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We all find spiders now and again in our homes. Whether you consider them welcome or otherwise depends on your own personal point of view, and where you live!
The facts are that most species of spider are completely harmless to humans. Their mouth parts are just not big enough for them to consider us as prey. Those spiders that can bite humans and have a venom strong enough to cause us problems, only attack humans in self-defence when they feel frightened or threatened.
Spiders can be very helpful around the house. Their natural prey are those animals we consider a nuisance; fleas, flies, ants, crickets and other small insects. The larger varieties prey on small rodents such as mice and reptiles such as lizards.
If you want to get rid of spiders, you should know a bit about their habits, where they are likely to be found, what they usually eat and how much of a nuisance they are. Most spiders can be removed safely to the garden where they will find many juicy and succulent insects and never bother you again, whereas others prefer the dry and sheltered environment kindly provided by humans. Although spiders may look fearsome, always remember that unless you have an infestation, they will usually be doing good deeds by devouring all those insect pests. So before we talk about how to get rid of them it will be worth talking for a while about whether we should be killing them or merely relocating them.
Today we will be talking about North American varieties of spider. Suffice it to say that the UK has 650 varieties of spider, with 12 being venomous enough to harm humans, but their venom is normally no worse than a bee sting; Australia, on the other hand has over 2,400 species with about 50 being harmful to humans.
The methods of getting rid of all spiders however will be relevant no matter where you come from as all spiders have basically the same habits and biology.
Spiders belong to a group of animals called arthropods. They are common throughout the world, wherever there is a food supply. Some are extremely small while others such as the tarantula and bird eating spider are very large. Although most species of spider are harmless to humans, there are three common venomous spiders in the USA, the Brown Recluse, the Hobo and the Black Widow. These will be talked about in more detail later on.
Spiders are purely carnivorous and feed on insects, other spiders, small mammals and reptiles.
Although at first glance you might be forgiven for thinking that spiders and insects are the same family, you would be very wrong. They differ from insects in the following ways:
Insects have three body segments whereas spiders have two. The body is made up of the
The answer to this one is easy. They come from outside. Spiders only come indoors because our houses, feeding habits and lack of cleanliness attract insects. And insects mean food for spiders. In their natural habitat you will find them wherever you find their webs and that means in trees and bushes, behind rocks and rotting logs, in neglected corners wherever larger animals don’t come and break their webs. You will never remove every spider from your garden and really there is no reason to as they do a lot of good by preying on insects that do harm to plants.
Spiders actually eat many types of food, but all of them alive or very recently killed.
Web building varieties trap and consume mainly flying insects such as flies, moths, butterflies and mosquitoes.
Hunting spiders lie in concealed corners and attack their prey as they come close. Other species can run very fast and chase, capture and eat insects such as grasshoppers, beetles and crickets.
There is even a species of spider that builds its web under water. Its main food sources are fish and under water insects.
Spiders come indoors for the following reasons:
It is warm and dry. The environmental conditions inside your house as well as sheds, garages and other outhouses, are less extreme than outside. There is no wind to disrupt the webs and to blow the spider away from its prey. The temperature is relatively constant within an optimal range and it just so happens that the temperatures that we prefer are also congenial to spiders and insects. Although some of the areas frequented by spiders indoors can be damp, there is no rain that might wash the spider from their web.
There is a steady food source. All living things need food. Although spiders do not eat the same food that we do, they prey on the lifeforms that do. Most insects are attracted to the organic debris found within our homes, not just for food but also for somewhere to lay their eggs. The spider will hunt the insects and their larvae and trap them in their silk. The prey is not usually killed outright but are sedated and tied up in a sticky net made from spider silk. The spider thus collects a food store from which it can feed at leisure.
In the USA there are three common venomous spiders but there are many species that are not:
The Brown Recluse. This one is venomous. These are mostly found in the south-central and Midwestern states. There are similar species that live in the southwestern states and southern California. Bad news is that the Brown Recluse can survive in cold environments such as cool basements as well as hot environments such as attics. They can also go for up to three months without any food or water. They are about a half inch long and have six eyes rather than the usual eight found in other spiders. Their colour ranges from a tan colour to a dark brown and has no distinguishing marks except for a violin shape on its back. The Recluse hunts and feeds at night, while hiding during the day. If clothing or bedding is left lying around or comes in contact with the floor, the spider may crawl inside and bite when it becomes trapped and in contact with your skin.
