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Advice about Spiders

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Wolf spider?

Nov 2011

My son was playing Legos on our living room floor and said he saw a big spider. It turned out to be a VERY BIG spider, which I think is a wolf spider. It's 2'' across, hairy and brown. We caught it and plan to take it to LHS tomorrow. Does this mean we have MORE living in our house? Have you ever found one inside, and then found more? Any advice welcome! Creeped Out Mom


Yikes. My Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders says that wolf spiders are not web weavers, but are burrowing spiders so I'd imagine it hitched a ride indoors (on some firewood?). Wikipedia says they are solitary creatures and live lonely lives (paraphrasing), so it sounds like you probably don't have a bunch of them running around.

One thing that has always helped my family and myself is to learn as much as possible about any creepy-crawly or critter that we encounter. How dangerous are they? Where do they live? As a general rule, big fuzzy spiders may look really terrifying, but it's the shiny spiders that are most dangerous to humans. Spider bites are pretty rare and spiders are good companions, really, in that they prey on much more dangerous things like mosquitoes. You're probably safe, but, I hear you...Big bugs and spiders are creepy. Molly G


I'd wait to hear the diagnosis from LHS. It sounds likely to be something other than a Wolf spider (which get to about an inch), e.g., (and they're everywhere right now in the yard) a pleasant enough Orb Web Weaver which somehow got lost inside. Our house is overrun with various flavor of spiders, all of which are more welcome than any bugs they manage to catch. Ara Chnid
You probably have more (although I don't know). Wolf spiders (and other California spiders) don't usually bite humans (if ever) and are not poisonous, and will kill and eat other pests in your home so overall it's good to have them around, even if you don't like seeing them. Andi

Spiders everywhere!

Sept 2011

My husband and I are butting heads about what to do about the army of spiders that have set up shop both in the front and back areas of our house. We have lots of native shrubs and trees, closely spaced together, so they lend themselves nicely to web-building. While I am not bothered by the critters, citing their important role in pest control, my hubby says they ARE the pests. I do see his point of view - often you can't walk through the front or back yards without bumping into webs and getting a spider or two scurrying on your body somewhere. These spiders are all of the common brown mottled variety. Hubby is up in arms about inviting brown recluse spiders and black widows into the house. I don't like the idea of having chemicals sprayed all over our property, as we have two dogs and a toddler. What has worked for others in getting rid of spiders more gently? (I tried power-hosing them down with water, but they came back the very next day!) pacifist about the spider war

[moderator note] September is Spider Season in the Bay Area! See past advice below.


Not being a huge fan of spiders myself (because for some reason they bring out the squeamish little girl in me), I always wait with anxiety for spider season towards the end of the summer. As noted by the moderator, this is the time of year that these common (non-poisonous, and VERY helpful for curbing the mosquito/wasp/annoying insect population) spiders web-out and breed all over the place. Remind your husband that it's only a minor inconvenience, certainly NOT a health issue, and in a month or so they'll be gone...until next year! doesn't-like-em-but-does't-kill-em
I have the same experience. I have a huge native plant garden and many brown spiders of all sizes hanging on webs everywhere. The good thing is that spiders will only set up in non-toxic environments so we must have healthy homes/gardens! Here is what I did last fall/winter, I put some latex gloves on and looked at the areas where they set up webs for the egg sacs. I then scraped or pinched the egg sacs and threw them away. I didn't get all of them given that we still have spiders but I noticed that it was more manageable this year. Last year we were running into webs. This year they are more contained but spiders are hard to control because they lay eggs in many nooks and crannies. It's impossible to eliminate them and they do serve a purpose so I tolerate them as best I can. Spiderwoman

My 5-year-old has some bad spider bites

Sept 2010

We seem to have a poisonous spider problem. My 5-yr old has had some really bad bites. But about a week ago my husband got a terrible spider bite on his forehead. It swelled, but only to the size of about a poker chip. The swelling is like a volcano with a red indented center. But it literally put him in bed for about 3 days with flu-like symptoms. He is still recovering.

We don't know exactly what kind of spider we are dealing with. We live in Mill Valley. I've read some conflicting info on BPN and other research. But most say the brown recluse doesn't live here so I guess that's not it. Has anyone had a similar experience and a positive spider identification?

Almost all past BPN advice recommends leaving spiders alone because most are beneficial. Unfortunately, that is not an option. We have a poisonous spider problem. So I am looking for advice about how to control the dangerous spiders in the least toxic way. I've ordered the book Common Sense Pest Control but not yet received it. I know to get rid of cardboard and don't leave clothes piled on the floor. Is there any kind of ''green'' exterminator we can call? We are not necessarily opposed to chemical treatment outside the house if that would help. But if we do go the traditional chemical route, I'd prefer a knowledgeable local professional rather than a chain like Terminex. Does anyone have a recommendation that serves Mill Valley?

