What Kills Earwigs? Proven Effective & Safe Methods

An upside-down, dead earwig.

If you notice an increase in the number of earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, outside your home, chances are that at least a few of them will make their way inside eventually.

While earwigs are harmless, they are one of the least favorite insects to deal with, primarily due to their appearance, and people are often in a hurry to get rid of them as quickly as possible. 

What kills earwigs? Earwigs are killed easily with homemade traps, such as a wet paper towel tube or bowl of soapy water, and natural sprays made with alcohol or vinegar. Boric acid and other insecticides will kill earwigs as well when placed around entry points and foundations.

There’s no need to tolerate earwigs taking over your home and yard, as they can be easily controlled with a few simple steps.

Let’s take a look at several safe, homemade options as well as stronger solutions for major infestations so that you can get the problem under control quickly.

Killing Earwigs 101

There are several ways to kill earwigs inside and outside of your home.

In addition to implementing the suggestions below, be sure to read our article, “How to Get Rid of Earwigs” for more prevention methods and elimination strategies.

Also, removing as many attractants, such as damp hiding spots, as possible and maintaining conditions that earwigs hate, such as a clean yard, will give you a head start in your war on earwigs.

You should try several different methods until you find the most effective solution for your individual circumstances and preferences.

Natural Elimination

Nature itself (think circle of life) can wipe out large armies of earwigs outside before they can gain access to the inside of your home.

Earwig enemies include:

  • Birds.
  • Spiders.
  • Centipedes.
  • Yellow Jackets.
  • Frogs.

Birds are the biggest natural enemies of earwigs. If you’re looking for a way to kill earwigs easily, hang a bird feeder out in the yard. 

Another option is to set up a birdbath.

Since earwigs are attracted to standing water, they will scurry inside the birdbath, unknowingly serving themselves up as bird food.

Earwig Traps

Another effective way to kill earwigs both inside and out is to trap them.

By using what naturally attracts them as a way to lure them in, it’s easy to kill them inexpensively and effectively.

(See our complete list of earwig attractants here.)

Tube Trap

A wet, rolled-up newspaper secured with a rubber band, wet cardboard toilet paper roll, or wet paper towel roll all work well as a trap.

Set the trap in a dark location either indoors or outside where you frequently spot earwigs.

Leave the trap overnight as they are nocturnal insects and will come out looking for food after dark. 

In the morning, place the trap in a plastic bag, seal it shut, and throw it in the garbage.

You can also shake the trapped earwigs into a bowl of water combined with dish soap to drown them.

Oil Trap

Another good trap is an empty can, such as a tuna fish can, with a small amount of oil placed in inside.

Earwigs are attracted to oil, so the oil in the bottom of the tuna can works well to encourage them to crawl inside.

Tip: Add a little honey to make the trap even more enticing. 

Leave the tuna can near a popular earwig spot and discard in a sealed plastic bag in the morning.

Bowl Trap

A bowl of soapy water is all you need for this trap.

Dish soap is especially effective at trapping earwigs. They are attracted to the water, crawl into the bowl, and drown. 

Soapy water works both as an earwig trap and to drown them after using other traps.

DIY Sprays and Insecticides

By mixing ingredients typically found in your home, you can make your own spray that effectively kills earwigs.

  • Mix equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water, and spray around baseboards and vents, in crawl spaces, and directly on earwigs.
  • In a spray bottle, mix 1/3 part each of vinegar, dish soap, and water. Shake well, and spray directly on earwigs.

Another option is to use boric acid, as it is extremely effective at killing earwigs.

Sprinkle it near an earwig colony, and as they come in contact with it or ingest it, they will die in a few hours.

Boric acid can be purchased at any hardware or super store. 

Do not use boric acid anywhere near children or pets, as it is poisonous.

Pesticides

Over-the-counter pesticides can be purchased at any hardware or large home-goods retailer.

Insecticides, pesticides designed specifically to target insects, kill earwigs by attacking the digestive, pulmonary, and/or skeletal systems or by dehydration.

Read the product label carefully, as it will tell you if it specifically kills earwigs, instructions for proper use, and any other precautions or safety warnings.

There are several effective, professional-strength, earwig-killing pesticides (see our top recommendations here) that can be applied to the outside of your home to prevent earwigs from gaining access.

