Earwigs are well-known insects that appear to be straight from a horror film. These pincher bugs can sometimes invade gardens and damage ornamentals, vegetable plants, and fruit. Where do these ferocious-looking bugs make their home and how can you get rid of them?
Earwigs dig tunnels in the soil and create nests referred to as ‘cells.’ These nests are typically located under loose soil, potted plants, dense vines, weeds, or leaf piles.
They may also be located in the soil under boards, mulch, stones, and rotting wood! Below, we’ll go over all the hiding places where earwigs may be nesting and go over a few tips on how to get rid of them.
Where Do Earwigs Make Nests In Your Yard?
If you’re seeing earwigs crawling around in the house or hanging out on your ornamental flowers, you may be wondering how to find their nest so you can get rid of them.
In general, earwigs will build their nest in the soil. Where they build their nest will depend on what is available in your yard. Earwigs like to dig nests beneath or near objects. Unlike ants, you won’t just see an opening in the soil to indicate an earwig nest.
You may have to lift things, look under stuff, and do a little creative thinking to locate these troublesome pests.
Earwigs burrow beneath potted plants
We aren’t talking about the potted plants on your porch or concrete walkway, we’re talking about potted plants that are sitting on the soil.
Earwigs want to have something near the surface of their burrow to hide the entrance from hungry predators.
A potted plant makes the perfect doorway to keep out enemies! Pots also help keep the soil shady and moist, which earwigs appreciate.
Check beneath your potted plants to see if you spot any earwigs. This indicates that there may be a nest beneath the soil.
Nests Can Be Found Beneath Weeds And Vines
Earwigs are nocturnal, coming out at night to munch on your plants. The reason earwigs love the nighttime is because it is typically cooler and higher in humidity.
The area under heavy weeds, vines, and leaf piles is shady, cool, and moist; the perfect environment for an earwig. Earwigs need moisture and shade to prevent their bodies from drying out.
In addition to the cool temperatures and moisture, weeds, vines, and leaf piles protect the entrance of an earwig nest.
It’s not recommended to grow groundcover like English ivy near a garden or near the foundation of your home, as this will encourage earwigs to invade these areas.
Some vining garden vegetables such as zucchini and cucumber can provide a good habitat for an earwig nest as well.
Earwigs rarely cause enough damage to harm vegetable plants, but if you have a severe infestation, it might be time to think about planting non-vining vegetables in the garden!
Earwigs Love Nesting Under Flat Stones
You’ve probably noticed a pattern by now—earwigs love building nests in soil that is kept shady and moist.
Have you ever lifted a stone on a warm sunny day and been surprised to feel cool, wet soil underneath? Maybe you spotted a worm or some other soil-dwelling critter.
The area under a stone is protected from the sun and retains moisture better than bare soil. This makes the perfect nesting location for an earwig.
Let’s not stop at just stones, though. Bricks, cement blocks, and paving stones can also be great nesting areas for earwigs, so keep a lookout for these common building materials around the yard.
Mulch Is Perfect For Earwig Nesting
Mulch comes in many different forms from shredded bark to gravel stone. It makes our yards look great, but it can also be the perfect nesting place for pesky earwigs.
Just like the other items on our list mulch is great protection for the entrance to an earwig nest and it also helps keep the soil cool and moist.
One thing that mulch does that some of the other items on our list don’t is keep the soil temperature comfortable. In the winter, mulch helps keep the soil warm to avoid freezing temperatures, and in the summer it keeps the soil cool to avoid overheating.
The same can be said for earwig nests, protecting them from the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer.
Earwigs Make Nests Under Rotting Wood
Not all earwigs live near people’s homes. Earwigs will thrive anywhere that has moisture and cool temperatures.
In their natural environment, earwigs often build nests beneath rotting wood such as a fallen tree or a rotting stump.
While you probably don’t have a rotten stump hanging around in your yard, you may have old boards, firewood, or stacks of unused material laying around the yard that makes a perfect nesting site for earwigs.
They’ll take advantage of the cool, damp earth beneath an unkempt stack of firewood or beneath old unused boards that have been laying around for years.
Loose Garden Soil Makes A Great Earwig Nest Site
Gardens are often a haven for insects and spiders who love dwelling in the nutrient-rich soil and feeding on the smaller insects that plague your veggies.
Earwigs love gardens too! Since gardens are usually tilled, the soil is very loose and easily dug. The loose soil provides an excellent nesting site for earwigs, making it less difficult to dig through the soil.
In addition to the loose soil, gardens provide earwigs with plenty to eat as they will feast on aphids and other small insects.
What Do Earwig Nests Look Like?
It can be quite difficult to search for an earwig nest if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Earwigs dig their nests in the soil, so you don’t need to worry about searching for them on concrete or bricks.
Earwig nests may appear as a depression in the ground or a short tunnel. It can be tricky to spot and is easier to find if you see an adult earwig around the area.