Thanks for any advice! Arachnophobia


I would like to reply to the person who is suffering from spider bites. Not once in your post do you say that anyone in your family has seen the spiders that are biting you. In fact, you don't even seem to know what they look like! How do you know they are spiders? I have handled spiders all my life (I like them), and I have never been bitten. I also can't imagine a spider creeping into someone's bed and biting them. It's just not what spiders do. I'm sure you are having some sort of problem with creepy-crawlies, but it doesn't seem to me it's likely to be spiders. You need to identify your intruder before you can fight it. spider gal
Spider bites are exceedingly rare but myths abound that spiders are out there biting people all the times, esp. in their sleep. It is much more likely that other insects are biting you (bed bugs, rat mites, fleas, ticks) or your husband's sore is something like a MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection: http://www.medicinenet.com/mrsa_infection/article.htm Here's another webpage about the myth of spider bites: http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/spidermyth/myths/asleep. html You should see a doctor about these bites/sores. Spiders rarely bite people; they cannot drink human blood. They eat small things like insects, period. Andi
Did you actually see the spider bite the skin? If not, then it is probably not a spider bite. Even doctors get confused. If they see a bump on the skin that they are not familiar with, they will commonly call it a spider bite, instead of saying that they just don't know. if you have bumps on your skin, it could be many things. Check here for more info: http://www.srv.net/dkv/hobospider/medical.html Using pesticides to kill spiders doesn't work. You have to get rid of their habitat. Any pesticide you use would probably be far more dangerous for your family than the spiders. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7442.html anon
Next time it happens, go to your doctor to get a swab of the ''bite'' tested. What you're describing sounds much more like MRSA (a type of staph resistant to some antibiotics) than it does like spider bites. MRSA is pretty ubiquitous around here -- more than half of the staph skin infections cultured at Children's Hospital in Oakland are MRSA. The infections are quite commonly mistaken for spider bites. Some reliable info on MRSA is at http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/mrsa_initiative/skin_infection/index.html local pediatrician
I've recommended him here before, but my go-to source for sane and often environmentally friendly advice about dealing with all manner of creepy crawlies is the Bug Man: www.askthebugman.com JP

Finding black widow spiders outside and in garage

Aug 2010

I have found black widow spiders in three different places around our house: in our garage, outside our kitchen, and right by the front door. These are all places where my 2 young kids are frequently and I think we should get rid of them because of the danger they can (potentially) pose to our kids. I know they are definately black widows because of the red hourglass on their bodies. I want to have a professional come out. My husband thinks I'm overreacting and that we should just spray them with bug spray and call it a day. I have actually sprayed one of the spiders directly with a spray made for spiders but it didn't kill it. I'm generally opposed to the use of insecticides and prefer to live in harmony with our little crawly house companions but I draw a very real line at the creatures that can harm my kids. My youngest is only 19 months old and is very curious so I am concerned at the risk she could be in. I suppose I'm mostly appalled at my husband's lack of concern. Am I overreacting? Thanks for the sounding board Just want to keep my kids safe


Richard Fagerlund, aka The Bugman, is my go-to source of advice for dealing with creepy crawlies in a sane way.

His advice: ''You can control black widows without using any toxic pesticides or spending money on a pest control service. First mix up a solution of 40 percent water, 40 percent alcohol and 20 percent dish soap in a spray bottle. Then inspect your entire yard for signs of black widows and spray any you find directly with the mixture. If you don't spray the spider directly, it won't help. If you can't see the spider or aren't sure if one is present, then you can dust the area with food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). This product will kill any spider it comes in contact with and prevent others from nesting in the area.'' More: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/25/HODG13MCJD.DTL JP


black widow bites are lethal to small children. black widow spiders can inflict serious damage to adults as well. there are sonic pest plug-ins that may deter them but i would get a reputable pest control service to come and treat the perimeter of your house and check everything. you do not want to mess with black widows. Leo
My four-year-old son was bitten by a black widow spider this summer and ended up in the hospital for four days with an IV of some pretty heavy narcotics. It was scary and awful. After that, my husband went around our house, inside and out, and found more black widows and killed them all. We're keeping shoes indoors (the black widow was in his boot), and we're using a leaf blower to keep shadowy corners clear. I've read that spraying doesn't help that much, but I think that being careful about keeping black-widow-friendly areas clear is helping. Tell your husband that you're not overreacting: watching my kid scream in pain for four days proved that to me. Been there
I don't think you're over-reacting but I'm probably in the minority. When I find spiders in the house I gently take them outside and and release. But I make an exception for black and brown widows (yes, there is such a thing as a brown widow); of those I am not so accepting. Thankfully I have not found them in our home, but I find them in the garage and in the yard (around where the kids play). From what I've learned they are quite resistant to bug spray. I was given one recommendation to spray the web instead of the spider itself, but I've had limited success with that. I do not recommend spraying around the house because it kills alot of other beneficial bugs. I am teaching my children how to recognize them and to let a grown up know whenever they find one. Best of luck!
I recommend that next time you see and/or kill one of the spiders, that you put it (live or dead) in a little container and take it to an entomologist or pest person to get a positive ID on it. You may be able to call the entomology department at UC Berkeley and see if there is a person who could identify your spider for you. Black widows also have a very distinctive shape that is very different from other typical spiders in the east bay. Form what I understand,t hey are common in hot dry places like Davis, but not very common at all on the west side (bay side) of the east bay hills where, especially this summer) we have a lot of cold damp fog. I don't know where yo live, but if you live in Berkeley, in my opinion, the likely hood that you have Black Widows out in the open during this cold summer is small. nature mom
I did not see the original posting asking advice about black widow spiders, but I do want to disagree with what Nature Mom said. Though she may be right that there are relatively less black widows in the east bay than other hotter dryer areas, there are definitely black widow spiders here!