They rarely bite humans except in self-defence and their bites are not life threatening. They can however cause complications such as a large blister or ulcer that can last for many months. Sometimes symptoms such as fever, dizziness, chills, vomiting or a rash may occur especially in children, the elderly and infirm. If you suspect a Brown Recluse bite, seek medical help immediately. They prefer to live outdoors under woodpiles and other places rich in organic residue, but they will adapt to human habitation and can be found thriving in out-of-the-way corners such as crawl spaces, attics and basements. They can run fast and will avoid being caught if at all possible. These are sometimes mistaken for the Wolf spider, which has over 200 species in the USA. Wolf spiders however, lack the violin shape and have distinguishing stripes on their bodies.
The Black Widow. This one is venomous. It is easy to recognise as it has a red hourglass symbol on its abdomen. Their colour in general is black with red markings although some have brown bodies with orange markings. Their size ranges from between one-eighth of an inch up to 1.5 inches long. Females are generally larger than males. These spiders tend to be found on the east coast and Midwest and can also be found in the north as far as Canada. A Black Widow bite can cause an immediate reaction in humans. The symptoms include nausea, aches and breathing problems.
Although the symptoms can be very unpleasant and often frightening, they don’t usually cause death. The symptoms with small children, the elderly and the infirm may be very severe and sometimes fatal. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately. First aid for any spider bite includes cleaning the wound and applying ice packs to slow the venom’s absorption. Their webs appear to be messy and confused and are one way to identify that you have one in your home.
Hobo spider. This one is venomous. It measures up to three quarters of an inch and has a leg span of more than one and a half inches. It is a brownish grey colour and has many markings. It resembles the domestic house spider and makes a similar web. If a hobo spider wanders into shoes or clothes, it can become trapped against the skin. It will bite out of self-defence and the wound may result in an ulcer like the Brown Recluse. If allowed to become infected, the skin damage may only become worse. If you have been bitten by a hobo you should seek medical advice. This spider is found only in Washington State, Idaho and Oregon.
Wolf spiders. Although these bite, the bites are rare and harmless. The size ranges from half an inch up to one and a half inches in length. The leg span can be up to three inches or more. They are usually brown colouration although some can be black. They are hunting spiders and are active usually at night. They usually prefer lush vegetation where they can find many insects, however they can enter homes under doors and through exterior wall cracks. They do not breed indoors and usually only one will be seen inside a house.
Cellar spider. This is harmless to humans. It is up to three quarters of an inch in length. And pale white or cream colour. They live in dark and damp areas such as cellars, crawlspaces, basements, garages and sheds. Like most species of spider, they are completely harmless to humans and in fact are beneficial as they eat harmful insects as well as other spiders including the brown recluse and black widow.
Crab spiders. This is harmless to humans. These spiders usually stay outside and lie in wait on plants for other insects. They very rarely make a nuisance of themselves indoors and if you find one it is best to capture it using an upturned glass and release it into your garden. They will only come indoors if chasing prey or carried in on flowers and pot plants.
Domestic house spider. This is harmless to humans. It measures up to one inch in length and can have a leg span of two inches. These are funnel web spiders and spend most of their time lying in wait for their prey. Most house spiders seen running about are males or young spiders that are looking for females or better nesting sites. This is usually the spider that most people see trapped in a bath. It was originally thought that they crawled into the bath from the drain hole, but in fact they fall in from the top and cannot get out because of the slippery surface. If you see one trapped, just put something non-slippery in the bath, such as a towel, that the spider can use as a ramp to get to the bath rim.
Funnel web spider. This is harmless to humans. It is about one half to one inch in length and is of a brown colour with dark stripes on the head region. This spider makes funnel webs and waits for its prey to arrive. They mainly live in tall grass, heavy ground cover and in dense shrubs. They will rarely come indoors except perhaps an occasional wandering male.
Garden spiders. This is harmless to humans. Its body is up to one inch long with a leg span of up to three inches. The colour varies but is usually black and yellow. They live in fields, forests and gardens. They will very rarely come indoors except by accident. They build orb shaped webs among trees and shrubs in the flight paths of flying insects. These are beneficial and should never be killed. If you find one indoors, just relocate into a secluded part of your garden.
Ground spiders. These are harmless to humans. The ground spider is small with a body length of less than half an inch. They are usually brown with orange or red markings. Ground spiders are hunting spiders and will chase their prey rather than build webs. Most species hunt at night but some are active during daytime as well. Outside, their favourite haunts are beneath rocks, logs, leaf litter, mulch and ground covering plants. Indoors they will usually be found scurrying along skirting boards and under furniture, washing machines and similar appliances.
House spiders. These are harmless to humans. They have a spherical abdomen and measure up to half an inch in length. They are very common in garages, sheds, basements and crawl spaces and make their webs here as there usually are more insects present.
