Earwigs are destroying every sprout that is coming up. Anyone have good ideas on how to control them? I know that having some is good because they will eat aphids and such but I literally have millions of them.
They like dark places during the day... like a rolled up newspaper with a rubber band around them. They congregate--then you can hand pick. I am not clear what environmental conditions result in lots of earwigs. Never simple -- and seedlings must survive.
Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
Earwigs will eat seedlings if their favorite food is not available. Their first choice is usually decaying material. So, if you have some half finished compost, try mulching that around your seedlings. If you have fire ants, you want to keep the earwigs, as fire ants are like dessert to the earwigs.
Chickens or guineas will eat them. But then you run into the problem of either one taking a liking to your seedlings as well. Earwigs are nocturnal and they come out to feed at night and hide during the day like many other insects. I have to ask are your seedlings mulched giving the earwigs a place to hide during the day or are they sprouts from bare ground like in many gardens? If mulched and you have an abnormally high population (you can find out by turning over the mulch and watching for earwigs to run for cover) then I recommend removing the mulch and thus the daytime hiding spots for the nighttime earwig raids on your seedlings. If they are on bare ground then you need to look for the area(s) where the earwigs are hiding out when not eating your seedlings. Removing these hiding areas or turning them over while allowing chickens to have access to them will severely reduce the populations. BTW by having free or mostly free range poultry you have a good source for insect control. In fact chickens will scratch around and uncover hidden things like earwigs without you doing anything. You do need to watch new plants and even fence in gardens until plants grow and become well established (they don't call them chicken tractors because it's a cool name) but the chickens will do lots of insect control and some weeding for you as will ducks, geese, and guineas.
my yard was left to grow wild for the past 6 or 7 years by the previous homeowner who did absolutely no upkeep on the yard. Which initially seems like a good thing until you realize that the entire backyard was essentially a monoculture of english ivy. I have no removed the ivy for the most part and started to plant. Some of the areas have alot of decaying organic matter, some are just bare ground with little organic matter. Doesn't seem to matter, the earwigs find the sprouts regardless and they will eat the sprouts even in the areas with plenty of decaying plant matter.
I do have 4 hens. And I used to let them run around but they didn't seem to make an noticeable dent in the earwig population. They did however scratch and destroy new seedlings so they've been banished to their run until the plants are big enough to withstand some scratching.
I think the main problem is that they are hiding during the day. In the daytime, you can't find them. In the evening when I go outside with my flashlight, its like the entire backyard is a giant mat of earwigs. The whole surface of the ground is mobile with earwigs. It's amazing. If my chickens weren't sleeping at that time, they would have a complete field day with them.
I need to find a predator that will hunt them at night. I was thinking maybe a toad? but how the heck do i attract a toad in surburban southern california. I've talked to everyone here and NO ONE has ever seen a toad in my town. Maybe they aren't looking very hard. I don't know.
I will try the newspaper roll.
But I did also find out yesterday that an even bigger culprit are SLUGS!!! I now believe that slugs are causing just as much if not more of the damage. My chickens love them. I caught about 40 of them last night and put them in a jar and this morning threw them into the chicken run. They were all gone in about 30 seconds flat. But they are the same problem. Slugs are out at night when my chickens are asleep and during the daytime, I have no clue where they are hiding.
I have had some luck with traps. Use an empty tuna can like the good old slug beer trap, but put. A 1/4 inch of veg oil in it and they will fall in and drown. That said, I cant keep the buggers out of my artichokes. They munch on the young flower buds, but more annoying, they are very unappetizing to find steamed in between the leaves.
This is an old thread, but I have been having the same problem. Initially I thought the culprits were fungus gnats (which I did have a lot of at one point) but the damage progressed passed what the gnats were capable of. A night-time investigation revealed the pincher bugs/earwigs to be the real problem. They had done a good job of chewing down almost all of the new growth on parsley, carrots and radishes, and where now working their way through the beets, basil, beans, summer savory and tree collards. I'm assuming they started with what they liked best and then on to the next in line.
Managing with birds and fowl would be great, but again, this is a nocturnal problem that I don't believe songbirds and chickens would be much help with. Toads and such would be great, but sometimes you want more immediate action rather than waiting for a toad to take up residence. I have had good luck with the following:
- Oil/vinegar traps (setting out a can or shallow jar with water, oil, or cider vinegar to attract the earwigs and they drown in the liquid)
- Rolled up newspaper (wetting the newspaper works well)
- Manual head-pinch method
One thing I have not tried is diatomaceous earth. In theory it should work, but I could see a problem with it needing to stay dry for the greatest effect, so you would have to reapply regularly and place strategically.
I have heard of placing various herbs like mint and lemon-thyme to repel earwigs. I think your mileage would vary since I have not found an herb that was truly immune to them besides maybe rosemary (stronger essential oil).