I live on the berkeley/oakland border and since the spring of this year have killed or found 7 black widows INSIDE my house or outside in an often used area. There is one more under an eave out of the way on my garage that I cannot reach and I leave alone. One made her web in the middle of my sunny kitchen window! Two others made their webs in corners of nearby windows. I usually catch spiders in a jar and take them outside and caught two that way, and got a very good look at them and have no doubts whatsoever about what they are. After reading about what a bite would do I've switched to killing any I find indoors or in areas where my son might go. Usually spider friendly mama


Backyard overrun with little black spiders

Nov 2009

We just bought a house and the backyard is overrun with weeds (mostly oxalis). I'm excited by the landscaping project ahead of me, but noticed today that there are a TON of small black spiders amongst the oxalis. They are probably innocuous, but...ick! How do I get rid of them without using a ton of poison? I don't mind a few spiders, but the place is literally crawling with them! And I'm concerned that they'll just invade the house once I dig up the oxalis. Any ideas? arachnophobe


Hi, I know you are an arachnophobe, but please be gentle with these little black spiders. I am pretty sure that these are the same ones I have in my back yard in Alameda; on a sunny day you see lots if you look. They hunt flies diligently. They don't bite or spin webs. And poisoning them is, well, a toxic approach! I have literally never found one inside the house (in 33 years), although various other kinds seem to like it indoors. They seem to love the sun and don't like indoors or other enclosed areas. Once you have a well-mowed or landscaped yard, I don't think you will see so many; and they are a well-behaved way to keep flies down. Nils
Don't worry too much about the spiders. October is the month that sees them proliferate. This will pass and you'll start your landscaping and all will be well. Andus

Black widow spiders in unfinished basement

Nov 2009

Hi. We were cleaning out our laundry/storage area (its an unfinished, dark, dusty sub- terrainian space) and found a couple of black widow spiders. We are just about to move our two children into the adjacent finished basement as their bedroom (just on the other side of the wall.) We cleaned out the unfinished space as best we could, but now I'm worried that black widows will come into the finished basement and bite the children.

Is there any way to get rid of black widows?. I am open to spraying with chemicals as I think the environmental risk is worth it considering a bite could kill a small child. But I don't even know if that would work, or just drive them into the finished bedroom area across the wall. Any recommendations for pest control people to call? thanks!


Pesticides are generally useless when it comes to spiders. And generally, black widows live in uninhabited spaces, like the unfinished basement where you found them. So, if you do nothing at all, the kids will likely be safe from black widows in their rooms. For more info on black widows, insects, etc, the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management site is very helpful. http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7442.html anon
Black widow spiders, One of the most important first steps (besides removing the black widows) is change the humidity level in the room. They enjoy dark, somewhat moist, and dusty sub-terrainian spaces. I normally don't kill spiders but in this case you really need to. After you remove/kill them and change the moisture levels they won't come back. No need for chemicals. The way I changed the levels was to get a dehumidifier and place it in that area/room. If you can get to the spiders- the easiest way is to cup them, take them outside and kill them. We had about 15 or so (and spiderlings) inside our house. zt
I grew up, and then raised my own child, in old houses in the Oakland Hills that had many spiders including black widows in them, and I would certainly advise against using poison. Of all the various kinds of spiders (which I taught my child to try to catch in a jar and take outside whenever possible, as my compassionate mom taught me), black widows are by far the hardest to catch because they are so shy - they hide in dark cracks most of the time, and when they come out, usually at night or in the dark, they are always ready to run back and hide. We lived for years with a black widow in each of two cracks along the baseboards in 2 bedrooms - at least, we'd often see them there when vacuuming (they always escaped) and sometimes at night with a flashlight (we never managed to catch one, they move so fast, so after a while we gave up). Eventually we ''solved'' the problem by (duh) caulking the cracks, so the spiders had to find their way out the other side of the wall somewhere. We've never seen them in the house where there wasn't a handy dark crack. In the (unfinished and usually dark) basements, it's another story; widows do lurk between the odd objects so we have to be careful when we move anything around. By the way, black widows' webs are conveniently easy to recognize: formless, very tough, often making a crackly sound - a good warning. So my advice is not to worry too much; vacuum and caulk and weatherstrip; educate yourself and your child (when old enough) about how to recognize and avoid black widows and their webs; and remember if you do use poison you'll have to keep using it because they may come back. My daughter is 13 now, brave and passionate about nature and biology. Tolerance Advocate
For your black widow problem, please look up the Richard Fagerlund's website www.askthebugman.com You'll find the answer to your problem in there. He does not recommend the use of toxic chemicals and I have used to his suggestions for ant control and pests in general with 100% success. Maia Maia
I always look to Richard Fagerlund who writes the ''Ask the Bugman'' column for advice. Here is what he says: ''Good housekeeping indoors and outdoors can control black widow and other spiders. Spiders are very fond of littered environments and keeping that to a minimum will help reduce their numbers. Make sure all doors and windows close tightly. Do not stack firewood, bricks or anything else near your house. If you go around your house at night with a flashlight and inspect suspected hiding places, you will often find the spiders working in their webs. You can vacuum them up or spray them with a mixture of soap, water and alcohol to kill them. The mixture should be approximately 40% water, 40% alcohol and 20% dish soap. This concoction will kill most insects as well as spiders. You can treat cracks and crevices with natural grade diatomaceous earth to kill spiders that may be hiding in those areas.'' You can read his info about spiders here: http://www.askthebugman.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=70:april-2007&catid=45:the-bugman-reports-2007&Itemid=60 No need for nasty chemicals. Andi
I have been through this many times and would advise you start out simple. Before you hire some contractor to come and soak your house with toxins he has in a secret tank on the truck try a DIY method. Seal off the area of concern and release one or two of the aerosol foggers you buy at the hardware store. Let them do their job for 24 hours and then air out the area. They work incredibly well and seem to be a long lasting solution. If you find the need to bring in a pest control company make sure they provide you with a MSDS (material safety data sheet) on whatever they intend to spray on or in your home. If they won't do it find one who will (often they cite secret formulas and proprietary issues). The risk of toxic exposure is likely much greater than the spider bite. I have been bitten and my arm was temporarily numbed to the elbow but all was fine the next day. A brown recluse bite is more concerning if there are any around here. anon
I'll admit that I don't know very much about black widow spiders, and maybe they are harder to get than the non-black-widow kind that inhabit my house. I was surprised that no one has yet given much credit to my weapon of choice, which is a canister vacuum cleaner with a ''wand'' type hose. I have found this to be extremely effective. I don't go vacuuming up individual spiders, as those are harder to catch, but instead, I take the time to look for, and vacuum up every web-encased bundle of spider eggs that I can find - usually in nooks, crannies, corners, and under furniture. This has significantly reduced the indoor spider population at my house. If it doesn't help in your case with the black widows, it certainly doesn't hurt anything, and you'll be free of dust bunnies to boot. L

