Earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, are a problem pest for many homeowners. You’ll see them crawling in your bathroom, near doorways, or under your kitchen sink. They love moisture, and even after you’ve removed one, another one shows up shortly after. Why are these menacing bugs so difficult to get rid of?
Earwigs are difficult to get rid of because they are small, nocturnal, and hide in areas that are difficult to reach such as small cracks, crevices, and inside drains. Earwigs live in moist places inside your home, such as basements, drawers, sinks, drains, and bathroom floors.
Below we’ll go over the 7 reasons why earwigs are so darn hard to get rid of, and what you can do to keep them out of your home for good.
1. Earwigs Are Hard To Get Rid Of Because They’re Small
This may seem obvious, but earwigs are pretty small. Being small has its advantages in the animal kingdom. Earwigs can slip in and out of places through very small openings.
According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earwigs range in size from ½ to 1 ¼ inches long. But their length isn’t how these creepy crawlers make their way inside, it’s their flat bodies. They are incredibly thin in height and can squeeze through the smallest cracks.
Being small is one of the reasons why earwigs are so hard to get rid of. You may think you have your house sealed uptight, but to an earwig, the smallest of openings can seem like a wide-open hallway.
The minuscule opening where a water pipe runs from inside to outside is easy for an earwig to pass through. The same can be said for small imperfections in your home’s foundation or tiny cracks in siding or facia.
Their small bodies combined with their cryptic coloration make them hard to detect on dark surfaces as well. They are reddish-brown and black, which means they blend in perfectly with a dark-colored background.
2. Earwigs Only Come Indoors At Certain Times
Another reason why earwigs are hard to get rid of is that they only come indoors during certain times, making treatment plans difficult.
Earwigs are found indoors most frequently in the summertime. According to Texas A&M University, they come indoors during droughts or times of prolonged heat to find cool, damp areas inside your home.
These intimidating pincher bugs love moisture. They will often come indoors seeking areas like your basement, garage, or bathroom where it’s cool and damp.
The problem with these seasonal bugs is that it can be difficult to establish a treatment plan when the bugs are only occasional visitors.
It can make many homeowners hesitate to buy commercial products or spend time with repellents when earwigs only come inside for a few months out of the year.
To combat this, it’s always a good idea to be as prepared as possible for earwigs. When you spot one, plan as if there are more coming.
Set out traps by filling an empty tuna can or cat food can with ½ inch of vegetable oil. The earwigs will be attracted to the oil but will not be able to escape it. Change out the traps each morning until you no longer have an earwig problem.
Studies such as the one done in the New Zealand Plant Protection Journal use corrugated cardboard rolls to attract earwigs.
Something like Paper Mart’s White Corrugated Paper Sheets will work perfectly. Get them a little damp and set them out in places where you’ve seen earwigs. The next morning, dispose of the paper sheet and the earwigs.
The most important thing to know about earwigs is that they are accidental visitors. They don’t want to be in your house – there’s not enough food to support them. Once you eliminate the few indoor earwigs, your problem should go away.
3. Earwigs Hide In Small Places
We talked a little bit about how earwigs are hard to get rid of because they are small and can fit through tiny cracks to enter your home.
Another reason being small is an advantage for earwigs is because they can hide in the smallest of places. This makes it difficult to find and eliminate them.
Some of the places that earwigs hide that can be difficult to reach include:
- In small cracks and crevices
- Beneath concrete slab
- Beneath planters and rugs
- Inside drains
- Beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks
Not only are some of these places impossible to reach, such as beneath concrete slabs, but others are just too small to fit our hands into to get the earwigs out.
4. Earwigs Are Not Attracted To Indoor Food Sources
A lot of critters can be controlled by simply eliminating food sources indoors. For example, almost all ants come indoors because they find food in your kitchen. Eliminate the food source and you eliminate your ant problem.
Earwigs are not so easily deterred, which can make them difficult to get rid of indoors. Instead of food, they are coming inside either by accident or because the weather is hot and dry and they are looking for cool, moist areas.
The good news is that you can deter earwigs from coming indoors by eliminating damp areas:
- Fix leaky faucets immediately
- Wipe down tubs after use
- Do not leave wet materials on the floor
- Avoid mulching within 3-4 feet of your home’s foundation
Following these few steps can help you get rid of these stubborn insects for good!
While earwigs may not be attracted to food sources, they’re deterred by certain scents and smells. You can read more about the 9 scents that earwigs hate here.
5. Earwigs Do Not Come Indoors In Large Numbers
This seems like a good thing, right? Well, sort of. Having large numbers of indoor insects like ladybugs or ants makes it easier to spot them and figure out where they are coming inside.
When you’re only spotting one earwig here and there, it can make it difficult to pinpoint where they are entering your home. One positive aspect of this is that you don’t have to worry about a huge infestation like you might with ants or cockroaches.
