The Earwigs (Dermaptera) form a small insect Order comprising 12 Families and roughly 2000 species in total. The Latin translates to 'skin wings' in English, and this refers to their incredible wing arrangement. The back-wings of Earwigs fold-up like overcomplex origami. Their delicacy is protected by the solid tegmina, a fancy name used to describe the front wings that are no longer used for flight, but protection. In fact, Earwigs are thought to be one of the best insect flyers. Despite the name 'Earwig', these critters have no connection to ears. The association dates back to texts written in the 1800s, and this seems to have stuck with them. 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, so only venture out during the darkest hours. They'll occasionally eat flower petals, but are highly omnivorous; thus will contribute to controlling garden pest populations too. There's approximately 40 species of Earwig in South Africa.
A beneficial insect that can be used as a form of biocontrol in the garden.
Earwigs can sometimes be a pest of flowers and foliage, but the benefits they provide tend to outweigh the costs.
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.
Present on all continents except Antarctica.
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.