Spiders: The word itself sends shivers down our spines. Yes, it’s safe to say these eight-legged arachnids evoke fear and screams from countless individuals nationwide. Even if you don’t suffer from arachnophobia, most everyone can agree upon not wanting them in their household.
Jim Fredericks, Ph.D, a board-certified entomologist and Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), says spiders are one of the most common fears that people report and are one of the most common pests that professionals are called on to control. “Although spiders are beneficial, because they eat other insects including many pests, most people don’t want too many lurking around their property,” he says, adding that if a spider bites you, contact a physician for medical advice. (You might take comfort in the fact that most spider bites are harmless to your health, per the Mayo Clinic.)
Still, if spiders have made themselves an unwelcome houseguest or staked their claim on your porch, patio or backyard, we’re here to help you keep your space spider-free.
Can spiders harm you?
Let’s start by diving into this a bit more, since many folks fear these creepy-crawly creatures.
Arachnophobia is a common phobia, but the bottom line is spiders probably aren’t going to harm you. “While some may bite if disturbed, most species are not harmful to humans,” says Fredericks. That said, there are two species — black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders — with particularly potent bites that can lead to severe symptoms such as vomiting, fever, chills and more.
Black widow spiders
This dangerous spider tends to seek out dry and dark locations. What do they look like? “Black widow spiders are black and shiny with a telltale red hourglass marking on their abdomen,” says Fredericks. “Female black widow spiders are known to be aggressive and bite in defense, especially when guarding eggs. In rare cases, black widow spider bites can be fatal.”
Brown recluse spiders
Brown recluse spiders like to go where there’s clutter, so we’re talking closets, attics and crawlspaces, all of which provide warm, dry, dark environments. Fredericks says these spiders are light to dark brown, with a characteristic dark brown, violin-shaped marking on their back. “The brown recluse spider also bites in defense when disturbed,” Fredericks explains, adding that, unfortunately, severe bite wounds from brown recluse spiders may take longer to heal and can result in scarring.
Where in the U.S. are spiders concentrated?
Depending on the species, spiders can be found throughout various regions of the U.S., says Fredericks. As for the two more dangerous species described above? “Black widows are found in most states, while brown recluse is most common in the mid-south region of the U.S.,” he says.
What time of year is worst for spiders?
Like many pests, a spider’s most active time is a seasonal thing. Fredericks says late summer and early fall are peak seasons for spiders, and plentiful rain in any region during the summer can cause insect populations to boom, creating more food for spiders. Per Fredericks, spiders may also become more obvious during the fall as they grow and build large webs.
If you hate spiders, spring may be your favorite season: “In the spring, when spiders emerge from egg sacs as spiderlings, they are inconspicuous,” says Fredericks.
How to get rid of spiders, indoors and outdoors
Now for the part we’ve all been waiting for: It’s time to discuss spider eviction strategies. Before you hire a professional (always a good idea, particularly if you’re concerned that spider activity is happening out of view), Fredericks outlines some simple steps you can take to rid your home of spiders.
- Keep garages, attics and basements clean and clutter-free.
- Seal any cracks and crevices around the home.
- Inspect items such as boxes of decorations and grocery bags before bringing them indoors.
- Change outdoor lights from incandescent or fluorescent to LED bulbs. Since many insects are attracted to outdoor lights, this change can help reduce the number of insects that are attracted to your home, making it less hospitable to spiders seeking a meal.
- Remove spider webs frequently, as doing so can help reduce spider populations over time.
When to call a pro to get rid of spiders
If your own attempts to get rid of spiders don’t work, or you’re concerned about a spider infestation, schedule an appointment with an exterminator. “Being proactive about spider control will reduce the likelihood of any species making a home in your abode and possibly harming a member of your family,” says Fredericks. “If you suspect you have a spider infestation in your home, contact a pest professional to identify the species and properly remove the pests.”