Bugs in the garden


Q: What are “wood bugs”? Is that their correct name? Are they good for the garden or bad? What do they do exactly in the garden?

How about “earwigs”? Are they good for the garden or bad? What do they do exactly in the garden?

Firstly, “woodbugs”:

So called “wood bugs” are actually land-living crustaceans, not insects. The name is used for both sowbugs or pillbugs, which are very similar: pillbugs are a bit larger and are the ones that curl up into a tight ball when disturbed. Both are active at night and in wet weather. They feed on fungi and rotting plant material so are beneficial in a compost bin. While sowbugs are pretty harmless, the larger pillbugs have stronger jaws and can be damaging when they chew on fine roots, seedlings and germinating seeds. They don’t harm well-grown plants but in wet spring weather pillbugs can make it very hard to establish a stand of carrots, lettuce, beans or other seedlings. They may also seriously damage melons and cucumbers by gnawing on vines and on the skin of the fruit.

These creatures are very susceptible to drying out so anything you can do to keep the environment drier will help (don’t over water seed beds; water in the morning so the soil surface dries before evening; keep mulches away from seedlings). Wait until the soil is quite warm before sowing corn and beans or start them indoors and plant out when they are a couple of inches high. Eliminate hiding places by raising planters on small blocks and by cleaning up woody debris or rotting wood around the garden.

Earwigs are omnivores so they eat all kinds of things. They have a beneficial side as they prey on aphids and other soft-bodied insects, but are also pests when they chew holes in flower petals, tender new leaves and in soft fruit. They hide in crevices during the day, in compost bins, under planters and inside flower heads. Most of the time their presence is just a nuisance, such as when they drop out of a bouquet of cut flowers.

Raising planters and flower pots on small blocks removes one of their favourite hiding places. Where earwigs are a serious problem, you can make a large dent in their numbers by setting upside down flowerpots stuffed with crumpled newspaper between plants (rolled up corrugated cardboard also works). In the morning, shake the paper or rolled cardboard over a bucket of soapy water to drown the earwigs.