Is there a non-toxic way to get rid of spiders?

May 2009

I was wondering if anyone has found a non-toxic way to get rid of spiders in your house. We bought our house a year ago, and when the weather starts to warm up, spiders appear everywhere but mostly up stairs. I asked the previous owner about this. They said they always had problems with them and would even spray outside once a month. I have a toddler and spraying isn't an option. Any suggestions? anon


The vast majority of spiders that would be in your house won't hurt you, and they are good to have in the house to keep other pests under control. We've always had spiders, and never had them cause real problems (maybe a few mild suspected spider bites, but nothing dreadful, and the bites may have been from something else). But if they bother you, just take them outside! Place a cup or glass over them, slide a card under to trap them, then deposit them outside. As non-toxic as it gets. spider liker
Cats
Allen
We have a ''spider catcher'' a plastic tupperware container. I catch and release the spiders outside into the garden. They are harmless to us, and beneficial to the environment. jj
Why not just let the spiders alone? If you kill them, then you will just have flies and mosquitoes instead. Spiders in the home provide a service and cause no problems. Live and let live. Sanon
Somewhere between toxics and letting them live/relocating them lies what I used to do when I lived in a house with a lot of spiders: Once a week, as part of my housecleaning, I went around with the vacuum (with the hose attachment, or you can use a dustbuster) and vacuumed up all the spiders/webs. My house now mostly has spiders outside, where I really enjoy watching them. Kathy

Are these spider bites on my toddler?

July 2008

A few times a week, our toddler son has been waking up with red spots on his face and body, which we've been told are spider bites. They don't seem to itch or bother him, but needless to say I'm horrified that a spider is biting him at night! We've been advised to vacuum more, but this hasn't completely solved the problem. Our son co-sleeps with us, and I never see any spiders in our(reasonably clean) apartment except for the occasional daddy longlegs (whom my husband says don't bite -- is this true?). Should we hire an exterminator? Close the windows at night? Rid the bedroom of every last dustbunny? Advice appreciated. Spidey's mom


My now 5 yr. old son seems to get bitten by some critter a few times/yr. I just hose him down in Avon's Skin So Soft bath oil for a few nights and it seems to discourage whatever's chewing on him. I also spray it on his sheets, stuffed animals, and pillow. Good luck! Been There
I don't know why people always say that any unidentified red mark on the skin is a spider bite. Have you even once seen a spider bite you, the way you've seen mosquitoes and fleas bite you? I never have! I think you can safely ignore that ''diagnosis.'' Don't hire an exterminator. You'll probably just get lots of toxins dumped into your home environment with no benefit. Identify what the marks on your son's skin are, with the help of his pediatrician or a dermatologist, and let your treatment proceed from a real diagnosis. Standing up for spiders and logic
WE've had similar experiences on and off. What's true is that spiders like warm dark places...like beds with covers and sheets and warm bodies. Some spiders are really teency (...''eensy beensy''...) What you can do is take the bedding off every morning and leave it off. Put fresh bedding on at night....OR...put the bedding in the dryer before putting it back on the bed at night (to kill any critters)....maybe also vacuum the mattress. Good luck. Tis spider season anon
kind of disgusting but.....could it be an allergic reaction rat mite bites? at first i thought our kids had chicken pox, as we (parents) didn't have any marks. but after i took them to the dr, she said that because the kids' skin is thinner, it often shows up more on children. also, not everyone reacts to the bite. check around your home and attic for evidence of rats (esp. dead ones). we had to remove a beautiful vine but it solved the problem. problem solved
No, daddy longlegs don't bite. In fact, there are very few spiders in our area that do bite. It is probably mites - maybe rat mites. Or bedbugs. Google these two things and see if it looks like the culprit.
We had problems with spiders and had an exterminator out once a month to spray; it didn't cut down much on the spiders because they breed so fast that the only way to control them is by overspraying, which is too toxic. So the exterminator gave me a great suggestion: get a house cat. Natural pesticide- free pest killer. Since we have had the cats, we have had no spiders, mosquitos, moths or flies inside the house --or at least not for long. There are some great cats at Friends of Fairmont Animal Shelter, very socialized, and definitely needing a home. steve

Brown recluse spiders?