Jumping spiders. These are harmless to humans. Its body is no more than half an inch long. They have mostly black or grey colouration although some are brightly coloured with bright markings. These spiders usually live outside and prey on garden insects. They may accidentally wander indoors. If found they should be relocated outside into your garden.
Spiny-backed orb weaver spiders. This is harmless to humans. Its body is less than half an inch long. It is brightly coloured and has a hard white body with red markings and black spines. They build orb shaped webs in shrubs, tree, window corners and soffits. They prey on flying insects and do not venture indoors unless carried in on a plant. They are beneficial spider and should be relocated to a suitable spot outdoors. They are common in the southeast coastal areas of USA and are regularly found in Florida gardens.
Tarantulas. These are harmless to humans. This is the largest spider in the US and indeed the rest of the world. In the US its body can reach up to about two and a half inches with a leg span of about four inches. Their coloration in USA is of varying shades of brown. They are very hairy. There are approximately 45 species of tarantulas in the US and are usually found in the south central and south western states. They range from Arkansas to Oklahoma and California. They are passive hunters and very slow moving. They will wait for other spiders and insects to walk past before they ambush their prey. They live in burrows under stones, logs and similar locations. Occasionally a male will wander large distances in search of a mate and sometimes will accidentally walk into a house. Despite their size, they are not dangerous and should be coaxed into a box with a broom or mop before being released into an area away from houses.
Apart from the species that bite humans, spiders cause very little damage to humans, their habitation or property. In fact, as they eat mainly insects, you could say that they are a beneficial animal. The only obvious issue would be that they don’t wash their feet so could walk around in a very unhygienic place and then walk onto food preparation areas bringing with them harmful bacteria.
Unless you have venomous spiders or an infestation of any kind of spider, in which case it’s best to call in a professional, control isn’t really necessary. If however you really insist on ridding your home of spiders, then follow the simple instructions in this chapter.
Getting rid of spiders begins with keeping things clean. Clean your home with a vacuum cleaner; preferably one with a nozzle attachment so you can get into all those nooks and crannies and places up high that you otherwise couldn’t reach. Don’t worry that you will have hordes of spiders climbing out of your vacuum cleaner after your purge, their soft bodies cannot cope with the battering they will receive and they die almost instantly. So the first step is to suck up in all the little holes as well as removing any visible cobwebs. In and around windows, in room corners and around light fixtures are favourite web building locations. If you remove the webs, you may or may not get the spider, but even if you don’t you will be removing the spider’s way to catch food.
Items that are not to be used on a regular basis should be stored in a plastic box or airtight bags. Remove stacks of paper or other things that can lie untouched for many months.
Spiders won’t eat human food and they don’t prey on humans either. So that means they prey on other arthropods (spiders) and insects. If you keep your home free from other insects such as flies and ants (and others) then you will be cutting off the spider’s food supply. A simple way of doing this is to keep insect screens at the doors and windows and make sure they don’t need any repairs. Practice good food hygiene and storage and keep kitchen worktops disinfected to clean up the trails of ant pheromones.
Spiders use sticky webs to catch their food, so why not use the same methods to catch the unwanted spiders? You can purchase sticky glue traps from hardware stores and home improvement retailers. They are designed for cockroach and rodent control but they will trap spiders just as well. Lay the traps in various places around your home, especially in closets, basements, attics and garages. Keep an eye out for the places where the spiders tend to appear, and lay a trap in that location. It is important however that you keep the traps out of reach of children and pets.
Mix up a solution that is non-toxic to mammals. The spray is a mixture of water, vinegar, couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid detergent and an essential oil such as tea-tree, lavender, neem or peppermint. Use a spray bottle and discharge into nooks and crannies and other places spiders might be lurking. This mixture isn’t poisonous to them; it just keeps them away for a while.
Don’t forget that there are probably thousands of spiders in the immediate vicinity of your home. Tidy up your gardens and remove places that they love to frequent such as compost heaps, rocks and rotting wood (in fact anyplace you find insects you can be sure to find spiders). Wash down window shutters regularly as well as the windows themselves. Fascia boards and soffits are also a favourite place and should be kept clean. If you have a garden then you should encourage them to relocate there. They will be welcome to eat as many insects as they can from your flowers and crops. Spiders are carnivores so do not eat plants. The only thing you will have to do when you come to harvest is to knock them off the plant onto the ground with a garden hose, so you don’t carry them inside. They will soon recover and climb up another plant. By the way, while you are cleaning up outside; always wear some stout protective gloves to avoid being bitten by a frightened spider.
