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Earwigs are flourishing this season. Here's why, and what to do about it

Tuesday, July 20th 2021, 8:46 am - 'I've never seen so many earwigs in all the years that I've been here'

Warm summer weather has officially arrived on P.E.I. and while many Islanders are taking advantage of the heat, so are summertime pests. Especially earwigs.

Have you noticed more of them scurrying around your gardens, or in your home this year? According to Agriculture Canada entomologist Christine Noronha, you're not the only one.

"I've never seen so many earwigs in all the years that I've been here. There's a lot more. The population is a lot higher this year from what I can see."

Noronha said a number of factors are likely contributing to the abundance of earwigs this year, including record-breaking warm temperatures and humidity in June, which created the perfect conditions for the insects to flourish.

"That's when the females are laying their eggs and the eggs are hatching, so survival was probably really good because of the humid conditions," Noronha said.

Earwigs like dark, damp places like under flower pots and woodpiles. Noronha recommends moving those away from doors and windows to avoid getting earwigs in the house. (Brittany Spencer/CBC) Earwigs like dark, damp places like under flower pots and woodpiles. Noronha recommends moving those away from doors and windows to avoid getting earwigs in the house. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

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"When it's humid and it's warm, they grow faster. The eggs hatch faster."

Noronha said earwigs have a lifespan of about one year, and they usually create nests outside in the soil or underneath debris throughout the winter months. She said since last winter was quite mild, more adult earwigs likely survived and were able to lay eggs this spring — about 20 to 80 at a time.

"The combination of the two has probably produced this large population of earwigs right now."

PEST CONTROL PRODUCTS FLYING OFF THE SHELVES

Jamie Lewis, manager of Home Hardware in Charlottetown, said the pest control aisle has been one of the busiest in his store over the last few weeks, and many people are looking to get rid of earwigs.

"I think the biggest thing we're seeing with some people is just the sheer volume," he said. "When they hit a picnic table or a piece of wood ... or they move a planter, and they come bursting out from underneath, it's gross is the best way to describe it."

He said the store sells lots of pest control powders and sprays, and many of the products for earwigs have been hard to keep on the shelf. But a lot of people are also looking for less toxic options for pest control, especially if they have pets or small children.

His best advice?

"Soap and water is probably the biggest one," Lewis said.

This year many people are coming into the store in search of tank or pump garden sprayers that will allow them to cover bigger areas with the soapy mixture, faster.

Noronha said dish soap is a safe and effective way to keep earwigs under control, but you have to make sure you spray them with the mixture directly and keep up with spraying day after day.

Earwigs like small, dark and damp places so Noronha recommends leaving paper straws near your potted plants or dark corners to trap them. She also recommends keeping flower pots, woodpiles and garden boxes away from doors and windows to keep earwigs from coming inside.

Pixabay: Earwig (Credit: Buntysmum) Earwig (File photo. Pixabay/Buntysmum)

KEEP YOUR YARD AND GARDEN CLEAN

Soapy water can also be used to keep earwigs from scavenging in your garden and eating your plants. But according to Phil Ferraro, general manager of the Farm Centre and Legacy Garden in Charlottetown, the best defence against earwigs is keeping a tidy garden.

"The main thing is prevention, so cleaning up the garden, not leaving weeds that you pulled out of the garden laying on the ground because they like to eat decaying matter," Ferraro said.

He also recommends setting earwig traps, which can be made by mixing soy sauce and vegetable oil in a small can or dish and put into the ground, or placed around the house.

"The earwigs will be attracted to the smell of the soy sauce and the oil will prevent them from getting out of the trap."

He said earwigs can be annoying, but they aren't all bad.

"They do eat other insects and they do clean up the garden in terms of decaying matter."

They're also great food for birds, so putting out feeders in your yard is also a good way to keep earwigs under control, he said.

He said earwigs are also nocturnal and attracted to light. He recommends pointing any light sources away from your house at night to keep them from coming inside.

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YOUR EARS ARE SAFE

While finding earwigs in your yard or inside your house can be unsettling, Noronha said they don't pose a risk to human health. They're mostly just a nuisance.

But earwigs have been known to pinch people who get too close, so best not to try to pick them up.

And as for crawling inside your ears?

"No they won't. It's just a misconception that they will go into your ears," Noronha said.

This article, written by Brittany Spencer, was originally published for CBC News.

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