July 2003

My mother, always fond of scare tactics, has just sent me email pics of what a brown recluse spider can do to a person. The bite got really infected, gross and well, just scared me to death! I recently read the discussion of B.R. spiders in Berkeley in the newsletters, but was wondering what about Orinda(where we are moving to)? I have two very young children who are always poking around things(under rocks, the garage etc.). Anon


The Chronicle printed an article about the dangers (or lack of) from brown recluse spiders http//sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2002/10/30/HO199587.DTL Patrick
I believe I was the person who mentioned a bite by a brown recluse spider in the advice newsletter. I would like to say that we were not living in California at the time. I found the site mentioned by another reader http//www.ipm.ucdavis.edu , to be very informative and helpful. I don't believe that brown recluses are supposed to be found in California. Of course, they were not supposed to be in the state we were living in either, and we believe the spider came in a box with some clothing delivered from another place where there are such spiders. My husband was bitten when he put on the clothing. In any case, though my spouse was definitely bitten, he got excellent medical care from the local clinic (medicine to take and close monitoring) and though he got all the classic symptoms including flu and a dinner dish size swelling, in the end it did not leave so much as a scar. The best defense against this kind of spider and probably a lot of others is indeed, vacuuming regularly, keeping clothes and bedclothes off the floor. Most spiders are harmless, and in fact eat annoying insects. The point of my earlier message was mainly that in my (limited) experience it is pretty unusual to get bitten by a spider! it does happen, but not all that often, and it is usually just a large mosquito bite-like thing. I have lived in California all my life, as have my teenagers, and none of us has ever been bitten by a spider in the house, despite the cobwebs that appear regularly on the ceiling (I do admit that I prefer the magnificent constructions in the garden). So my other point was, if my kid was bitten in the house even once, I would do something to reduce the spider population in the house immediately. The website above is very helpful with ideas for controlling spiders in eco-friendly ways. Do not worry about spiders! Ms. Tuffett
I just read something on Snopes about this the other day. You should check it out. http//www.snopes.com/photos/brownrecluse.asp ***Warning*** the pictures are quite graphic. Patty
I had similar concerns about these spiders, and wondered if they were under my house. It's been a while now, so I'm not sure who I contacted, but I believe it was someone in the appropriate department at UC Berkeley. They were happy to talk to me. My recollection is that they said, to my surprise, that brown recluse do not exist in this area, and they may have even said in california. So, before you worry too much over it, check it out. anon
A colleague of mine was bitten on the back of her leg by a brown recluse at a school in Lafayette (she was taking chairs out of a closet at the time.) I was amazed at the damage done by one bite. Since they are definitely in Lafayette, I would think they are also in Orinda. Patty

Getting rid of rats and spiders

Nov. 2003

Spiders not wanted anymore... We need advice about rodents and spiders removal services. The need is quite urgent. thanks so much !! Hi- Please think twice about getting rid of your spiders (but not the rats!). They have an undeserved bad reputation, and arachniphobia is just that- a phobia.

Spiders are very beneficial for the environment. They eat many harmful and annoying insects like flies and mosquitoes. Black Widows are the only spiders found here that can be dangerous to humans, and they do not choose to live inside houses. Cecelia


3-year-old's bad reaction to spider bites

June 2003

My 3-year-old son seems to get a lot of spider bites, and his reaction seems pretty severe to me. His doctors have not seen them at their very worst, but they've heard my descriptions over the phone and say that it is typical and not a major concern. He had one bite on his big toe that first was red and swollen, then, within 24 hours, started turning purple and black and bubbly and over the next several days blisters developed and popped, skin peeled, you name it--it was so disgusting I couldn't even look at it and my husband had to put the antibiotic ointment on it! For 2 full days he could not even walk a single step. He has also had several on his forehead, and in the last 2 days he has gotten one on each wrist and one on his finger. So far nothing has gotten as gross as the toe, but they are very red and very swollen. I get them occasionally, and I got lots as a kid (but I lived in a wooded area back east), but I have never had or seen a reaction like he gets. Fortunately they seem to heal with no scarring, but I am concerned about both the frequency and the severity of the bites. We do not have an unusually large number of spiders in our house, and we always put them outside when we see them. I'm pretty sure the bites happen at night because we usually notice them in the morning.

We give him tylenol when they get really swollen just to ease the pain, but we have not given benadryl because he has asthma and their is apparently some risk involved with that. Has anyone else had this problem? Any suggestions on how to make him less appealing to spiders--like any supplements he could take or anything else to safely repel the spiders? Thanks! Tracy


Getting more than one or two spider bites in your life is NOT NORMAL. My kids are now in their teens and have NEVER had a spider bite. I had one in 1988. It was extremely painful and had full nervous system effects. My husband was bitten in 1996 by a brown recluse, and had to see the doctor many times and take medication to prevent extensive tissue loss (it came in a shipping box). Spiders that bite have many different types of venom, and you do not want your child exposed to this. Get rid of the spiders. Hire an organic exterminator or whatever makes you feel ok but get rid of them. Your son is not having a ''bad reaction'' he is having the normal reaction. The cheap way to get rid of them? Stay elsewhere for a couple days, fog with those foggers you can buy, air things out well and move back in. I know there are harmless spiders- -we have some in our house but that is not what you have. You have the kind that go out and hunt. been bit
Hi, Your description freaks me out a bit. Your son's reaction to spider bites sure seems extreme to me. Please *insist* that your ped refer you to an allergiest.

