Earwig Bugs (How to Kill, Control & Prevent Earwigs aka PINCHER Bugs)


Armed with pincers on their tails, earwigs attack decaying organic matter, fruit, leaves and other bugs. The common earwig, scientifically known as Forficula auricularia, also love the night life and you’re likely to find earwigs crawling in dark or damp places where they like to hide. As part of the “pest library” you can also find earwigs around the house’s foundation and areas near faucets.

What is a Pincher Bug or an Earwig?

In the past, people used to think that pincher bugs or earwigs as dark brown bed bugs that would crawl into one’s ears as they slept and burrowed into their brains, thanks to their impressive pincers. Earwigs are the only species of Dermaptera, an insect order that was first discovered over 200 years ago. Presently, you can find over 1000 species scattered around the world.

Earwigs come from the phrase ear wicga, which means ear jiggler. This name came from the bug having ear shaped legs. In Germany, they are known as ear worms while in France, they are referred to as ear piercers.

While you’re likely to find earwigs in almost any zone, they are more prevalent in Southern climates. Spotting them is never easy as they are quick movers and tend to hide during the day. If you happen to find one, you’ll notice them in damp spaces, plant material, and decaying wood. They can also be found in woodpiles and basements.

In N. America, they are referred to as auricularia, a European species first seen in Washington. They have now blown out throughout parts of Canada and in the US earwigs enjoy an active communal scene when they are not devouring plants. While they aren’t territorial, earwig nests can number in thousands as they live in a community setup.

Also, they eat other insects like army worms, maggots and aphids. While this may seem beneficial, the only problem is that they also feast on your garden.

Can Pincher Bugs Bite You?

Although there is an assumption that pincher bugs use their forceps to pinch, they are less likely to cause any wound as there would not be enough force. Instead, they utilize their forceps to catch prey and ward off their enemies like birds and toads.

A female earwig has short and straight pincers while the male has elongated and curved pinchers.

How Can You Identify Pincher Bugs?

Earwigs are weird looking insects that have forceps or pincers protruding from their abdomen. Although they may be scary to behold, they are not poisonous, nor do they spread disease. Adults range from 5 – 25 mm in size and have two pairs of wings. You’ll also notice a leathery appearance of the wings. However, the hind wings fold under the front wings and they are not as noticeable. The nymphs look like adults although they do not have wings.

It’s difficult to identify pincher bugs right away. However, by knowing their physical characteristics, what they eat, and where they hide, this will become easier.

Here are some easy ways to help identify earwigs:

  • Earwigs are swift. Moreover, they can fly. When ground litter is moved, they run away fast to avoid being trapped. They have two sets of wings and their forceps help to unfold the wings.
  • Pincher bugs are reddish-brown bugs that are three-quarter length and have tails that look like forceps. Their scary pincers are the reason they are referred to as pincher bugs. Their pincers are attached to the abdomen and they are also known as cerci.
  • Earwigs love to feast on decaying wood and plant material. They can also feed on fruit trees, vegetables like celery and lettuce, and ornamentals. Pincher bugs can be a damaging garden pest, especially if you have wet soil, food, and enough ground cover.
  • The female earwigs lay over forty eggs in secretive holes. These eggs are shielded and emerge after seven days. The nymphs appear as a small version of older pincher bugs and they shed their skin before reaching adulthood.
  • Pincher bugs are attracted to lights and can become a problem on patios and porches during summer. If you happen to leave things like cushions outside, you may find them gathered underneath.
  • A change in weather means that they have to look for food and this is the reason earwigs move into home during the cold season.

Earwigs Favorite Foods

Pincher bugs love to feast on compost piles and basements. They can also destroy your plants such as roses, lettuce, potatoes, dahlias, butterfly bushes, and even bean seedlings.

Earwig Damage

Pincher bug damage can be easily identified by certain signs like:

  • Leaves full of holes and some will appear jagged
  • Scattering of earwig excrement
  • Damaged plants in pots
  • Partially eaten leaves

How to Kill Earwigs

You can find a variety of pesticides and insecticides on the market that are meant to kill pincher bugs. However, sprays are not as effective as residual and granule earwig treatments. An indoor and outdoor earwig control regiment should be instituted for basic control and even treatment of large pincher bug infestations.

Insecticide dust, boric acid powder, and other earwig dust have pyrethrin which acts as earwig control agents. If treating the outside, ensure that the control agents are spread six to ten feet from the foundation outwards. Add in some water to help the agents sink into the ground where earwigs lay their eggs.

Also, you can use alcohol to kill earwigs. Alcohol acts as a wetting agent or surfactant. It penetrates the insect’s sticky coat of armor and kills on interaction with the bug’s body. Choose a rubbing alcohol that contains no extra ingredients. Alternatively, you can choose ethanol or grain alcohol rated at 70% strength. To make this repellant spray, mix equal parts of water and alcohol.

Methods to Control Earwigs

  • Get your Foundation in Order

Pincher bugs are attracted to damp areas like the foundation of your home. To control an earwig infestation, you need to clean the area around the foundation. Place some white and gravel stones around the foundation to encourage drainage and limit the attraction of pincher bugs.