Reduce outside lighting as flying insects are always attracted to those. If you really must have outside lighting, keep them away from doors and windows as spiders will congregate there, near their food supply. They will then follow the prey indoors when they get a chance. Insects don’t like yellow or sodium light as much as other types so if you can replace your light bulbs then it will help. If your house is coloured dark on the outside then you will have significantly less insect visitors taking up residence, therefore less spiders.
If you haven’t got an infestation but just don’t like the thought of having the creepy-crawlies in your home you can always squash them with a shoe or a rolled up newspaper or trap them in an upturned glass, slide a piece of cardboard across the opening and set them free in the garden where they belong.
If you must use poisons then hire a pest control expert to do it for you. They have all the training necessary to do a safe and discreet job. If you want to lay poison yourself, you can buy spider specific products from home improvement retailers and similar establishments. Always follow the instructions carefully and wear appropriate protective clothing.
This might seem like a lot of hard work just to get a few days freedom from spiders, because the truth is that this is an ongoing battle. There will always be more spiders outside trying to get inside and you will never win. All you can ever hope for is a few days respite. If however you have an infestation, always call in the professionals.
If you have an infestation of venomous spiders, you can reduce the chances of being bitten by following these simple procedures:
Often so called spider bites are in fact mistakenly diagnosed bites from insects and other skin irritants. The best way to be sure you have been bitten by a spider is by:
If you have been bitten you should always seek medical advice in case the bite becomes infected. There are first aid actions which can be taken and these include.
The presence of individual spiders in your home is not something to concern yourself about. If you have an infestation however, it is wise to call in a professional pest control expert. Not only are they able to recognise the types of spider you have and the obvious breeding places, but also they will be able to tell if your infestation is part of an overall infestation involving insects as well. Therefore it is always worthwhile asking for an inspection by a professional to find the cause as well as to get rid of the symptoms.
But don’t take the first advice you get as truth. Always ask for two or three inspections from different contractors so you can get a more truthful estimate of the overall problem. An inspection should be part of giving an estimate so be aware that unless the contractor charges for their estimates (very unusual) a basic inspection should also be free of charge too. Sometimes a contractor will charge for a full inspection and give you a credit for that amount if you decide to choose them for the extermination job. This is an acceptable practice as it stops customers from acquiring free reports and then doing the job themselves, after all “time is money” and contractors would prefer to be doing paid work rather than lots of free work.
When you get your estimate don’t always choose the cheapest option. You will want to go for the one who gives the best overall service; after all you don’t want to have to call the expert out again in a few weeks’ time if only you had chosen a more thorough eradication plan.
The contractor’s inspection report should include:
The factors therefore can be summarised as:
Location. The state you are living in will have a lot to do with how much you are going to be charged. In certain areas, pests are more common and there will be more contractors offering this service. The cost should therefore be reduced as the contractors will be fighting a price war amongst themselves. Another factor is that of “supply” and “demand”. If there is a lot of work available, then the contractors can afford to be choosy. The cost will then rise as the contractors choose the customer most able to afford a higher price.
Time of year. Different pests are active at different times of year depending on ambient temperature, breeding times and food availability.
What pests are present? Although the spider is the pest you want to get rid of, there will be other insects present which will be attracting the spiders in the first place. The level of infestation of the prey insects and the number of different species, will dictate how much work has to be done and how long the treatment will take.
Methods of removal. The type of chemical used will affect the cost as will the amount. If there are physical methods to stop the pests, such as habitat alterations or clearing out a hard to access area, the cost will vary depending on whether you want to do the non-specialised work yourself or whether you want the contractor to do it.
Accessibility. How accessible will the spider nesting and hunting locations be? If they require specialist equipment or need areas on your property clearing out, the cost will rise.
Repair. Although the presence of spiders will not usually cause damage to your property, the presence of the insects they prey upon might. Many species of insects are notorious for damaging wood and as part of the eradication process, the damage caused by insects will have to be repaired so that nesting sites will no longer be available to them.
The following tables show the approximate average cost for various eradication tasks. Please remember that these should be taken as a guide only and these do not include any costs associated with repair and remediation of your property.
|One Time Removal of Pest|
|Job||National Average||Range||Low End||High End|
|Hire an insect or pest control contractor||$175||$110 to $270||$50||$500|
|Regular Periodic Pest Eradication Contract|
|Initial visit||Monthly visit||Bi-monthly visit||Quarterly visit|
|$180 to $200||$40 to $50||$50 to $60||$100 to $300|
These figures are based on a typical home of 1,500 square feet floor area. A larger property can be calculated on a ‘pro-rata’ basis or some contractors charge an extra $25 per 1,000 square feet over the base price. As mentioned earlier however, the cost can be significantly higher depending on the size of infestation and the pests involved.