The extreme swelling, etc. that your toddler produced sounds similar to what I used to have with honeybee and mosquito bites. I was given a series of honeybee-venom allergy shots and always carry around an epi-pen just in case.

I hope the allergist has something helpful to say. In the mean time, I've always heard that lots of vacuuming/cleaning is the best way to discourage spiders. Good luck. Jennie


I didn't read the original post so don't have the full story, but most spiders are not only harmless but beneficial- they eat other, more harmful insects. Of course, black widows and brown recluses are a different story, but they are very rarely found in the house- wood piles and wooden shipping crates are their kind of territory.

Everyone gets spider bites from common little household spiders, but some people never know it because they're not sensitive to them. A person who is especially sensitive can get a painful itchy welt that may last a few days.

Killing all the spiders in the house is excessive, and foggers are quite toxic and even though the smell dissipates, the chemicals remain for some time. The idea of a crib cover sounds both effective and environmentally harmless. Cecelia


My younger daughter has intense reactions to spider, mosquito, yellow jackets, etc. Apparently, it is pretty common. My older daughter doesn't react at all and in fact doesn't get bitten as often. I keep an eye on the spiders in the house and remove them. anon
We have alot of spiders, but they must be pretty benign because our daughter has never been bitten in her crib. You do not ask for advice re getting rid of them, but I might consider that or spider-proofing the sleeping area - it sounds like alot of bites in a short period of time. These may be self-limiting, but probably not so fun for your child. Anon
For info about spiders http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7442.html Or get Common Sense Pest Control by William Olkowski from them library.
RE: 3-year-old's bad reaction to spider bites. I live in an area where insect and spider bites are common. If bites are common, then the culprit could be sand fleas, animal fleas or even chiggers. They all make a small, bright red, raised bump that itches. Children that are sensitive to bites may get larger welts. Fleas can terrorize children's legs. Try using Avon's ''Skin so Soft'' as a preventive method when the first bite appears. The spider bites that I have had, usually make me seriously sick for 6-8 days. A spider bite usually has a centerpoint, then a large darker circular area, sort of like a bruise, that encircles the bite. Each day the dark area gets smaller and the nausea and flu like symptoms of the bite lessen. The bite doesn't seem to itch. With a brown recluse bite, a larger area was quickly involved and I went straight to the doctor. They now treat it with something that they treat leprosy with, and the symptoms quickly go away. A qualified exterminator should be able to diagnose the culprit from looking at any of your household spider webs. I like the non-evasive methods of getting rid of household bugs - vacuum them up!! And use Avon ''Skin So Soft'' when the kids during flea hatching season, whether inside and outside, on their legs. Bites are serious issues for kids, or for anyone. RL

Spiders are everywhere in my house

April 2002

Spiders are everywhere in my house. Has anyone had a great experience with an exterminator in the Berkeley area? I've been told that an exterminator could spray the outside of the house, doors and windows to greatly reduce the creepy crawlers but I don't know who to call. I've checked the website and wasn't able to find any info there either. Thank Tabitha


You ask for exterminators for your spiders, but your spiders are themselves efficient exterminators of even more annoying bugs! Get rid of the spiders, and you will hear a lot more buzzing. (Sorry for the pro-spider posting, but I recently finished reading ''Charlotte's Web'' to my son, so we've been looking at spiders in a different light in my household!) Dan
I do not recommend spraying to get rid of spiders. Spiders are good for the environment and insect spray is bad for your and your children's (and beneficial crawlers') health. If you do not want spiders, go for a long-term solution. Call Screen Mobile (see phone book) to put screens on your windows to keep them (and other critters) from getting in in the first place. Use a broom to gather the few hapless spider intruders one by one in the cool of the morning or evening (when they are slower) and shake the broom outside. Our screens work great and keep out most moths, mosquitoes, flies and spiders. Good luck! Suzanne
Because of our mild climate, California homes are notoriously leaky, so there are lots of places for spiders to get in. What you need to do is seal up all the cracks in your house. You can buy caulk and caulk guns at the hardware store -- they're cheap. Get both the silicone-latex stuff (which you use with a "gun") and the spray-foam kind that comes with a straw-extender -- this is for large holes. The silicone stuff is basically clear; I gooped it on all over our house and you really can't see it.

Caulk everywhere there is a crack or seam, whether or not it looks large to you or even if you think it is sealed. When in doubt -- caulk it. Go all around the perimeter of all the rooms -- where the floors, the ceiling, and the walls come together. Also in closets and within the cabinets. Especially in the bathroom and kitchen, where there are big holes for piping coming up out of the crawlspace. Go all around all the edges of the windows and doors, as well as the fireplace, and so on.

Also, make sure you have screens on all the windows, and that they are tightly sealed.

The added advantages for you are a home that is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and less dust in the house, as well as a lower utility bill.

If you are at all sensitive to chemicals, try to do this work in the morning and air out the home for the rest of the day (windows open and fans running).

There is lots more info on caulking at the Home Energy Web site at www.homeenergy.org.