Do not forget to create a dry zone that is next to the foundation. This area should be 12” wide to repel earwigs. Do away with logs, decorative stones, and firewood piles if you have them close to your foundation.

  • Drainage is Key

Do your down spouts and gutters drain away from the foundation? This is important to prevent moist areas which attract pincher bugs. Ensure that your irrigation systems are set properly to provide water in the morning and allow the landscape to dry.

  • Seal Openings and Cracks

Earwigs can access your home through ground level windows. They could also use any cracks available to gain entrance to your home. The only way to solve this is to seal and caulk any cracks. What’s more, ensure that all the food is placed in sealed containers.

  • Know Their Likely Places to Hide

Earwigs hide during the days in damp areas and are only active at night. Pincher bugs are likely to be found on your AC units, faucets, and foundation. Treat your perimeter with a pesticide killer. If you notice earwigs around your wood pile, sprinkle borax acid around the area. Boric acid is a natural insecticide and works if the earwigs pass through the powder.

Nevertheless, make sure to keep children and pets away when doing this.

  • Create Traps

Oil traps work well with earwigs. Combine olive oil and soy sauce in equal parts and place it in a plastic container. Secure the lid and punch holes near the lid. The holes should be large enough for the earwigs to fit in. Bury this container in the soil and leave the holes out. Earwigs are attracted to the soy sauce scent while the oil prevents them from escaping.

In addition, you can use a damp newspaper and a cardboard filled with straw and taped at one end. Place this trap near plants and dump the content into soapy water in the morning. A light-colored cloth under an infested plant also works wonders.

  • Use Petroleum Jelly

If you notice that earwigs spoil your plants and vegetables, apply some petroleum jelly around the stems. This will prevent pincher bugs from crawling over your plants.

  • Encourage Natural Predators

Earwigs do not like the presence of other animals when destroying your plants. One of the best ways to prevent an infestation is by encouraging natural predators like birds and toads in your yard. These animals eat pincher bugs and will help reduce their population. To encourage birds around your house, create shelter opportunities and have their favorite food sources such as plants they like.

Also, you can place nest boxes or a bird feeder to draw in birds. Plant trees and bushes that provide berries are also their favorite.

  • Insect Killer Granules

Apply some insect killer granules to the lawn and house’s foundation to repel or kill any earwigs present.

  • Do Away with Drafty or Loose Doors

Doors are an obvious entrance for pincher bugs. Check to see if the doorways have holes and cracks. In case of any opening, seal them with caulk or apply weather-stripping.

  • Vacuuming

If you notice that you have a large infestation of earwigs, one of the best ways to get rid of them is by vacuuming them. Ensure that the vacuum is ready as earwigs are very quick and they could easily scatter. Empty the vacuum bag in a sealed container and get rid of it right away. Do not forget to vacuum up white like objects which could be eggs.

Natural Ways to Control Earwigs

  • Use Essential oils

Essential oils work wonders and can be used to prevent pincher bugs. You can use lavender, clove, citrus, basil, and cinnamon. Spray these oils near garages, basements, and your foundation. Some essential oils can also be sprayed inside the house such as cedar, peppermint, eucalyptus, and citronella. To make this spray, use a gallon of water with a one-half ounce of the essential oil you choose.

  • Plant Deterrent Herbs

Herbs such as lemon thyme, basil, and mint can prevent the entry of pincher bugs and other insects. The best thing is that you can use these herbs for your cooking.

  • Sodium Lights

Sodium lights have less blue wave light. Earwigs are not attracted to sodium lights. This makes them perfect for your outdoor lighting as fewer earwigs will find their way into your house. Earwigs, being attracted to bright light, find sodium yellow-tinted light bulbs less attractive and this acts as a natural pest control method.

  • Apply Diatomaceous Earth

For long-lasting protection, apply some food grade Diatomaceous Earth. This formulation contains tiny aquatic organisms and kills by scoring the bug’s outer layer as it passes through the fine powder. DE contains no toxic poisons that could be harmful to your children or pets.

  • Boric Acid

Boric acid is fairly harmless to pets and human beings other brand names for this powder are sassolite, boracic acid, or orthoboric acid. When implementing a boric acid earwig control, ensure that you dust the areas that are difficult to reach in your home.

  • Check everything you bring inside

In some cases, pincher bugs move from the moist areas outside and into your home. To prevent them from crawling in, check for bugs in your vegetables, flowers, firewood, lawn furniture, and even laundry. Furthermore, avoid having mulch outside your home’s foundation.

Professional Assistance with Earwig Removal

If everything else doesn’t work, you can always rely on professional assistance to get rid of earwigs. Integrated pest management includes inspection, identification, and control. Using a professional pest control company ensures that you have access to the right equipment and products that will effectively control pincher bugs.

Earwigs can be a nuisance and problematic to deal with. However, by implementing the above tips, you should notice a change within a week. If you’re still struggling to rid your home of pincher bugs or you simply want more tips to prevent and eliminate the pests, get in touch with a pest control company for advice.

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