gardening,  I'm an idiot,  the sticks

Bug Hunting

Bug as an earwig

It seems we have an infestation of earwigs in my garden. They’re rampant. You know how sometimes grasshoppers take over like a plague? It happens every seven years or so and you can’t walk without stepping on a grasshopper? No? I guess that’s just me. I’ve lived through a couple of those and they eat everything! It’s crazy.

It was great when it happened when I was a kid visiting my uncle’s ranch. We used the easily-caught grasshoppers (who practically flew onto our hooks) for bait for fishing and after a while they stopped creeping me out. But other than that one time, I just hate bugs. I especially hate bugs who eat my plants. I hate them with a vengeance.

stupid $#%@! bugs

You can imagine how I felt when I went out to my garden one morning, eager to see the progress all my baby sprouts were making, and saw this! Stupid $%@#! bugs!! They ate my basil down to nubs! They left nothing but but but little itty bitty broken plant bits. How dare they!!! I couldn’t figure out what ate them. There were no bugs in sight. I checked under all the leaves. I googled everything and quickly learned that best way to figure out what’s eating your garden is to track them down at night.

The hunt was so on. I waited until it was really really dark, grabbed the only flashlight I could find, which happened to be Bug’s black cat flashlight that meows loudly every time you squeeze the handle, and set out into the dark. I don’t know what I was expecting to find. Rabbits?

Sure enough as soon as I got close enough to the plants I could see them. The leaves were literally covered with earwigs. Dozens and dozens of them! It was a creepy crawly mess with pinchers and wiggly legs. I should have taken pictures but my night photography isn’t so hot and I was just really grossed out. I couldn’t really do anything with them at the time since I had no intention of picking off each one by hand and I was afraid that spraying them off with a hose would damage the plant and probably wouldn’t really work anyway. So I went back inside to consult google some more and get some rest.

The next night I was prepared. I filled up a squirt bottle with soapy water and armed myself with a canister of Sevin Garden Dust. I had been resisting using any pest control chemicals up until now because I wanted to brag about my vegetables being organic. Well pffffttt. There went that idea. I had no idea the earwigs were going to attack my baby plants in mighty armies!

My parents are big fans of Sevin Garden Dust. They use it to fix any kind of problem that ever arises. Fleas? Sevin Garden Dust. Earwigs? Sevin Garden Dust. Pesky five-year-olds? Sevin Garden Dust. Just kidding. But sometimes I feel like they are forcing it on me. It doesn’t help that my dad was a pest control operator for like twenty years of his life and swears on a bible that you can drink the stuff. I don’t believe him. I think getting cancer from chemicals is a 50/50 chance and we’ve all just gotten lucky so far. But then again that might explain why I have eleven toes. Just kidding again!

Back to my story:

I squirted those earwigs with fury and then lightly sprinkled Sevin Garden Dust around the plants, careful not to actually touch the plants. Fear the wrath of a gardener scorned, I seethed silently to myself as I squirted in the flickering light of my meowing cat flashlight. Who knew gardening would bring out such a hunter in me.

raised brick garden

I really shouldn’t be surprised my garden is crawling with nocturnal earwigs. I built the raised garden bed out of earwig-infested bricks after all.

bricks and a spider

(and a black widow! eeep!)

this one is a beaut

Since I couldn’t afford to buy wood I just used what I could find around my yard (which is surprisingly a lot of cinder blocks) and every time I unearthed a brick, scads of them scurried in all directions. I didn’t think much of it until my late night inquisition but then it all made sense. I pretty much created a heaven on earth for the earwigs and then offered them some tender juicy leaves to devour. How nice of me.

Consider me schooled.

Feel free to leave me chemical-free alternatives in the comment box if you have ’em. So far the soapy water seems to be working but I’m also on the hunt for some Neem oil (whatever that is) that googles says is just the thing.


  • Golden

    just a warning. Neem oil really, really, really, really stinks. I don’t imagine it would taste good either if you sprayed it on food plants. It being an oil (a really thick oil, I might add), I don’t see it coming off in the rain.

    You can find seem at whole foods and the like. It often used for skin issues – fungal, psoriasis, etc.

  • K

    Good luck with your garden! That spider picture is creeping me out. I just bought a house and I keep finding random spiders in my basement and on my deck. I suppose it’s only natural to find spiders in your basement but I don’t like it one bit (it’s a finished basement and we put the tv and couch down there). My fiance is going to bomb it while I’m gone this weekend. Here’s hoping it works and I’m not as freaked out by my basement after wards!

  • alfredsmom

    When we were living in Korea, my duaghter was going to a Korean school (taught in English). When she was learning about the letter E, she brought home a giant picture of an Earwig.

    Not Elephant, or Egg, or Ears, but EARWIGS. Crazy.