Exterminator for spiders

November 2002

Both my son and my husband have been bitten by spiders in our north Berkeley hills home. My husband's doctor feels the bites may have come from a ''cousin'' of the brown recluse spider. My son's OK, but my husband has had a very bad reaction to the bites (he's had 2 now) necessitating numerous trips to the doctor, antibiotics, etc. Does anyone have experience with a reliable exterminator in the area that may be able to rid us of these spiders? Has anyone had a similar experience and found another way to handle the situation? (We're not thrilled about the idea of chemicals and the harm done to more friendly insects & spiders.) Thanks! Kim


My neighbor told me that cats like to eat spiders and they are great exterminators all on their own! She has two cats and once they came into the house they had considerably fewer spiders in the home. Hope this is an eco-friendly answer you can live with! Julie
I full heartedly recommend ''Employ Exterminators.'' Richard has come to my home three times already regarding a mice problem and has also consulted with me about ants and spiders. He is very knowledgeable and honest. You can't do better. Good luck.
Once again I would like to recommend the book, ''Common Sense Pest Control'' by William Olkowski. It is a treasure trove of information. In regards to bites, the book says that brown recluse spiders are commonly suspect, but rarely the actual culprit. If you actually think you have brown recluse spiders, keep shoes, clothing and bedding off the floor. Brown recluse spiders like to hide in boxes and papers, so those could be frozen before dealing with them. If you use a short-acting chemical, the critters will move back in after the chemical no longer works. If you use a long-acting chemical, the humans will be in a toxic environment for years to come. I hate to think of using a chemical when you don't know what you are dealing with. A welt on the skin can be due to assassin bugs, ticks, mites, fleas, mosquitoes, lacewings, etc. It can also be caused by bacteria or viruses. sunsol
April 2002

Spiders are everywhere in my house. Has anyone had a great experience with an exterminator in the Berkeley area? I've been told that an exterminator could spray the outside of the house, doors and windows to greatly reduce the creepy crawlers but I don't know who to call. I've checked the website and wasn't able to find any info there either. Thank Tabitha


You ask for exterminators for your spiders, but your spiders are themselves efficient exterminators of even more annoying bugs! Get rid of the spiders, and you will hear a lot more buzzing. (Sorry for the pro-spider posting, but I recently finished reading ''Charlotte's Web'' to my son, so we've been looking at spiders in a different light in my household!) Dan
I do not recommend spraying to get rid of spiders. Spiders are good for the environment and insect spray is bad for your and your children's (and beneficial crawlers') health. If you do not want spiders, go for a long-term solution. Call Screen Mobile (see phone book) to put screens on your windows to keep them (and other critters) from getting in in the first place. Use a broom to gather the few hapless spider intruders one by one in the cool of the morning or evening (when they are slower) and shake the broom outside. Our screens work great and keep out most moths, mosquitoes, flies and spiders. Good luck! Suzanne

Spider Invasion

Oct 2001

I'm having similar trouble with spiders in my house. I am also a third generation Californian and this doesn't surprise me in the least. I lived in Santa Barbara for a while and the spiders we had in our yard there were huge. In our house in Berkeley, we regularly see at least 5 spiders a day! I have had to pull them out of my daughter's hair (dead) and see them hanging from her ceiling and near her windows (now always SHUT). She recently got three large bites on her chest and stomach -- which were red and about 1-2 inches in diameter. Scary. Any ideas or suggestions on how to keep these guys out? I have two cats and hate to poison the place. Maria


Because of our mild climate, California homes are notoriously leaky, so there are lots of places for spiders to get in. What you need to do is seal up all the cracks in your house. You can buy caulk and caulk guns at the hardware store -- they're cheap. Get both the silicone-latex stuff (which you use with a "gun") and the spray-foam kind that comes with a straw-extender -- this is for large holes. The silicone stuff is basically clear; I gooped it on all over our house and you really can't see it.

Caulk everywhere there is a crack or seam, whether or not it looks large to you or even if you think it is sealed. When in doubt -- caulk it. Go all around the perimeter of all the rooms -- where the floors, the ceiling, and the walls come together. Also in closets and within the cabinets. Especially in the bathroom and kitchen, where there are big holes for piping coming up out of the crawlspace. Go all around all the edges of the windows and doors, as well as the fireplace, and so on.

Also, make sure you have screens on all the windows, and that they are tightly sealed.

The added advantages for you are a home that is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and less dust in the house, as well as a lower utility bill.

If you are at all sensitive to chemicals, try to do this work in the morning and air out the home for the rest of the day (windows open and fans running).

There is lots more info on caulking at the Home Energy Web site at www.homeenergy.org.


