Gardening Advice: Managing Earwigs In The Garden

By Mary Ellen Ellis | June 9, 2020
by Mary Ellen Ellis
June 9, 2020

As a gardener, I expect pests. And most don’t creep me out too much. I’m used to them. One that really makes my skin crawl, though, and which seems to love my patio, garden, and containers, is earwigs. I’ve spent years battling these critters and we have reached a bit of a truce.

Earwig Pests and Petunias

As a kid, I grew up in a beautiful neighborhood with stately, tall oak trees. I didn’t appreciate it enough at the time, of course. In fact, I was even resentful. I developed an early love for gardening, but the shade in our yard limited plant choices.

As an adult with my own home and plenty of sun-soaked beds, I was finally able to plant my favorite annual that thrives in sun: petunias. Imagine my disappointment when, seemingly overnight, earwigs turned my pretty flowers into a tattered mess.

With a little research I learned that these critters love the conditions I provided. The moist, rich soil and mulch under my containers and in my flowerbed allowed them to thrive. They hide underneath and creep out at night to feast on the flowers.

My Tips and Tricks for Managing Earwigs

Pesticides were not an option. I prefer organic gardening, so over a few years I tried some different strategies. While I have never been able to totally eliminate earwigs in the garden this way, we have come to an understanding and they do much less damage now than in the past.

  • I let my flower bed with petunias dry out a little bit between watering. The flowers were happy, but the mulch did an adequate job of keeping moisture in so I could water less often.
  • I also put a little bit of diatomaceous earth around the petunias. I don’t want to kill all the insects, so I limit this.
  • I raise up my annual containers using bricks, taking away that particular hiding place for hungry earwig pests.
  • Occasional traps have also helped limit numbers where I don’t want earwigs. What I found works best is a cardboard box set out at night. A cereal box works well. In the morning they’ll move into the box for some damp shelter.
  • Last year I finally started a compost pile, a daunting activity that turned out to be easier than thought. I don’t know how much it helps, but when I collect earwigs in traps, I move them to the compost to put them to work breaking down organic material. 

I still have earwigs in the garden each year, but the problem is much less significant. My petunias look better than ever and I haven’t had to resort to chemical pesticides.

This article was last updated on
Read more about Backyard Stories
Did you find this helpful? Share it with your friends!

Browse Dozens of Our FREE Gardening Guides Today

Whether your dream garden is a houseplant sanctuary, a bountiful vegetable garden, a pollinator paradise, a bright and bold flower bed, or a backyard oasis – Gardening Know How has the perfect gardening guide just for you.

Click the button below to access more than 3 dozen of our completely free and completely comprehensive guides to growing your dream garden.

Join Us - Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips!