Believe it or not, most spiders are absolutely harmless to humans. However, if you’re like most people, you don’t want to share your home with them. We’ll go over the spider species you need to worry about and then cover some of the most common commercial and do-it-yourself methods for getting rid of spiders.
Of course, the easiest way to get rid of a spider infestation is to pick up the phone and call a professional pest control service. If you need help getting rid of spiders, we recommend Terminix and Orkin as our pest control providers of choice. You can reach Terminix toll-free at 866-569-4035 and Orkin at 877-868-1416.
When to Get Rid of Spiders
Perhaps the best news about spiders is that very few are actually dangerous to humans. Of the many species of arachnids in the United States, only the black widow and the brown recluse have venom that can cause serious health problems. A few more may cause painful bites, but mostly, spiders are harmless to humans. In fact, they actually eat nuisance insects like mosquitoes, fleas, and flies. Additionally, a spider infestation won’t cause structural damage to a building.
That’s not to say you should welcome spiders into your home. A single egg sac can contain hundreds or thousands of spiders, so an infestation can occur and spread extremely quickly. Ideally, spiders would stay outside and help keep your yard free of harmful pests. However, they do sometimes come indoors in search of food or shelter. When that happens, it’s time to start looking into how to get rid of them.
And, of course, if you suspect you may have brown recluses or black widows in or around your home, you’ll want to make sure they’re gone.
Black Widow Spiders
Black widow spiders have a reputation for delivering the most toxic bite. While this is true, a black widow bite is rarely fatal to a human because each bite only injects a small amount of venom. Still, you should seek medical attention immediately if bitten.
The Northern, Southern, and Western varieties are the most common “true widow” spiders in the United States. Southern and Western black widows look very similar, with distinctive shiny black bodies with red hourglass markings. Southern black widows are found throughout the southeastern U.S., as far west as Texas and as far north as Ohio. Western black widows live throughout the entire western half of the country. Outdoors, they tend to live in sheltered areas like hollow logs, rock piles, or thick brambles.
Northern black widows, on the other hand, are found in the northeastern U.S. and southern parts of Canada. Their appearance is a bit different, as they may be dark brown or black with red, yellow, or white spots or stripes down the abdomen. You might find them in tree stumps, under fallen fence posts, or inside old animal burrows.
Brown Recluse Spiders
Brown recluse spiders are less widespread but more numerous in the region where they live, which is the lower midwestern U.S. As the name suggests, they are brown in color with black markings on their backs that look like a violin or a fiddle. They aren’t aggressive and rarely bite. But in some cases, their venom can cause cell and tissue damage, so it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if you’ve been bitten. In rare cases, nausea, vomiting, and fever can develop.
Luckily, brown recluse fangs don’t pierce most clothing, and they tend to live in dry, undisturbed areas like woodpiles, sheds, and tree bark. However, if they come indoors, they tend to like living in cardboard boxes. Unfortunately, these are extremely hardy spiders that can live for long periods even through drought and food scarcity.
How to Get Rid of Spiders Indoors
There are several effective methods of eliminating spiders from the inside of your home, as well as ways to keep them from returning.
The first method is the simplest: get rid of spiders and their webs with brooms or vacuums. Most spiders aren’t tough enough to live through the experience of being sucked up into a vacuum cleaner, and you can get rid of their webs at the same time. Of course, this will probably only be effective on its own if the infestation is small, but it’s a good first step.
Unfortunately, fogger insecticides are usually ineffective against most spiders. Instead, spider traps, which contain chemicals that attract spiders and a sticky coating to keep them there, are the better choice. They’re generally flat sheets of heavy paper with no raised sides. Place these glue traps in out-of-the-way spots around your home, like in corners, by baseboards, and behind furniture.
Traps will kill the spiders that get stuck on them, but they won’t wipe out infestations that already live in hidden places. For this reason, traps are usually a better way to identify the type of spider you’re dealing with and the exact location of the infestation than a method of elimination.
There are plenty of indoor insecticides that will kill spiders on contact. However, you need to pay close attention to the kind of insecticide you purchase and how you use it. If you purchase a spray that kills on contact, remember that it won’t take care of any spiders you don’t see. You also need to make sure that it’s safe for indoor use, and if you have children or pets in the house, that it won’t be harmful to them. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for using the product.