According to the University of Minnesota, earwigs do not cause damage while they are indoors and they rarely reproduce indoors because there is not enough food available.
This is great news for homeowners who spot these troublesome insects in their homes. However, it can be frustrating when you get rid of one earwig only to spot another one a few hours later in a different location or even the same spot!
6. Earwigs Are Hard To See Because They Are Nocturnal
Nocturnal creatures are more active at night. This is the time when they get up, stretch, and get ready to go find food.
Earwigs are nocturnal, which can make them difficult to get rid of because they are most active when we are asleep. It’s easy to catch a bug when it’s moving about and you can see it, but when it hides all day, it can be near impossible to find its hiding spots and get rid of them.
Sometimes you will see an earwig moving about during the day, but they are mostly nighttime insects. At night they go on the hunt for dead insects and decaying plant matter. Sometimes they will chow down on rotting fruit and even fresh plants.
Some of an earwig’s favorite foods include:
If you have any of these plants indoors and notice oddly-shaped holes in them, you may have earwigs visiting them at night. Outdoors, noticing earwig holes in these plants can give you an idea if you have a population near your home.
You can read about this more in our article on the plants that earwigs eat and how to stop them!
Earwigs can be beneficial to have outdoors as they feed on smaller pest insects like aphids and other scale insects. If the damage to your outdoor plants is insignificant, it may be beneficial to you to let the earwigs live as they can help control other pests.
However, when earwigs move indoors, it’s hard to ignore them. If you notice holes in your plants or have spotted an earwig or two roaming around at night, use your traps to get rid of them. Set them out each evening and empty them in the morning.
7. Earwigs Are Hard To Get Rid Of When Provided With Moisture
You may not know it, but you could be unintentionally attracting earwigs indoors because you are providing them with a moist environment.
Earwigs love to hang out in basements, garages, and bathrooms because these areas are typically cool, damp, wet, or all of the above.
When it’s hot and dry outside, earwigs look for cool areas to hide during the day such as beneath mulch, in wet soil, or beneath statues and potted plants.
There is no soil or mulch indoors, but earwigs will search for the next best thing. It could be a leaky faucet, a humid laundry room, or a damp garage. When using your tuna can or corrugated paper traps, focus your attention on these areas.
But just because you are finding earwigs indoors doesn’t mean the problem isn’t starting outdoors.
Mulching along the foundation of your home is one way that earwigs may be entering your home. Earwigs will live in the mulch and if there’s a tiny crack leading indoors, they’ll make a run for it.
Having trees or other vegetation touching your house or very close to your house can be another way you are unintentionally providing moisture to earwigs. The shade that these plants provide means rains and watering will stick around longer, which will attract earwigs.
Having potted plants on your porch is another sure way to attract earwigs close to your home and unintentionally invite them inside. They will hang out beneath potted plants where the drainage holes drip water. During the night they may hunt for food and find their way inside.
How To Remove Earwigs From Your Home
Having earwigs in your home is more of a nuisance than any real cause for concern. They do not damage wood, furniture, or clothing, and they cannot harm people. They do not bite and their pinchers may look menacing but they cannot do any real damage.
That doesn’t mean you want these stubborn bugs inside your home, though. To get rid of them, you have a few different options.
Use A Vacuum
Vacuum cleaners are a homeowner’s best friend when it comes to getting rid of bugs. There’s no contact between you and your home invader, and all you have to do is empty the bag to be rid of your pest.
With earwigs, vacuuming is a good option especially when earwigs are hiding in places where you can’t reach such as inside a crack or just inside a drain.
Note that earwigs can emit a foul-smelling liquid when frightened or handled. This yellow-brown liquid may stink up your vacuum cleaner hoses and bags.
You can use a stocking inside your vacuum to avoid staining your vacuum. Alternatively, you can rinse out your vacuum hose and container after use and leave them outside to dry and air out.
The best places to use your vacuum cleaner for earwigs are areas such as:
- Small cracks in wet areas
- Spaces beneath potted plants
- Spaces beneath your welcome mat
- Corners of garages, basements, and laundry rooms
Vacuuming can also eliminate dead plant material and dead insects, which will eliminate food sources for earwigs.
Use A Cup To Remove Them!
If you’d rather not use lethal methods to remove earwigs from your home, you can use the good ol’ cup method.
When you spot an earwig, grab a plastic cup and scoop the insect into it using paper, cardstock, or some other material to coax it into the cup.
The next step is important.
You want to take the earwig outside and place it somewhere that is even more enticing than your home. Your garden is an excellent place to put an earwig as they will have a good food source (aphids & other pest insects) and the moist soil serves as a good home.
If you’d rather not risk your garden plants, you can put the earwig in mulched landscape or near a tree where it can dig into the moist soil easily.
Use Earwig Traps
We talked about this earlier, but it bears repeating. You can use traps to remove earwigs from your home.
