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Are earwigs eating seedlings?

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. In fact, they can even be helpful: they eat aphids and other plant damagers. If you see many earwigs in your garden in spring, you may have less of a problem with other pests later in the season.

Keeping earwigs at bay

Even if earwigs might prove useful, youstill want to keep them away from your flower and vegetable seedlings. One way to discourage them is to surround each seeding with a paper collar coated with a sticky insect barrier.

To make your garden even less appealingto them, clean up potential daytime sleeping quarters such as stacks of old lumber, pots, or newspapers. Also, eliminate ivy where possible; they like to hide in it.

You can take advantage of earwigs' sleepingpreferences by setting traps in the garden to entice them. Some good choices are loosely rolled newspapers or corrugated cardboard, or even sections of old hose. During the day, pick up these traps, and knock the insects out into a pail of hot water or kerosene.

Earwig baits are also available, but manycontain fish oil as an attractant. They can poison pets--particularly cats--who may find the oil enticing.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Mar 1, 1987
Words:386
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