If you see tiny white ovals sitting inside the depression, those are the earwig eggs. You’re more likely to see these in the fall.
Most of the time, earwigs build their nests next to or beneath objects. You will rarely find an earwig nest that is out in the open.
How To Get Rid Of Earwigs Nesting In Your Yard
Once you realize you have an earwig problem, your next question is probably how to get rid of them!
While they may look scary, earwigs are beneficial to have around the garden. They eat a variety of pest insects like aphids that do a lot more damage than earwigs do.
According to a journal article in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, earwigs have a net positive role and are effective biological control agents for garden pests.
That being said, when earwigs begin invading the home or destroying plants, you may be dealing with an infestation that warrants taking steps to get rid of them!
Let’s take a look at all the ways to get rid of earwigs that are nesting around your yard!
Vegetable Oil Traps Work Well To Get Rid Of Earwigs
Earwigs are attracted to shrubs and plants where they can feed on plant matter and small insects. One easy way to get rid of earwigs is to use traps.
There are a few different substances you can use to bait earwigs into the trap:
- Vegetable oil
- Fish oil
- Bacon grease
The trap itself should be made from a small container such as a tuna fish can or a cat food can. These are ideal because they are shallow enough that the earwig can crawl into them but deep enough that they cannot crawl out once they fall into the oil.
To make an effective earwig trap, follow the below steps:
- Step 1: Fill empty tuna fish cans or cat food cans with ½ inch oil (vegetable oil, fish oil, or vegetable oil with bacon grease)
- Step 2: Choose a location where you have seen earwigs such as beneath a plant or shrub or near cracks in the paving stone.
- Step 3: Sink the trap into the ground so that the top is flush with the soil. This will make it easier for earwigs to fall into the trap.
- Step 4: Check the traps daily, empty them, and replace the oil.
- Step 5: Continue to use the traps until you are no longer catching earwigs.
Trapping is one of the most effective ways to get rid of earwigs and has the benefit of using no harsh chemicals or pesticides that can harm beneficial insects.
Another way that you can ‘trap’ earwigs is to set out moist corrugated cardboard or newspapers near places where you’ve seen earwigs.
During the day, earwigs will congregate to these items to hide from the harsh sun. Check them during the day and shake out the earwigs into soapy water to eliminate them.
If using newspaper, crinkle it up so that there are pockets and little tunnels that the earwigs can crawl through.
For corrugated board, you’ll want to use rolls such as Sunbelt’s 12 feet x 36” Single-face Corrugated B Flute Cardboard Roll. Crinkle this up similar to the newspaper and lay it out near plants and shrubs to trap earwigs.
Pick fruits As Soon As They Are Ripe
Earwigs are particularly fond of soft stone fruits like cherries, peaches, and apricots. They also like any soft fruit like those in the berry family: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
Earwigs may not nest in fruit, but they sure do like to eat it! Having rotting fruit or damaged fruit laying in the yard is a sure way to attract earwigs and encourage them to make a nest in your yard.
Be sure to pick fruit as soon as it ripens on the tree. Pick up and dispose of any fallen fruit that is rotting or otherwise unusable due to damage.
Try Dish Soap And Water
If you are brave enough to pick up earwigs or shoo them into a cup, you can use dish soap and water to eliminate them.
Just be aware that earwigs can give off a foul odor if they are smashed or if they are frightened. Also, despite their ferocious appearance, earwigs cannot harm you by using their pincers. They will, however, give a bite if they are scared.
Eliminate Nest Locations
We mentioned before that earwigs like to make their nests near objects or beneath them. Besides nesting, earwigs also like to hang out under things that keep the environment shady and moist.
Besides the nest locations listed above, earwigs may be hanging out in some of the below places:
- Under welcome mats: If your welcome mat isn’t placed under cover, the space beneath it will stay wet after heavy rain. Allow the mat and space beneath to dry out from time to time.
- In cracks in the pavement: Earwigs love hiding out in cracks in the pavement and bricks. Seal these off with caulking to prevent earwigs from moving in.
- Inside fruit that has been damaged by birds or other insects: Make sure to pick fruit as soon as it is ripe and clean up any fallen fruit as soon as possible.
- Under potted porch plants: Plants located on the porch may not contain earwig nests, but the area underneath will be damp from watering. When it’s sunny, move the potted plants to allow their normal resting place to dry out.
- Beneath leaf piles: Rake leaves in the fall and avoid letting them pile up near your home’s foundation.
- Behind outdoor wall hangings (porch decorations): After rain or foggy conditions, gently sweep the area behind your outdoor wall decorations to remove any hidden earwigs.
- Under piles of yard clippings, especially decaying plant matter: Earwigs love to eat decaying plant matter. Instead of dumping it in the yard, try to bag it up for trash pickup or place the debris pile far away from your home (here’s our full list of plants that earwigs love to eat.)
