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What Do Earwigs Eat?

Earwigs on the floor

Earwigs, also known as pincher bugs, are omnivorous insect pests known for their distinctive pincers, or cerci, at the end of their abdomen. They primarily feed on a wide range of organic materials, and their diet can include both plant and animal matter. Here is what earwigs eat:

What Plants Do Earwigs Eat?

Earwigs are not typically considered major pests of plants, but they do feed on a variety of plant materials. Their diet may include the following types of plants:

  • Vegetable Gardens: Earwigs are often found in gardens and may feed on a range of vegetables and herbs. Some of their preferred garden targets include lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, and zucchini. They tend to nibble on the softer parts of these plants, such as the leaves and stems.
  • Flowers: Earwigs may feed on the petals and leaves of various flowering plants. Marigolds, dahlias, sunflowers, and hostas are some examples of flowers that earwigs may target. They are especially attracted to flowers with soft, succulent tissues.
  • Fruit Trees: In orchards, earwigs can occasionally cause damage to fruit trees by feeding on overripe or damaged fruits. They may target fruits like apricots, peaches, and plums. Earwigs are more likely to feed on fruits that have already been compromised in some way.
  • Strawberries: Earwigs have been known to consume ripe strawberries, particularly if the strawberries are in contact with the soil and are thus more accessible to these ground-dwelling insects.
  • Seedlings and Young Plants: Earwigs can sometimes damage young seedlings and recently planted crops. They may chew on the tender leaves and stems of these plants, potentially stunting their growth.
  • Decaying or Damaged Plant Material: Earwigs are scavengers and will consume decaying plant matter. If a plant is already weakened or rotting, earwigs may be attracted to it. This includes fallen leaves, wilted vegetation, and plant debris.

Wwhile earwigs may feed on these plants, they are not typically the primary cause of significant damage to gardens or crops. In many cases, their presence in gardens can be beneficial, as they also prey on various garden pests, such as aphids and caterpillars. Gardeners and farmers may want to monitor earwig populations and use appropriate pest management strategies if they become a concern, while also recognizing their potential role in natural pest control.

Do Earwigs Eat Flowers?

Yes, earwigs are known to eat flowers, particularly the petals and softer parts of various flowering plants. While they are not typically the most destructive pests of flowers, they can cause some damage, especially if their populations are high. Earwigs are attracted to flowers with soft and succulent tissues. Some examples of flowers that earwigs may feed on include marigolds, dahlias, sunflowers, hostas, and other ornamental plants.

Their feeding behavior on flowers is generally not as damaging as that of other common garden pests like snails, slugs, or certain caterpillars. However, if you notice significant damage to your flowers and suspect earwigs, you can employ various pest control methods, such as traps or reducing their hiding places by cleaning up garden debris, to help protect your plants from these insects.

What Insects Do Earwigs Eat?

Earwigs are opportunistic predators and feed on a variety of small insects and arthropods. Their predatory behavior can be beneficial in controlling garden pests. Here are some of the insects and other arthropods that earwigs may consume:

  • Aphids: Earwigs often feed on aphids, which are common garden pests that can damage plants by sucking sap from their leaves and stems.
  • Mites: Earwigs are known to prey on mites, including spider mites, which can also harm plants by feeding on their foliage.
  • Insect Eggs: Earwigs may consume the eggs of various insects, reducing the populations of potential pests before they hatch.
  • Small Caterpillars: While earwigs are not major caterpillar predators, they may occasionally feed on smaller caterpillars if they come into contact with them.
  • Soft-Bodied Insects: Earwigs prefer soft-bodied insects due to their chewing mouthparts. They are more likely to target insects with vulnerable exoskeletons.
  • Arachnids: Earwigs can prey on small arachnids like spiderlings or tiny spiders.
  • Other Small Insects: Earwigs are generalist predators and will consume various small insects they encounter, especially those that are slow-moving or already injured.

While earwigs can be beneficial for gardeners by helping to control certain pests, they are also known to feed on plant material, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, their overall impact on a garden or agricultural ecosystem depends on a variety of factors, including the abundance of prey insects, the availability of plant matter, and the local environment.

Do Earwigs Eat Cockroaches?

Earwigs are generally not known to be significant predators of cockroaches. While earwigs are opportunistic predators and will feed on a variety of small insects and arthropods, including aphids, mites, and insect eggs, they are not typically considered effective natural predators of cockroaches. Cockroaches are generally larger and more robust insects compared to the soft-bodied prey that earwigs tend to target.

Cockroaches are well-adapted to survival and can be challenging to control due to their resilience and rapid reproductive capabilities. Effective control of cockroaches usually involves specific pest management strategies, such as baits, traps, and insecticides, rather than relying on other insects like earwigs to control their populations.

While earwigs can be beneficial in gardens by helping to control some plant pests, they are not a primary solution for managing cockroach infestations in homes or other indoor spaces.

What Else Do Earwigs Eat?

In addition to the previously mentioned food sources, earwigs are opportunistic feeders, and their diet may include a variety of other organic materials. Here are some additional items that earwigs may eat:

  • Fungi and Algae: Earwigs can feed on fungi and algae, particularly in damp environments. They are often found in dark, moist areas where these microorganisms grow.
  • Decaying Organic Matter: Earwigs play an important role in decomposition by consuming decaying plant material, including fallen leaves, rotting wood, and other organic debris. They help break down dead plant matter and recycle nutrients in ecosystems.
  • Carrion: While not their primary food source, earwigs have been observed feeding on carrion, which includes the soft tissues of dead animals. This scavenging behavior is less common but highlights their adaptability to different food sources.
  • Small Wood Fragments: Earwigs may nibble on small wood fragments or bark, particularly if it is soft or decaying.
  • Dead Insects: Earwigs will scavenge on dead insects they come across, especially those that are already in a state of decomposition.
  • Horticultural Mulch: In garden settings, earwigs may feed on horticultural mulch made of organic materials like wood chips or straw.

The diet of earwigs can vary based on their environment and the availability of food sources. While they are not usually considered major pests, their adaptability to a wide range of food items allows them to thrive in various ecological niches and contribute to ecosystem processes such as decomposition and nutrient cycling.