Magazine article Sunset

Are Earwigs Eating Seedlings?

Magazine article Sunset

Are Earwigs Eating Seedlings?

Article excerpt

Are earwigs eating seedlings?

Are nocturnal marauders demolishingyour newly emerging seedlings? Do you set out plants in the afternoon, only to find that most of the leaves have been chewed off by the following morning? If you don't see the silvery trails typical of snails and slugs, earwigs may be the culprits feasting on tender foliage.

You don't need the skill of SherlockHolmes to solve this mystery, but you can adapt his techniques to verify their presence. Several hours after sunset, quietly steal into the garden with flashlight in hand. As you walk, don't stomp or crash through the foliage; earwigs scatter quickly in response to any disturbance.

You'll see the culprits clinging to yourseedlings' foliage, and you should be able to surprise them with your flashlight beam. They may hesitate momentarily, then scurry away. As they make their escape, look for the characteristic "pinchers' on the rear end of each shiny brown 3/4-inch-long insect.

Earwigs hatch in great numbers in earlyspring, before most of their predators-- such as the parasitic tachina fly--become active, and they have a field day dining on young plants. However, the rest of the year they are fairly benign--primarily eating decayed vegetation. …

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