How to get rid of earwigs: 8 ways to protect your backyard and home from pincher bugs

Discover how to get rid of earwigs if you've spotted these forceps-fronted pests damaging your plants and making an appearance inside your house

A vectorized graphic of earwig insect pests on salmon pink background with black capitalized text
(Image credit: Future)

Wondering how to get rid of earwigs? You've probably spotted them crawl out of a crevice, or seen the damage they've done to your backyard blooms.

Either way, these reddish-brown bugs make our skin (and ears) feel all itchy, so here's how to serve them their eviction notice with our advice on how to get rid of earwigs in your house.

When identifying these pests, you'll immediately notice their hard, long body with their trademark claw-like pincers. Typically, earwigs don't 'bite', so to speak, but may pinch at your finger as a defensive action to protect themselves from predators (and you). And, while you've probably not been so close to spot this detail, earwigs have skin wings. But we'll stop going into graphic detail before you barf.

Because of their nocturnal nature, you're likely to spot them in the evening and at night. But if you're partial to sitting outside in the morning to enjoy a cup of java, you may have seen the damage they can do to your flowers. They do have a particular fondness for Dahlias, chrysanthemums and clemantis, so it's common to see chomped petals, frayed foliage and other signs of foul play.

For cost's sake (and so you don't accidentally kill any helpful insects), we've put together a plethora of pest-control techniques, plus why you should consider letting them be. We've taken the nature-friendly middle ground which looks at the benefits of having a biodiverse backyard, while getting rid of these long-bodied invertibrae.

Top 3 Earwig deterrents

1. Diatomaceous earth: dehydrate the earwigs with this (opens in new tab) 

2. Borax: buy powder off Amazon (opens in new tab)

3. Rubbing alcohol: also known as isopropyl alcohol (opens in new tab)

1. Cover plants in petroleum jelly

Earwig walking among pink flowers in a summer vibrant gossamer light

(Image credit: Getty/Peter Vahlersvik (Creative #:1341131187))

What's vaseline (opens in new tab) got to do with earwigs, you might think? Well, while it doesn't kill the critters, it does deter them from eating your plants. This mineral-based wax is a super affordable and versatile product for not only healing wounds and dry lips but also creating a slippery surface to stop earwigs in their tracks.

Similarly, if you want to know how to stop squirrels from eating pumpkins this soft paraffin, petrolatum product will put an end to it all.

2. Sprinkle borax, with caution

Chances are if you've tried your hand at some sort of stain removal or laundry hack, you've got borax (opens in new tab) in the house. If you're trying to get rid of earwigs, you'll need to use sodium tetraborate sparingly, and make sure the kids or your furry friends don't ingest the stuff.

This substance is good for any awkward areas like baseboards and any closed-off or hard-to-monitor areas like under the fridge / sofa or the top of kitchen cupboards. You can use your handheld vacuum for a hands-free way to retrieve any dead bodies.

3. Create a DIY soy sauce / oil pit trap

Hands up who enjoys dunking gyoza into soy sauce? Maybe an stir-fry is more your thing. But it turns out earwigs enjoy the umami ingredient too. So, exploit this piece of info, and set up a bait-based trap they can't resist.

'If you're using this trap in your garden, place it in an area where you've noticed damage to the plants caused by earwigs.' advises Nick Greenwood, owner of Trap Anything (opens in new tab) blog.

'By burring it level with the ground it makes it easy for the earwigs to find it. They will be drawn in by the smell of the soy sauce and the oil will prevent them from being able to crawl out of the trap and they will drown. Since earwigs are nocturnal, make sure you leave the trap out overnight for best results. You can let the trap sit for a few days, then just dump out the earwigs and add some fresh oil and soy sauce.'

How to:

  1. Combine a 50:50 ratio of vegetable oil and soy sauce in a small vessel with a lid.
  2. Punch holes around the top of the container and replace the lid, then bury it so the holes are level with the ground.
  3. The pests will be attracted to the salty condiment and the oil will stop them from escaping.

4. Create a DIY newspaper trap

Not keen on killing the critters? Well, this method is a little more vegan-friendly and works by keeping earwigs contained, then transporting them away from your home.

Put simply, you'll need to lightly wet a newspaper (so it's damp, not soggy). Then roll it into a tube. The key thing here is not to make the shape too tight, otherwise the earwigs won't be able to enter your tabloid-based trap.

Naturally, earwigs love damp spots, so they'll be attracted to this moist confine. After a day or so, dispose of the rolled paper. You might want to schedule this with trash day so they aren't laying eggs in your trash can.

6. Kill them with rubbing alcohol

While we're all for using the best cleaning products and insecticides, they can be expensive (and not great if you have a young family or own a pet).

If you want to target the critters cheaply, try making a DIY insect killer. All you need to do is combine one part rubbing alcohol (opens in new tab) with 10 parts water, in a spray bottle. Then squirt the suckers with the solution.

7. Ditch them with diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous earth (opens in new tab) might sound like something you'd meddle with in a science class, but fear not, it's a natural crumbly fossilized algae that has earwig-eroding properties (to put it nicely).

Apply the white powder around plants that earwigs like to eat, or brush a fine layer directly on stems and leaves. Inside the house, you can use a small sieve to dust it around areas you've spotted the bugs surface.

8. Leave them alone

If you're trying to get rid of aphids, you might want to leave earwigs be. Naturally, these green pests form part of an earwig's diet so let it might be best to let nature take its course if aphids are attacking your roses or fruit trees.

Both pests can cause chaos in the garden, so you'll need to weigh up your plant priorities and work out any necessary evils. In the meantime, you can monitor earwig numbers and manually displace them (in a similar fashion to the newspaper hack), with this planter-based ploy that comes courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society.

They say: 'Trap earwigs by placing upturned flower pots loosely stuffed with hay or straw on canes among plants being attacked (This can also provide useful shelter when encouraging earwigs in fruit trees).'

'Every morning shake out the pots and remove the earwigs (Do not do this if encouraging earwigs in fruit trees). This may not protect plants when earwigs are abundant, but it is a useful means of monitoring their numbers.'

Christina Chrysostomou
Christina Chrysostomou

Christina joined the Real Homes team as a digital writer in June 2021. Prior to this, she worked for Good Homes magazine and home interest events including the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live. She lives close to Epping Forest and is spoiled for choice with lush green spaces, but loves her own English garden that adjoins her ground-floor maisonette, complete with a floral melange of roses, lavender, jasmine, and an apple tree.


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