Earwigs in your sweet corn

MR16_F_earwig-cornAn Ōtaki Beach reader recently asked how to deal with pesky earwigs setting up home in the tassels of his sweet corn.

Earwigs can devastate seedlings, soft fruit and sweet corn silks, but they are more ‘goodies’ than ‘baddies.’ They eat aphids, snails and slugs, so overall, I think they’re a plus.

They fancy damp, sheltered places, along with a good supply of food. Clearing mulch away from corn and letting soil dry out can make things less cosy for your unwelcome visitors, and you’d only have to do this until they move on.

You could also try damp, rolled-up newspaper or small cardboard boxes, like cereal boxes, in your garden in the evening. Earwigs feed at night and look for these damp places to spend their days. You should be able to pick up quite a few in newspaper the next morning.

Shallow cat food or tuna cans with a bit of vegetable oil could be used as traps, and petroleum jelly at the base of corn plants will create a sticky barrier. Earwigs are crawlers, they’ll get stuck in the sticky mess before they can crawl up your sweet corn stems.

If they’re still a problem you could try trapping them in upturned flower pots stuffed with straw or hollow tubes of bamboo. Place these on sticks and you’ll attract nocturnal earwigs who will treat your pole as a climbing frame to the shelter of the pots. You can empty and dispose of the pests in the morning.

And if all this fails, relax and try to remember their aphid, snail and slug eating habits.