and plant pots from entry points to your house.
- Keep foliage from overgrowing, especially if it’s near your home, and clean up other garden litter regularly.
- Regularly clean guttering to stop the build-up of leaves and moss, which are ideal hiding and feasting places for earwigs.
- Seal up any cracks or broken seals where earwigs may gain entry.
- Deal with any damp issues within your home by increasing airflow, adding a dehumidifier or increasing heating.