How to Kill, Control & Prevent Earwigs

Active at night, they can chomp on your garden and infest your house. Take steps to control them.

Like boxelder bugs, millipedes, and mole crickets, earwigs enter homes by accident or when seeking shelter from cold temperatures in the fall or periods of hot, dry weather in the summer. They prefer to live outdoors in cool, damp areas.

What Is an Earwig?

There are more than twenty species of earwigs in the United States, and contrary to a popular myth, earwigs do not crawl into people's ears while they are sleeping and eat their brains. However, earwigs do frighten some people because of their pincers which are actually used to fend off predators, and spar with other earwigs for mating purposes. They are most active at night and will hide during the day in dark, damp areas of your yard.

Earwigs have elongated, flattened bodies that range in size from ¼- to 1-inch long. They vary in color from pale brown to reddish brown or black. Their most notable characteristic is the pincers on the back of their abdomen which makes them look very intimidating.

Where Do Earwigs Like to Hide?

Earwigs prefer to live in the same type of environment where you are also likely to find centipedes, millipedes, and roly-polies (sow bugs). You will find them hiding in cool, damp places in your yard like under rocks, mulch, leaf litter, wood piles, or other vegetation. You may also see them around your home's foundation, outdoor faucets, and air-conditioning units.

Some species of earwigs are attracted to lights at night and can become a nuisance on porches and patios in the evening during the summer. Then in the morning, they will hide under cushions, flowerpots, and other items left outside.

What Do Earwigs Eat?

Earwigs have a diverse diet. These insects are omnivorous, and eat primarily at night. Their diet consists mostly of both live and dead insects as well as decomposing plant materials. Occasionally, they will chew on plants in your landscape or vegetable garden.

How Do I Get Rid of Earwigs?

Earwigs come into our homes seeking food or to escape the weather. You will usually find them in places where there is water, like the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or in cool, damp places like basements and crawl spaces. The good news is earwig infestations inside your home are very rare. To kill earwigs you find inside your home use Ortho® Home Defense Max® Indoor Insect Barrier with Extended Reach Comfort Wand®, following label directions.

Outdoors, apply Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Lawn & Landscape in landscape beds, around listed edibles, and around the foundation of your home. Pay special attention to areas where earwigs like to hide during the day.

Preventing Future Problems

To help prevent future problems, start by eliminating their hiding places. Remove leaf piles, excess vegetation, and any stored wood from around the yard. Keep mulch, dead leaves, and other vegetation 6 to 12 inches away from your home's foundation. Finally, trim trees and shrubs to help eliminate damp, shady areas, especially near the house.

There are also steps you can take around and in your home to prevent future earwig problems. Check to make sure gutters and downspouts are clear and properly draining away from the house to prevent moisture build up that might attract earwigs. Seal and cracks and crevices around the foundation of your home. Check doors and windows and even attic and foundation vents for leaks, gaps, or tears in screens. Use a dehumidifier in the basement to help remove excess moisture, and repair any leaky faucets both inside and out.

Finally, create an insect barrier by applying Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter around the outside of your house, around door and window casings, and along baseboards to help stop earwigs outside before they can come in.