  • Elda

    Diatomaceous Earth is what I use around these parts. Make sure it’s food-grade and it’s earth-friendly and safe to ingest. Usually farm & ranch suppliers have the 25-50 lb bags handy.

  • bethany actually

    This: “Fear the wrath of a gardener scorned, I seethed silently to myself as I squirted in the flickering light of my meowing cat flashlight.”

    Just about perfect. I cracked up! :-) I’m sorry about your poor eaten-up plants, though. That is so frustrating, I know from experience. I hope the Sevin stuff works!

  • Britt

    Diatomaceous Earth is the thing of choice in these parts, too. Also, for some reason, rolled damp newspaper as traps. I don’t like things that burrow in the middle of things only to emerge later to scare the beetlejuice out of me. So there’s that.

    Good luck. Sorry.

  • Sonja

    I’m with Bethany – the cat flash light is an excellent touch.
    My basil is with your basil – looks exactly the same! Grrrr!
    And yesterday, I saw an earwig crawl underneath my kitchen cabinet. And then I died.

  • Jen

    Isn’t it funny how a chewed up garden can bring out the rage? When Edith the Avocado started growing something chewed a whole leave off of her. She only had 4 at the time. I was so mad! I don’t remember what I did to stop the problem though. I think it was just a grasshopper flitting by for a snack. I hope you find something that works. I guess an earwig is too big to be eaten by ladybugs?

  • a chris

    I’ve never been a gardener so I have no advice. I can say some useless vaguely-related things as usual!

    I tried growing citrus plants (in pots inside) from the seeds in the fruit we ate and it worked great until we moved into a different apartment and red spider mites came in the window from the tree outside and infested them. For various reasons we couldn’t stand that apartment and we moved to a place with a backyard. I put them all outside and they slowly died off. The last ones went when we left for Christmas and it snowed!

    Also, although I don’t mind earwigs too much in principle (not being a gardener, and because they seem to mostly stay outside), I really don’t like them. Bleh. When I was a kid my parents had to knock down most of the house they’d just bought because it turned out it had urea formaldehyde insulation. We moved back into the old part when the electricity was back but the house wasn’t done. I remember my Mom making me a cup of soup, and me taking a sip, to find a big juicy earwig bobbing to the surface in front of my eyes. It had been hiding in the kettle and ended up getting a big surprise! I think of this every time I see an earwig. Shudder.

  • leslie

    I’m not a huge pro in gardening, but my mother uses alcohol {beer} or citrus oil mixed with baking pouder for most of the bugs she’s dealing with…

    hope you’ll find a solution soon:)

  • Donna

    I’ve used Neem! It works great! I think my nursery guy told me to spray every 14 days. I used it on tomato plants…worked great!

  • Ninabi

    Oh my goodness- I have a garden, too. Not big- but I have a pot of herbs and dwarf fruit trees- loquat, pineapple guava, citrus, pomegranate, also some roses and other things I enjoy growing despite the desert heat.

    And something was eating my plants all up. Every leaf. Every bud. Trunks gnawed.

    I had to set traps- rat traps. I’m an animal lover- how did I get into this awful spot?
    Worse is finding pack rats in a snapped trap that were still alive. Then…gulp…I have to finish the job with a crowbar and then I feel like some sort of Hannibal Lecter Of Small Creatures and can’t look at the hamsters and gerbils for sale at Petsmart without feeling guilty.

    But fruit trees cost. And your garden matters- I know that feeling of nurturing small plants along and thinking, Hey, that is not yours to eat!

    Are there any organic treatments against earwigs? I am totally with you on this war on insects, though!

    And that last photo of the Black Widow spider…shudder. They seem to turn up right where you just had placed your hands, don’t they?

  • Kuky

    Ok I cannot recall what an earwig looks like but nevertheless I’m beeped out (supposed to say creeped out, darn phone) and scratching myself all over. Must look it up now.

  • Kuky

    Ok just looked it up. Turns out I had no idea what earwigs were. But I did come across people saying to make oil traps for them. Or have you already tried that?

  • BeachMama

    We have lots of earwigs around here :( They are attracted to wood…wood, wood, wood. Your cinder blocks are actually a good idea as then they won’t eat through the wood to your plants, they do like damp places, so if moisture got under them then they will live there. We had a huge infestation at a different house we lived it (the dog would come in covered, gross) so we sprayed the back of the house and door with soapy water and they pretty much went away. They don’t like soap or bleach and they are attracted to beer. Lots of people around here put a saucer with beer in it or a bottle laying on its side with a little left in it then the creepy crawlies that you don’t want go in and …well… stay there ;) then you dump it or replace the bottle the next night. Good if you like beer, not so good if you don’t. See how your method is working then try another one later. Funny thing is they never seem to eat my garden stuff, as they enjoy my fence way more ;)