- Under old lumber boards: Keep your yard neat and tidy by eliminating unused boards and old materials that may become a hot spot for earwigs.
You can help keep those pesky pincher bugs away by eliminating potential hiding places.
Get Rid Of Moisture To Get Rid Of Earwigs
Earwigs love moisture. Naturally, they’re going to flock to places that offer them shade and moisture.
When watering the lawn, be sure to water thoroughly but infrequently. This will help dry the soil out in between waterings, making your yard less attractive to earwigs.
Fix any leaky pipes, drains, faucets, or sprinklers to keep excess moisture out of your yard.
Use Commercial Products
As a last resort, you can use commercial repellents and insecticides to control earwigs. These types of products should only be used when there is a severe infestation as most of these products will also affect beneficial insects that help control other pest insects
Earwigs seem to be particularly vulnerable to insecticides that contain spinosad. Monterey’s Sluggo Plus contains this chemical and can help combat problem earwigs.
You can read more about the best earwig sprays here.
If you want a natural option that can get rid of more pests than just earwigs, take a look at BugMD’s Pest Control Essential Oil Concentrate which can be used indoors!!
Do Earwigs Lay Eggs In Yards?
Like most insects, earwigs go through several different lifecycles before emerging as full-grown adults.
The lifecycle of an earwig includes:
- FIrst-instar nymph
- Second-instar nymph
- Third-instar nymph
- Fourth-instar nymph
Some earwigs may go through more or fewer nymph stages before becoming an adult, but there are generally 4 moltings.
Once an adult earwig finds a suitable nesting place, it will dig into the soil of your yard and create a cell where it lays around 30-60 eggs.
This egg-laying typically happens in the fall and winter.
Earwigs Are Protective Of Their Eggs
The animal kingdom can be harsh when first starting out. Some insects and animals are on their own as soon as they hatch or can walk.
Strangely enough, this is not the case with earwigs!
Mama earwigs are very protective of their babies! Nymphs are allowed to stay in the nest from when they hatch until they are ready to go out on their own, usually around May to June.
When earwigs first hatch, the mother earwig will protect and feed them up until they reach their second-instar nymph stage. Then, the earwigs remain in the cell but will go out at night to forage for themselves.
According to an article in the Journal of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, this motherly instinct increases the hatching success of her eggs and is especially effective at preventing other female earwigs from destroying the eggs.
In addition to protecting eggs from other females, earwigs will eat any mold that grows on the eggs to make sure they hatch. Gross but considerate, right?
Do Earwigs Lay Eggs In The House?
If you’re seeing earwigs in the house, you are probably not only creeped out but also concerned that they will spawn new little horrors inside your home.
Rest easy, earwigs do not lay eggs while they are in your house. They will only lay eggs outdoors in the soil.
While inside your home, earwigs don’t cause any harm except by being scary to look at. They will not eat your food, reproduce, or build nests inside the home. However, they may emit a foul-smelling odor if smashed or if they are frightened.
You can read about the most common places to find earwigs in the house here.
That’s A Wrap!
Earwigs may look ferocious, but they are harmless insects that can be beneficial to have around, especially in the garden.
When earwigs decide to make your home their home, it might be time to do a little digging and figure out where these troublesome bugs are coming from!
Earwigs build nests near or beneath objects that offer protection from the sun and predators. They like the environment to be cool and moist, which can give you a clue as to where they are hiding in your yard.
To recap, the 6 places where earwigs nest in your yard include:
- Beneath potted plants
- Under dense leaves, vines, or weeds
- Beneath rocks
- In and under mulch
- Beneath rotting wood
- Under loose soil in the garden
There are several steps you can take to get rid of earwigs, one of the most effective being the use of traps and modifying your yard so that it is less attractive to earwigs.
If all else fails, you can use insecticides and pesticides to try to eliminate earwigs, just be aware that they are beneficial to have around because they eat other pests such as aphids.
If you can’t locate any earwig nests but continue to see these horror film superstars in the house, consider reaching out to a professional to get some help! Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a professional in your area.
Miller, J.S., Rudolph, L. & Zink, A.G. Maternal nest defense reduces egg cannibalism by conspecific females in the maritime earwig Anisolabis maritima . Behav Ecol Sociobiol 65, 1873–1879 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-011-1196-0
Richard S. Zack, Dennis Strenge, Peter J. Landolt, Chris Looney “European Earwig, Forficula auricularia L. (Dermaptera: Forficulidae), at the Hanford Reach National Monument, Washington State,” Western North American Naturalist, 70(4), 441-445, (1 January 2011)
Robert J Orpet, David W Crowder, Vincent P Jones, Biology and Management of European Earwig in Orchards and Vineyards, Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2019, 21, https://doi.org/10.1093/jipm/pmz019
Seizi Suzuki, Progressive provisioning by the females of the earwig, Anisolabis maritima, increases the survival rate of the young, Journal of Insect Science, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2010, 184, https://doi.org/10.1673/031.010.14144
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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