Earwigs can be a pest—and not just because of that scary old wives' tale that they will crawl into your ear and lay eggs (they won't!).
Earwigs are actually quite contradictory in that they can be both a garden pest, and beneficial to your garden at the same time. They're beneficial in compost piles and as pest predators because they eat garden pests like aphids, mites, and undesirable nematodes, as well as other insect larvae. Earwigs are actually omnivorous, and primarily feed on decaying organic matter as well as those pest insects.
(On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale's The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today.)
However, earwigs also unfortunately eat ornamental and vegetable plants, particularly dahlias, zinnias, butterfly bush, hollyhocks, lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, roses, and seedling beans and beets, as well as the silk of sweet corn, which makes them their own variety of garden pest. In gardens and greenhouses, they chew irregularly shaped holes in plant leaves and flower petals, tunnel into flower buds, and also consume seedlings.
Earwigs can also be a nuisance ouside of the garden because they are attracted to moist areas around and inside homes. They can become serious pests when they come indoors, and also when outdoor populations get out of control and wreak havoc on your garden.
Found throughout North America, these glossy, flattened insects are brown to black in color and measure ½ to 1 inch long. You can identify earwigs by their pair of curved pincers or forceps emerging from the tip of the abdomen. But don't worry—they rarely pinch. Adult earwigs may or may not have wings, but they rarely fly. Larvae resemble adults. The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is most problematic in northern areas; the ringlegged earwig (Euborellia annulipes) in the South.
Below are our best tips for where to find earwigs, and how best to control their population size naturally.