Soy sauce key to trapping pesky earwigs

Something is eating my young plants. My flower and vegetable plants have lots of little holes in the leaves and hardly anything left on some of them. I’ve looked and looked but I haven’t found anything chewing on them. Help!

— Rhonda

You’re not alone in what you’re seeing in your garden. We’ve had loads of folks in this year with the same problem. There are several possibilities (like flea beetles and little inchworm caterpillars), but the culprit is usually earwigs.

Earwigs are those little dark brown insects with the pincers on their hind end.

Earwigs like cool and moist conditions, so they usually spend the day hiding out in the soil or under mulch where they get the environment they like. They come out at night to feed so people often don’t see them on their plants.

Earwigs have fairly weak mouthparts, so their feeding damage is usually limited to new, softer growth or flowers. That’s why you’re seeing these little holes in the leaf. In heavy infestations, they eat the leaf tissue, leaving a fine network of veins.

We’ve always had earwigs around — it just seems that in the past four or five years that we’re seeing more plant damage from them.

The ironic thing is that all of the good things we do to improve our garden soil and the plants growing in them tend to encourage these little guys. Amending the soil with decomposed organic matter and good mulching provides the environment they’re looking for.

Now, I’m not saying to stop doing those good things for the soil — the benefits far outweigh any problems with earwigs.

Another thing is that earwigs also benefit us by eating lots of destructive insects like aphids, so they are kind of a mixed blessing. Controlling them isn’t that hard.

Giving your plants a thorough spray with an insecticide called bifenthrin does a great job. You’ll also want to spray the ground around your plants to try to get them where they’re hiding out.

An alternative method involves you making some homemade earwig traps. Take some empty butter tubs and cut some small holes in the lid (just big enough for the earwigs to get in). Put several tablespoons of soy sauce in the tub and just enough vegetable oil to make a small floating puddle in the soy sauce.

Put the lid on and bury the tub in the ground with the lid level with the soil level. The smell of the soy sauce lures them into the trap where they can’t escape and die.

Be prepared to be astounded (or grossed out) by how many you will catch in a night. Clean out the tub as needed until you’ve reduced their numbers to where they’re not bothering your plants.


I have a couple of peach trees on my farm that never turn out. They get fruit every year, but they’re very hard and small and cannot be eaten. What can I do to help them?

— Pam


I’m not really sure what might be going on with your peach trees. One of four things is usually going on. First, this is a bad variety of peach. We often see this when people have grown a seedling, or if the original tree died back and the rootstock sprouted up and replaced the original tree. Either way, they will never make good peaches and we usually end up replacing the tree with a desirable variety.

The second reason is stress on the tree. If the tree is hurting, it often doesn’t have the resources to fully ripen the fruit. How does the tree look? Is it being watered deeply? Not allowed to dry out too much nor allowed to stay soggy? Are there insect or disease problems? (You may need a visit from your local Colorado State University Extension agent or a master gardener to check this out).

If there’s something going on and if you can figure out what it is and fix it, the tree should turn itself around and start producing good fruit.

Third is letting too much fruit remain on the tree. If this is the case, the tree just can’t ripen all that fruit and none of it turns out. Thinning the fruit to one fruit every 8 inches along the branches in late May or early June will help you here.

The last thing is immaturity of the tree. Young trees less than three or four years old sometimes will do this. Just be patient and your fruit will come.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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