Dahlia vs Earwig

When I think of earwigs I shiver and think ‘ick.’ Last year was a bumper year for earwigs around here – they were everywhere, in huge numbers, in every damp or dark place in the garden you could think of…I mean, in flowers, in lettuce, under every pot…cutting zinnias to bring inside meant cutting them, turning them upside down and giving them a brisk shake – earwigs don’t have a tight grip on whatever surface they’re on.

Then I made the mistake of doing a tiny bit of research about them, and now, of course, I know that earwigs have a few redeeming qualities. There are 2,000 species! They have wings (that are seldom used)! They molt up to five times (after hatching from tiny white eggs)! Mom earwigs are very motherly, taking care of the baby earwigs and bringing them food (until the babies are large and then turn on their mom, eating her!!)!

They also are beneficial in the garden, eating aphids and other nasties, as well as rotting garden debris. In fact, they likely only invade and eat flowers and veggies when there is no rotting vegetation on the garden bed for them to hide in and munch on. As good excuse as any to practice the cut and drop method of gardening – dead head spent flowers, pull as many weeds as you want, but then just drop them in the garden to decompose instead of carrying them to the compost pile. Earwigs will speed along their decomposition, and perhaps stay out of the lettuce!

Sadly, despite me cutting and dropping in the dahlia bed, earwigs have discovered “Fleurel’ – the creamy white dinnerplate dahlia that is now blooming. Hundreds of hidey holes for them to spend the days in. Also, of course, earwigs poop, and Fleurel is white… I discovered this earwig before I did my research, and now I’m more than a tiny bit sorry that this earwig will not live out its natural lifespan.

This is a male earwig. Females have straight pincers.
You don’t even need to look closely to see the poop…

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