The reason traps work is because earwigs do not cluster in homes in large numbers and they do not reproduce inside. Once you get rid of the earwigs in your home, your earwig problem will be solved.
More earwigs may enter your home at a later time if you do not find and seal the entry point. But in the meantime, traps are a good way to remove problem earwigs.
You can use the tuna can/cat can method or corrugated paper, depending on your preferences. The vegetable oil in a can method will eliminate the earwigs, while the corrugated paper method gives you the option to place them outside.
Eliminate Earwig Attractants
Earwigs will not survive long in your home without a source of food and water. They also highly prefer moist areas to dry areas.
If you eliminate the things that attract earwigs indoors, you can greatly reduce if not eliminate indoor earwig populations.
To do this, you’ll want to remove both food sources and water sources:
- Keep pet food bowls elevated & clean spilled food
- Fix leaky faucets & pipes promptly
- Wipe down tubs after use to eliminate moisture
- Keep drains & pipes clean
- Change pet water bowls frequently
- Sweep/vacuum dead insects
- Remove decaying house plant matter and fallen leaves promptly
The less attractive your home is to an earwig, the less likely they are to enter your home in search of food and shelter.
Seal All Entry Points
If you’re seeing earwigs indoors, they are coming inside through some kind of opening that leads outside. If you can find this entry point and seal it, earwigs will no longer be able to come inside.
It can be difficult to find the entry point since earwigs are so small and can fit through the tiniest of spaces. Look for openings near your doors and windows, damaged siding or facia, damaged foundation, or even damaged roofing tiles.
Earwigs can use trees and shrubs as runways to your home’s roof and siding, and if they find an opening, they’ll sneak in. They have no problems getting vertical and climbing up a wall to get to an opening.
Once you find the opening, seal it up with caulking such as Gorilla White Silicone Sealant Caulk. This can be used on a variety of surfaces such as tile, painted surfaces, wood, trim, siding, vinyl, and concrete.
Make Your Yard Less Attractive To Earwigs
As we mentioned before, earwigs found inside the home are coming from outside. The less attractive your yard is, the less likely you’ll have earwigs both in your yard and in your home.
It’s impossible to eliminate every single earwig from your yard, but there are a few things you can do to make your yard less attractive and therefore reduce the population of earwigs in your yard and home.
- Water Deeply But Less Frequently: Watering your plants and garden every day is a surefire way to attract earwigs. The constantly-moist soil is the perfect environment for earwigs to thrive. Instead of watering frequently, try watering your garden and plants deeply but less frequently, allowing the soil to dry completely before re-watering.
- Keep Mulch Away From The Home: A good rule of thumb is to keep your landscaping mulch at least 3 feet from your home
- Trim Nearby Plants: Keep trees, shrubs, ivy, and other plants trimmed near your home. These can be runways for earwigs to enter your home.
- Improve Drainage: According to the University of California, keeping water and moisture away from your home can go a long way in controlling earwigs inside the home. Grade your lawn so that moisture flows away from the house and keep your drain spouts in good condition.
Final Thoughts On Getting Rid Of Earwigs Inside The Home
Earwigs are more of a nuisance than anything inside the home. They do not damage anything and do not bite or sting. However, their presence is still unnerving inside the home.
Earwigs can be especially hard to get rid of inside the house for a couple of different reasons:
- They’re small
- They only come indoors during certain times
- Earwigs hide in small places
- They aren’t attracted to food indoors
- Earwigs do not congregate in large numbers
- Earwigs are nocturnal
- If you provide moisture, earwigs will keep coming back
If you’re having problems with earwigs inside the home, you can try a few different tactics such as vacuuming, setting out traps, fixing leaky pipes, sealing entry points, and making your yard less attractive.
It’s never fun having creepy crawling insects inside your home. If you’d rather have a professional deal with your indoor earwigs, you can use our nationwide pest control finder to locate a professional near you!
Binns, M., Hoffmann, A., Helden, M. V., & Heddle, T. (2019, August 22). Earwigs – latest research on these damaging pests. Grains Research & Development Corporation.
Campos, M. R., Picanco, M. C., Martins, J. C., Tomaz, A. C., & Guedes, R. N. (2011, December). Insecticide selectivity and behavioral response of the earwig Doru luteipes. Crop Protection, 30(12), 1535-1540. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0261219411002699
Colvin, B., & Cranshaw, W. (2010). Comparison of Over-the-Counter Insecticides for Managing the European Earwig, Forficula auricularia L. (Dermaptera: Forficulidae). Southwestern Entomologist, 35(1), 69-74.
Huth, C., Schirra, K. J., Seitz, A., & Louis, F. (2011). A beneficial species becomes a pest – the common earwig Forficula auricularia (Linnaeus 1758). Integrated protection and production in viticulture, 67, 249-256.
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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