There is no arguing that earwigs are not particularly attractive insects.
But are they as damaging as their unsightly appearance suggests?
And more importantly, are earwigs harmful to hydrangeas?
We look at the good and bad of earwigs and the role they play in garden life in this article.
So without further ado, earwig go (sorry).
Are Earwigs Harmful To Hydrangeas?
It is unlikely that earwigs will harm your hydrangeas. If you find a lot of them living on your plant it is probably because they like the dark and moist conditions it provides rather than because they are doing harm. They are unlikely to damage mature plants but have been known to cause problems for seedlings and soft fruit.
Generally Earwigs Do More Good Than Harm
On the whole the positive effects of earwigs outweigh the negative ones, and for the most part they are unlikely to harm your hydrangeas.
They are what I would describe as good guy predators, who feed off nuisances like aphids, mites and other insects that would otherwise attack your shrubs.
They also help clean up the environment as they love dead and decaying plant material and play a vital role in breaking it down so it can be of benefit to the soil.
Despite their menacing appearance earwigs very rarely use their fearsome-looking pincers, aside from during mating.
They also don’t carry any diseases.
If you are finding a lot of earwigs in your hydrangeas, they are most probably hiding in your flowers rather than doing them any damage.
That is because they are nocturnal insects preferring moist dark spaces.
They are also a food source themselves, with bats, lizards, mammals and a variety of birds feeding on them.
And believe it or not, earwigs are also pollinators.
Earwigs are also pollinators, although as they typically work at night you will rarely see them in action.
They are able to reach flowers that typical pollinators such as bees are less able to.
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But They Can Cause Some Issues
That isn’t to say earwigs aren’t without their downsides.
As with any insect, it isn’t all sunshine and roses, and they might have detrimental effects on some plants.
They have been known to chew on the tender growth of certain ornamental plants.
A sign of this is usually ragged edges or holes found on the leaves and petals of a plant.
For reasons unknown to researchers they tend to have a particular taste for clematis, hollyhocks, dahlias and zinnias.
The problems come when earwigs show up in large numbers, unsurprisingly that is when the damage they cause can be most devastating.
Earwigs also seem to target seedling plants as opposed to mature plants.
This is what the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program says:
“European earwigs feed on a variety of dead and living organisms, including insects, mites, and growing shoots of plants. They are voracious feeders on soft-bodied insects such as aphids and insect eggs and can exert significant biological control under some circumstances. In yards that are planted to turf and contain mature ornamental plants, damage by earwigs is unlikely to be of concern.”
“European earwigs can cause substantial damage to seedling plants and soft fruit as well as to sweet corn. Damaged seedlings may be missing all or parts of their leaves and stem. Leaves on older plants, including fruit trees, have numerous irregular holes or are chewed around the edges. This damage may resemble that caused by caterpillars. Look for webbing, frass (excrement), or pupae that would indicate the presence of caterpillars.”
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Despite its name, the European Earwig is widespread across the USA as well.
Although they much prefer the damp, moist and dark confines of the outdoors earwigs can also find their way inside.
Sometimes they will accidentally be carried in on newspapers or plants for instance, sometimes they may find their own way inside during hot spells to look for moisture.
When they are inside they can be difficult to remove and will hide in cracks or crevices.
How to Remove Earwigs
If you are looking to completely remove earwigs from your garden, then I have got some bad news for you.
It is pretty much impossible.
To do so you would need to eliminate all moist and dark spots anywhere in your yard, and doing that would essentially kill a number of your plants.
Barriers Can Help
Barriers around the edges of your garden can help.
Dry material around garden beds will help keep earwigs away as they can’t travel far over dry conditions.
Earwigs Love Newspapers
Although not to read of course.
One of the easiest ways to get rid of earwigs is to put a short cane or canes in the ground around a plant that is particularly popular with earwigs.
Then stuff an empty plant pot with a slightly damp newspaper.
At night earwigs will be attracted to the moist dark environment of the paper and crawl up into the pot.
In the morning all you need to do is remove the pot and get rid of them.
For a simpler version of this trap just roll up a newspaper and slightly dampen it and place it on the ground in an area that you have problems with.
Again the earwigs will be attracted to the paper.
In the morning the paper will be full of them, and all you will need to do is pick it up and dispose of them.
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Get an empty food can.
Bury it up to the rim in your garden beds.
Then fill a third of it with water and add some vegetable oil and a few drops of soy sauce to the surface.
Earwigs will be attracted to the scent and crawl in and unfortunately drown (for them, not for you).
Rinse and repeat until the population diminishes.
When it comes to hydrangea, earwigs pose little threat.
They can be a problem for seedling plants, soft fruit and sweetcorn, but for whatever reason seem to leave hydrangeas alone generally.
But if you do notice the leaves or petals of your hydrangeas look ragged as if they have been nibbled at, and you are certain earwigs might be the culprits, there are ways to get rid of them.
Just remember that earwigs also have a beneficial impact on your garden by getting rid of nuisance pests like aphids and mites.
They also clean up dead and decaying plants.
So if you do decide you want to get rid of them, weigh up the pros and cons first.