Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spider control without pesticides

A humane reader asks, "How can I get rid of spiders in my house w/o using chemicals?"

Indeed. There is no need to fear or kill spiders, which are mostly beneficial insects, as any child can tell you thanks to Charlotte’s Web. In addition to being natural artists, spiders eat insect pests such as mosquitoes and flies.

As for our health, incomparably worse than insects are synthetic chemical insecticides used in homes have been linked to cancer,and can harm children’s development as well as provoke headaches, asthma and other ill health effects in all of us.

By contrast, “Most spiders pose no threat to humans,” biting, like most animals, only when provoked, according to Beyond Pesticides, a respected non-profit organization specializing in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which relies on least-toxic removal methods and treatments in home, garden and farming, and allows synthetic chemicals only as a last resort. That said, no one likes waking up with a bite on sensitive areas from active hunting spiders like the brown recluse who can crawl under, and up into, a bed.

The answer? Here are some tips from Beyond Pesticides and my own experience.


*Dust (use a long-handled dustmop for ceiling corners) or vacuum to remove webs and egg cases. Remember to clean under furniture and in closets.

*Keep clothing and shoes off the floor and shake them out—carefully, and outdoors. Most spider bites happen when cleaning out closets or storage areas. Place in sealed plastic bags.

*Capture and release (outside). Trap spiders with a wide-mouth jar, sliding stiff paper or cardboard underneath. Invert jar so spider drops in. Or sweep the spider into a grocery bag.

Kill without chemicals.

*Swat hard with a magazine or shoe.
* The tax-time solution: Freeze, for 48 hours, boxes/ files/ containers filled with old papers & receipts you need but suspect spiders may be hiding in. Ditto old clothes and other stuff from cleaning out the closet.
*Or put things in sealed plastic bags and spiders will die for lack of oxygen (although freezing is kinder).

Keep spiders out.

*Seal openings, which also weatherizes and saves on energy bills. Think: door sweeps, caulking gaps around electric openings, windows and vents; make sure screens are intact.

*Keep 2 feet of clearance between shrubs and the walls of your home. This also helps keep termites out.

*Draw curtains or shades at night so spiders (and other insects) won’t be attracted to windows.

*Ventilate and dry out moist, humid areas, where spiders like to lurk.

*Cut down on clutter, which will also discourage roach infestations.

There! Spider monitoring is also a good way to get your spring cleaning underway.

Got eco-questions? Ask away on my home page, . More green living facts and tips can be found there and in my book, .