For example, Bonide Granules uses imidacloprid and lambda-cyhalothrin to effectively kill earwigs within 24 hours and continues to provide protection for three months.

Bonide (BND60360) - Insect and Grub Control, Outdoor Insecticide/Pesticide Granules (6 lb.)

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It is not recommended to use a professional-strength pesticide inside the home because it may be harmful to people and pets.

Plus, it does not keep earwigs from entering the home in the first place.

Call in the Professionals

If you’ve tried everything to kill earwigs and they continue to be a nuisance, call a professional pest management company to discuss a treatment plan.

Eliminate Outside Sources That Attract Earwigs

After the long, cold winter months when earwigs have been hibernating, they come out in full force once the weather warms up in mid to late spring.

Female earwigs hatch their eggs in early to midspring, which is why you find a large population of earwigs near the end of spring and summer.

Since earwigs live and reproduce outdoors, they seek out sources of food and places to hide during the day.

After winter melts away, the soil is wet, and the ground warms up.

There is usually a lot of yard waste left behind to clean up, such as dead leaves, weeds, grass, and branches.

These are the types of things earwigs are attracted to, and they’ll scout out these hot spots for living and nesting. 

Nocturnal and omnivorous insects, earwigs feed on both insects and plants. 

They thrive in gardens where they feast on other insects such as maggots, mites, and aphids. They also keep the garden neat by eating any dead or decomposing plants. 

If and when those food sources dry up, they will begin munching on healthy seedlings and leaves.

It’s possible for them to cause enough damage to severely harm or kill those once-healthy plants.

Since earwigs are scavengers, there isn’t much they won’t eat. Read our article, “What Do Earwigs Eat?” for a complete list of favorite earwig snacks.

If you are looking for earwigs outside, you only have to look for them in dark, wet places. Some of their favorite outdoor locations include: 

  • Moist soil and wet mulch.
  • Wet, dead, and/or decomposing leaves.
  • Brush and wood piles and other rotting wood.
  • Compost bins, garbage cans, and recycling bins.
  • Under wet patio furniture cushions.
  • In trees, long grass/weeds, and mossy areas.
  • Gutters and downspouts.
  • Sidewalk cracks and under sidewalks.
  • Watering cans or rain barrels.
  • Inside grills.
  • On and around porches, patios, and decks.

There aren’t too many places where you won’t find earwigs outside, especially in cooler, damp weather conditions.

Eliminate Indoor Sources That Attract Earwigs

There are a lot of things near your home that earwigs are instinctively drawn to.

Most of those things are a part of your home or surround the home’s foundation. 

Examples include:

  • Foundation cracks.
  • Gaps around windows and doors.
  • Gutters.
  • Yard lights.
  • Moss.
  • Dense vines, weeds, and gardens.
  • Mulch.
  • Decorative rocks.

Once earwigs settle in comfortably so close to your home, it’s only a matter of time before they make their way inside.

Additionally, if there is rotting wood anywhere on your home, earwigs are attracted to it.

As they bore into the splintered, wet wood, they may accidentally find their way inside.

Earwigs seek indoor shelter if the weather conditions change and become too wet, dry, hot, or cold.

Because they have flat bodies, it’s easy for them to crawl through small cracks in your home’s foundation or slink past damaged weatherstripping around doors and windows.

While female earwigs usually will not lay eggs inside your home, they will quickly begin to search for food, along with their male counterparts.

Food (crumbs, fruit, grease, oil) and water sources (leaky pipes, dripping faucets, floor drains, sinks, showers) are primary earwig attractants.

You will find them lurking in dark hiding spots near food and/or water.

Should you worry about being bitten when you run across earwigs? Find the answer here.

Summary

Taking the steps to prevent earwigs from coming inside your home is the best defense. 

Finding the right solutions to kill earwigs is a matter of preference, nuisance severity, and location. 

Choose natural remedies indoors whenever possible, such as alcohol and water; vinegar, dish soap and water; or boric acid.

Use professional-strength insecticides around the outside perimeter of your home to discourage, prevent, and kill earwigs if other options fail.

The information provided here may be all you need to defeat your earwig population, but if you’d like more information, don’t miss our other earwig articles for more tips and elimination solutions.

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