There are also residual insecticides that allow you to put down a barrier around your home. Generally, you apply these pesticides around the baseboards and corners of your home, or anywhere else you suspect spiders may be living. Any spiders that walk across this barrier will be killed, though the chemicals may only remain effective for a short time. Again, check the packaging to determine how best to use these products and how long they’ll last.
Repellents alone may not be enough to drive spiders out of your home, but they can help keep them out. Some of these repellents will use synthetic chemicals, so make sure they’re safe to use inside the home. However, also ensure that any “natural” repellent is safe — just because something is found in nature doesn’t make it non-toxic. There are also plug-in devices that claim to use ultrasonic sound to repel spiders and insects.
If you look online, you’ll find dozens of recipes for home-made spider repellents. In fact, you’ll see claims that nearly every essential oil will repel all manner of bugs. Results for these recipes seem to vary, but here are some of the most effective and least toxic.
- Mix 15–20 drops of peppermint oil (not peppermint extract used for baking) with water in a spray bottle and spray along floorboards and in corners. Other essential oils that are also reportedly effective include eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender, tea tree, and citrus.
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Some sources say this is effective as an on-contact spider killer, while others say it’s an effective repellent when sprayed around the home.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth in thin layers in hard-to-reach places like cracks and corners, and around windows and baseboards. This material causes many household pests, including spiders, to dehydrate and die, but make sure not to use it near food preparation areas.
- Use cedar hangers, blocks, or shavings in your closet or in drawers.
- Some people swear by setting citrus peels or horse chestnuts along window sills and floorboards.
In general, however, natural and homemade remedies are short-term solutions which need to be reapplied every two to three weeks to remain effective.
Once you’ve eliminated or repelled the spider infestation from your home, you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t reoccur. The first step is usually sealing up any cracks or holes spiders may use to enter your home. Use caulk where appropriate around doors, windows, wires, cables, and faucets. Patch holes in door or window screens, and make sure your vents and chimney are covered with insect-proof screens, as well.
To help prevent spiders, make sure you clean your home regularly, picking up clutter that may serve as hiding places. Vacuum thoroughly and often. Also ensure that you keep food in airtight containers and clean up crumbs and dirty dishes as soon as possible. While spiders don’t tend to feed on human food, the insects that spiders eat often do.
Finally, if you have a recurrent infestation, you could consider getting a pet cat or frog. Both of these animals will hunt and eat spiders.
How to Get Rid of Spiders Outdoors
Indoor prevention often goes hand-in-hand with outdoor spider removal and prevention. Remember, however, that many spiders play an important role in keeping other insect populations down, so don’t be overzealous with spider elimination unless it involves black widow or brown recluse spiders.
Again, there are plenty of over-the-counter synthetic pesticides that will kill spiders. However, make sure these same pesticides won’t kill helpful insects like bees or butterflies, or even the very plants you’re trying to grow. Also make sure that children and pets stay away from areas with toxic insecticides while they’re drying.
You can also find less toxic outdoor insecticides, though these may require repeated applications. Diatomaceous earth is also effective when sprinkled around the outside perimeter of your home.
While shrubs and other plants may look good up against the outdoor walls of your home, they provide shelter for spiders and the insects they eat. If you have repeated spider infestations, you’ll want to keep all vegetation at least 8 feet away from the outside of your house. Wood and rock piles, too, tend to harbor spiders and insects, so move them away from your home.
Finally, since your goal is to keep spider food sources far away from your house, consider installing sodium vapor light bulbs in outdoor sockets. These lights tend to attract fewer insects, which will in turn attract fewer spiders. Alternatively, you could simply keep all outdoor lights off until they’re necessary.
When to Call in the Pros
Spider infestations, particularly indoors, can be hard to treat on your own because female spiders and their egg sacs often remain hidden from view. If you try the above methods but you’re still struggling to get rid of spiders, you should call a professional for help. Pros have the training and equipment needed to root out infestations at the source. As such, pest control methods used by professionals tend to be more effective and longer-lasting than DIY remedies.
For your professional pest control needs, we recommend Terminix and Orkin. For a free quote, contact Terminix at 866-569-4035 or enter your ZIP code here. To find out how much an Orkin treatment will cost, call 877-868-1416 or fill out this simple form.
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