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Earwigs like to nibble soft, young leaves and petals, leaving large ragged holes. Older leaves may be stripped back to a skeleton of veins.

Find it on: clematis, dahlias, chrysanthemums and other plants
Time to act: spring, summer, autumn


Earwigs, which can be up to 14mm long, hide during the day and emerge at night to feed. The females lay eggs in late-winter, usually in the soil, which hatch in spring. Although earwigs can damage plants, they also eat small pests and their eggs, including aphids and codling moths, which attack apple and pear trees. You often find earwigs in holes in fruit, but they rarely caused the initial damage.


Earwigs like to nibble soft, young leaves and petals, leaving large ragged holes. Older leaves may be stripped back to a skeleton of veins.


To catch earwigs, exploit their habit of seeking out dark places to hide in during the day. Fill upturned flowerpots with straw or shredded paper, and place them on top of canes close to vulnerable plants with soft, new growth. Check the pots daily.

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Talkback: Earwigs
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lennypearce 24/11/2011 at 15:28

Hi l have been searching through my books looking for a treatment for earwig damage as they destroyed my daffodils leaves and petals right back to the core.
l have found your information in the pest section and l have found something called Hylex, can you tell me what this is and is it any good for earwigs.

dpayne 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I have earwigs in my greenhouse. Are they really a problem? Im a very novice gardner and dont really know which holes are caused by what.

pamfletcher 05/02/2012 at 13:00

I have found that washing up liquid mixed with water in a spray bottle kills earwigs in seconds, yes I know it sounds too good to be true, but it does work, although I would like to know if other beneficial creatures will also be effected. I collect the earwigs from upturned flower pots on canes filled with screwed up newspaper, and drop them in a trug and spray them ,away from any other creatures.

earlybirdellie 16/03/2012 at 08:20

The petals of over half of the dwarf daffodils planted in my lawn have been nibbled, making them look quite unsightly. This has never happened before. Having ruled out slugs and snails (no corpses visible after scattering of pellets), I wondered if it could be mice, but aren't daffoldils toxic or at least distasteful to mammals? Now I wonder if earwigs may be the culprits. I will try the organic method described above to confirm suspicions. Is there a less organic way to deal with them? Or could the blame for the damage lie elsewhere?

Emma Crawforth 16/03/2012 at 11:45

Hello earlybirdie,

Earwigs can be active at this time of year if it's warm enough. Unfortunately we've just had some unusually warm weather for the time of year so it looks like they've been active on plants we wouldn't normally associate them with. They can be helpful in the garden as they eat pests and decaying material so trapping them is often better than outright slaughter.

Another culprit is deer or muntjac, which are partial to spring flowers. Have you kept a watch at dawn and dusk?

Emma team

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