The Earwigs (Dermaptera) form a small insect Order comprising 12 Families and roughly 2000 species in total. Despite the name 'Earwig', they have no association with human ears. The common name dates back to the 1800s, which seemed to have stuck. You'll likely find Earwigs beneath the leaf litter and debris in the garden, under bits of loose bark or beneath rocks and stones. They're nocturnal, becoming most active at night. They'll occasionally eat flower petals, but are also predatory; thus contribute to controlling garden pest populations. There's approximately 40 species of Earwig in South Africa.
A beneficial insect that eats garden pests.
Earwigs will sometimes eat flowers and foliage.
Adults: Adult Earwigs are flat and long in shape. Like all insects, the body structure comprises three main segments: the head, thorax and abdomen; possessing 6 legs. A characteristic of earwigs is the additional appendages seen on the rear abdominal region. These curved, pointed appendages are pincer-like, their official name being 'cerci'. These are also seen in cockroaches. Most species are black or brown, however in some cases can be cream, white or red. The membranous wings unfold like paper fans, protected by the hardened forewings (Tegmina). Nymphs: The nymphs look a lot like their parents, apart from they're smaller in size and paler in colour. Eggs: Earwig females lay their eggs in small burrows which they guard until nymphs are old enough. It's unusual for insects to offer this kind of prolonged care for their offspring.
Where ever possible, these insects should be tolerated in the garden. Earwigs rest in the daytime in dark, damp, cool places. So check under pots, edges of growing frames and any other places near affected plants that fit this description. Hand-pick them off and relocate. A rolled-up newspaper held with an elastic band may create a hiding place for earwigs. It can then be moved and emptied out in the garden, away from your precious plants. Attract Earwigs to your garden spaces using a small deep container stuffed with straw or hay laid on its side between the affected plants. This provides a daytime retreat for Earwigs. It can be emptied outside or placed into fruit trees to help control fruit aphid attacks. Alternatively, by planting a patch of herbs or woody shrubs, you'll provide Earwigs with their own habitat to thrive, and they'll be less likely to attack your desirable plants.
As they are a beneficial insect in the garden, please consider alternative methods for controlling them.