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Monday, May 2, 2016

Extension Line

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hang on tight! These curious bugs are invading our houses.

Earwig specimens have been coming in to various Extension offices in our region for identification. They are easy to recognize by the prominent pincers or forceps on the end of the abdomen. Adults are about 5/8 inch long and dark brown with a reddish head and pale yellow-brown legs.

Earwigs live outdoors and hide during the day in damp areas such as under mulch, dead leaves, logs, and piles of firewood, boards, stones and other debris. They also hide in flowers and in plants that provide some protection. Earwigs are active at night and wander in search of food and moisture. Earwigs feed on a wide variety of materials including decaying organic matter, other insects, and plants such as vegetables, flowers and ornamentals.

Like boxelder bugs, crickets and lady beetles, the earwig is a household pest as an accidental invader. They enter houses either by accident or when seeking shelter, especially in the fall or during periods of prolonged dry weather. Earwigs inside the house do not cause any harm or destruction. They are an annoyance because of their presence. If disturbed, earwigs may produce a noticeable foul odor.

Earwigs found inside the house can be swept or picked up and discarded. Indoor treatment with household residual insecticides such as for cockroaches could be used in cracks and crevices that serve as points of entry, and along baseboards, window sills and door thresholds. Such treatments may provide limited benefit as more earwigs may wander in from outdoors. In addition, eliminate damp, moist conditions near the house as much as possible. Repair dripping faucets and air-conditioning units and channel water from rain gutters and spouts away from the house foundation. Remove landscape mulch and debris (wood chips, gravel, old boards and bricks, etc.) from against the house and in areas of high earwig numbers.

Outdoors earwigs can cause damage to plants and it is particularly annoying when they feed on the flowers. Management of earwigs is not easy and there is probably no way to completely eliminate them from your yard. Consider trapping and physically destroying earwigs. Place burlap bags, boards, newspapers or other materials on the ground, then daily collect individuals that congregate under the cover and discard.

As a last resort, insecticides can be sprayed on plants to reduce damage. Select a home garden insecticide labeled for this purpose and apply according to label directions. Avoid applying insecticides to flowers because they will harm beneficial pollinating insects. Applications in late afternoon are preferred since earwigs feed at night.

Stop by the Extension Office and we can positively identify your bug for you. We also have publications that can help you control the spread of earwigs. Cherokee County Extension Office 209 Centennial Dr., Suite A Cherokee, IA 51012. Our phone number is 712-225-6196.

Extension programs are available to all without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.