The ‘One time removal’ cost will usually be significantly larger than the maintenance contract as the contractor wants to:
The ‘Initial visit’ for the maintenance contract is more expensive as the contractor will have to find out the same information identified with the ‘One time removal’ visit. Subsequent visits will be less expensive because all the breeding and feeding sites will have already been identified.
As usual there are pros and cons for doing the spider extermination job yourself or calling in a professional.
The main reason for calling in a professional is if you have an infestation of spiders. If this occurs then you must ask yourself why there are so many. Usually spiders come indoors in search of food or a nesting place. If they are around for the food then you have something in your house that is attracting excessive amounts of insects. This will come down to your standard of cleanliness or the condition of the property. If you have a spider infestation then you will probably have an infestation of some kind of insect as well and this needs to be sorted by a professional.
If the spiders have come indoors in search of a nesting site, then there must be a place in your house that is sufficiently undisturbed to attract them. Usually this means places that are not regularly cleaned. This one is also down to you and your habits. Obviously there are locations in your home that do not get cleaned regularly, if at all, such as a cellar and in a crawl space, but there will also be places that are neglected, dry and warm such as behind or under furniture and kitchen appliances. How many times have you dragged out the washing machine to look behind it and found not only the Lego bricks and marbles but also spiders and their webs? They are there because of the peace and quiet and prevalence of insect prey.
So this means that the first thing necessary to stop spiders setting up home is to clean your living area thoroughly.
Vacuum visible webs.
Don’t make your home a welcome to the spider’s food supply. There are plenty of insects outside and you want to encourage the spider to set up home anywhere but in your home. You surely don’t need a pest control expert to tell you that!
The main advantages of looking out for and removing spiders yourself are:
The advantages of hiring a professional expert rather than doing the job yourself are:
You don’t have any special knowledge whereas the professional has undergone specialist training. The contractor has the necessary skills and training to handle the spiders and the poisons needed to complete the job successfully. Their knowledge allows them to diagnose the problem holistically and come up with an effective method of treating the cause rather than just treating the most obvious symptoms. They can tell if you have any other pests which are the underlying cause of the spider infestation.
The professional knows which spiders are harmful and which are not.
Even though it may seem like you have a lot of spiders in your home, the professional will know for certain if you have an infestation.
The expert knows the best way to deal with an infestation.
They have training in the use of toxic chemicals and traps needed to get rid of the pests, whereas you are only able to use the readily available methods.
They have the training to know the spiders’ and insects’ habits and decide on the most efficient time and place to apply the poison.
You will be able to have a regular inspection to get rid of unwelcome guests before they become an infestation.
The professional is licensed to use poisons properly and is able to take into account other factors such as children and pets. They can use poisons in the form of traps, sprays and fumigation.
No matter how careful we are with keeping the spiders and insects away, we will never be able to remove all of them. Professionals know the habitats targeted by the invaders and know how to remove them in the most efficient way.
The professional will know if there is an infestation in the neighbourhood or if yours is just localised. The way to treat the two types of infestation may be different.
The professional will have insurance to cover any mistakes and damage to property.
They will have insurance to cover the company and employees against claims arising from damage to people.
A licensed expert will develop a bespoke plan to identify and control those pests that live and feed on your property. Their plan will take into account your own personal circumstances and layout of your property and will also state the most appropriate methods to control the infestation and the ways to reduce the chances of another infestation in the future.
The expert will be able to advise you on using physical methods to prevent the pests’ access such as using door screens, blocking holes and cracks and reducing the accessibility of your home to insects in general.
They will be able to give you advice on modifying your environment to remove the feeding and breeding sites available for both spiders and insects.
As already stated many times, most spiders provide a service to humans by hunting and eating insect pests. Most spiders also prefer to live outside where there is more chance of finding food. Spiders only become a nuisance when someone has an irrational fear of the animals or when they increase their numbers to a state where you have an infestation or if the spiders you have are venomous. Even then they will only infest your home if you provide them with the conditions to encourage their food to stay and breed. It is up to you therefore to keep the house clean, remove any cobwebs and discourage insects from living with you. The rest will happen automatically.
There are simple ways to remove spiders from indoors, the best method being to capture the creature in a glass and remove it gently to your garden.
If there are just too many of them for you to cope with then you need to hire an expert to come and find the cause of the infestation and subsequently put it right. We talked about the advantages and disadvantages and costs of hiring a professional.
Generally, spiders are a beneficial animal, despite their frightening appearance and if you can just relocate them to somewhere better, then the problem will sort itself out.