9-month-old getting a lot of spider bites

Sept. 2001

Does anyone know of a non-toxic way of "bombing" to get rid of spiders? Our 9 month old is getting a lot of spider bites inside the apartment. We don't want to bomb on the freshly cleaned carpet that she is now staring to crawl all over. It does seem to be spider season- and the little rascals we have seem to move very fast. Any advice would be great. LM


I'm a 3rd-generation Northern California native and have never heard of anyone getting that many spider bites around here. However, flea bites can be a BIG problem. If you have carpets, I suggest you do some testing and try to figure out if you have fleas and work on getting rid of them if you do. That may solve the problem. Mark & Colleen
We thought our kid was getting spider bites, but they really were mosquito bites. Although they were harder and lasted longer than most mosquito bites, that's what they were. Mosquito netting above his bed and Herbal Armor repellent (from Real Goods) has made all the difference -- no more itchy hard bites! Avi

Lots of spiders in our yard

Oct 2000

We just moved to Berkeley (up near Grizzly Peak) last December, so are not used to these seemingly hundreds of spiders that have recently invaded our deck, yard, and garden. Can someone please tell me what kind they are (they're all the same kind--brown with black & white markings, averaging @ 1" across.) We have an 8-month-old, and are worried she might be bitten, but also don't want to hire an exterminator or use Raid or the like, for fear of chemical danger, now and residually. Are they poisonous? Or are they just friendly seasonal critters that will go away when winter comes? Any advice would be much appreciated. heidi


The spiders you spoke of arrive during the summer, hang out for Halloween I suppose, and soon depart when the cold weather and rain come. They are wonderful garden helpers during the summer growing season, as they help to control numerous pests. And they make such great webs. Don't worry about them biting--I have walked straight into their webs before and they just scramble to get away. They'll be gone soon enough (and back next summer)! No need for drastic measures. Eabremner
I believe that you will only notice these spiders in the fall. Some years there seem to be big "spider years" and you see a lot, but once the rains come they will go back into hiding and you won't notice them until next fall. We've never been bitten by them and we love to look at their webs that they create during the night. There do seem to be a lot more insects (and birds and other things) in the El Cerrito hills than in the Richmond flatlands where I used to live. Liz
The UC Berkeley entomology department has identified insects for me before. I can't remember the number I called, but I've actually brought bugs over in a jar and had someone look at them and tell me what they were. Looking in the phone book, the department seems to be called Insect Biology now. 643-9405. Hope that helps. Dashka
Those spooky-appearing spiders are called "Orb Weavers" and are harmless to us. They have a frightening look (to some people) and they do build fantastic webs. They usually hatch from eggs in early September. I have followed many generations of them in our gardens with my daughters. They have provided subject matter for quite a few science projects here!

An entomologist told me that they build a new web every day/night. I don't think they are remotely interested in coming indoors. They build their webs in your garden and catch little flies to eat. I wonder if they are the inspiration for the "spider" images associated with Halloween?

We try to just let them be. Sometimes I have to remove their webs from the clotheslines and play structure in the backyard (nobody likes to have a head-full of spider webs, or a face-full either!) but mostly I try to enjoy the craft of their amazing structures. When we find an especially elaborate one abandoned, I lightly spray it with white paint and then "catch" it on a piece of black paper.

If you don't want the Orb Weavers I suppose you could just remove the webs with a broom. I wouldn't want spiders near my baby either. But they really are harmless.

Sharon


Tis the season for spiders. I've been a gardener for years and they certainly are all over the place right now. I'm not sure if they're all Orb Weavers or other species too. To my knowledge they're not poisonous, but most spiders will bite. They start their webs in late Aug. to early Sept. and usually last thru Oct. or so. I'm not exactly sure what their life cycle is, but late fall seems to be it. It's always a shock to be minding your own business and suddenly you've walked into a web with a spider 3" from your face. AAAGGHHHH! Ultimately I think there's nothing to be concerned about. With your 8 month old, check out the area before going out, and you can move or remove any webs you find. Remember they eat flies and wasps and other annoying insects, and they were here first. They really are beneficial to the environment. As my boys got a bit older they were interested in looking in bug books to try to identify some of the spiders. Good luck. June
Not to worry - yours isn't the only yard playing host to these monsters. We recently had an underground wasp nest removed by the County - now there's an invasion you really need to worry about! -- and the woman who came to dispatch the wasps was admiring the 6 or so spiders that have taken up residence in our front garden/ walkway. I forget the name she gave them, but when I asked her how aggressive they are, she said not to worry about them. I must say, watching them catch moths is very impressive. (BTW, Contra Costa County will remove underground wasp nests and certain other pests (but not others) for free. The number is under Mosquito Abatement in the County government section of the phone book. They have an unintentionally funny voicemail system whereby you categorize the type of vermin plaguing your home. "For skunks, press 3, rats press 4") In general, you will find the EB Hills quite a buggy area. Thankfully, mosquitos aren't too big a problem. We have had a couple mild winters in a row, so in general the bug population is a bit worse than usual.

An aside about bugs: the local norm of not having window screens has always confounded me. I grew up in LA, where there are virtually no bugs except moths, and yet every house there has window screens. I guess it cancels out the confusing LA norm, where you have to bring your own refrigerator to a rental unit. At least we're civilized enough to provide basic appliances!:-) Ann


This is spider season. You will see webs proliferating on bushes and trees in your neighborhood. As far as I know, these spiders are not harmful. I work in a preschool in the Berkeley hills, and children occasionally get what they and their parents call "spider bites". I don't know what actually bites them, but the bites are about as serious as a mosquito bite, possibly a little more itchy. Louise
My research such as it is makes it most likely that your spiders are 'wolf spiders', if they are free-running on the ground (as opposed to the web-sitting kind). To me the ones in my yard, which have never bothered me, look like the 'Lycosid' touted as 'good pets'(!). (the ones in my yard catch tons of flies, which make the spiders a 'good thing'). If they have egg-cases on their backs, it's a good bet they are the Lycosids. This website has a key for finding them: http://140.211.62.101/catalog/home.shtml I selected 'runs fast' and 'lives on ground' and looked for the best visual match. Nils
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