Indoors is mine, they can have the rest.
April 7, 2010 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Strategies for dispatching the eight-legged bastards that have the audacity to enter my home?

So, out in their world (and they can have the whole rest of the world), I can just walk away. But they are unwelcome in my house, and this severe phobia is extremely disruptive in my daily life (hell, I can hardly type the s-word). I'm aware of exposure therapy and the like and I just can't take that on in this stage of my life. So the question is this: what are some strategies for getting rid of them at a maximum physical distance and with minimal eye contact*?

While I used to be able to put a jar over them (for my boyfriend to deal with when he got home) and could occasionally get close enough to kill them with a sandal (which would also be left on top of them, because I am terrified of the dead ones too), I can't seem to pull this off anymore without a panic attack and 2-hour minimum anxiety repercussions.

Added difficulty: two cats in the house, one with asthma, so aerosols are pretty much out-- even if I could use the spray killer, I wouldn't even be able to pick up the can, because the manufacturers print massive images (?!?) on them-- I can't even buy the container, much less use it.

This is an irrational phobia, so unfortunately logic about why they aren't scary and won't hurt me is totally useless. I also understand their place in the world and why they're actually GOOD things, etc. I understand the facts, and though I am in many ways a (sometimes overly) rational person, this particular fear can't be conquered by reason-- if it could, I would have sorted it out myself long ago.

So, any suggestions as to what works for you? Do you have any tricks and strategies to share? Are there new devices that I'm not yet aware of? There used to be some "capture" devices but the handles were super-short and the container part was transparent, so that was out. Also, I'm not really into the capture and release part-- way too many opportunities for something to go horribly awry. I want to stay as far away as possible and have to look in that direction as little as possible.

*Yeah, yeah, I know they're not necessarily looking AT me back. You know what I mean.
posted by mireille to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
RE: The phobia where you can't even pick-up the can, because of the picture...Could you ask an understanding friend to buy a can and then cover the image for you? Or would the knowledge of the picture being there (though covered up) be enought to trigger your phobia?

As far as sprays go, the most effective ones are for use within walls and gaps where the little buggers live and congregate. Used correctly, I seriously doubt your kitty would be affected.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:37 AM on April 7, 2010

Could you use something like this bug zapper paired with this vacuum? There are a lot of similar ones on amazon. You could definitely cover the tube of the vacuum in duct tape or something so you couldn't see, and leave the dumping of the deceased to boyfriend/other. If you zap them first they can't escape, but these are still long-handled and you wouldn't have to get too close.
posted by brainmouse at 8:42 AM on April 7, 2010

In my house it's as simple as pointing out the spider to the cat, who then plays with it for a bit and eats it. If your cats aren't interested, can you get some kind of long-handled broom and just squash the poor bugger?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:44 AM on April 7, 2010

Also, sort of as thorzdad suggested, you could use sprays (or have a friend help you use sprays) as prevention -- I don't know a lot about these sprays, but maybe you could get an exterminator to do a perimeter spray outside or whatever (if you have a house, the strategy would be different for an apartment), and you would be doing this when there weren't any of the little buggers around, in order to keep it that way.
posted by brainmouse at 8:44 AM on April 7, 2010

This bug vacuum isn't that short. You could cover the transparent tube with opaque paint or fabric or something. This one is good too - it kills the bugs with electric current so you don't have to imagine them alive! Or as Thorzdad says, if the bug spray is too visceral for you, cover the can up.

The thing is, if your phobia is getting worse, each of these temporary fixes will have a short shelf-life and then you'll need something even more powerful. Because right now you're basically reinforcing the phobia, so each exposure makes you more afraid, not less. You have to break the cycle and I'm not entirely sure there is a product out there to help you.
posted by barnone at 8:46 AM on April 7, 2010

This is what you want.

I have a similar irrational phobia of centipedes and other basement-dwelling creepies (strangely enough, spiders don't bother me) and this vacuum allows me to keep a safe distance while ridding my life of the bug. You can empty it without even looking at the fried bug inside.

Seriously, man, fuck those little bastards.
posted by bondcliff at 8:47 AM on April 7, 2010 [3 favorites]

ooh, this is both a vacuum and a zapper, I was having trouble finding any of those. Again, I would cover the shaft part with duct tape so you couldn't see, but it just vacuums them up and kills them in one shot.
posted by brainmouse at 8:47 AM on April 7, 2010

In a pinch (and I know this is not very kind nor very environmentally friendly but bug spray probably isn't either) I have used hair spray. It's less toxic but it gums up the little legs of small invertebrates. Then they die.
I used to have this phobia very very badly. I could not even look at pictures. And then one day a big "s" was in my way - web on my porch & he was just there in the middle and so BIG and "glaring" at me. And I was in a crappy mood because I had an awful day and I wanted to sit on my porch dammit and have a beer. And then I decided F*** YOU spiders, you cannot make me afraid to enjoy my own house, you little (even more expletives deleted).
The phobia is much less now. Good luck!
posted by pointystick at 8:59 AM on April 7, 2010

You could ask your boyfriend to buy the aerosol can, and then put duct tape over the pictures. Don't cover up the safety information, just in case.

I don't want to get into the details (for my own sake and yours) but spraying spiders makes them engage in movements that you do NOT want to see up close. I recommend spraying them quickly and running to the other side of the room. Monitor their movements from afar.

Also, the cat trick works well for me: pointing the cat toward the spider and letting them duel. Spoiler: cat always wins.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:04 AM on April 7, 2010

Oh - what about a fly swatter? Or a fly swatter taped to the end of a broom? That would work if they're on a flat surface.
posted by cranberrymonger at 9:05 AM on April 7, 2010

Thanks for all of the answers so far. I will have my boyfriend pre-screen the links to the devices you've posted here when he gets home tonight. Sounds like there are a couple of good options (I especially like the long-distance zapper types) but in this heightened state (from having posted the question) I really prefer not to encounter any pics while I'm looking for solutions!

As for the cats-- they're wonderful little creatures but they're absolutely fucking useless with anything that doesn't have wings.

And about the can-- my boyfriend had suggested a while back that he could buy it and tape it, so I've spent some time thinking about it and (at the risk of sounding completely ridiculous) have come to the conclusion that even with three layers of duct tape I'd still be really uncomfortable. If I could handle it, and if the cats could, it would be a great solution, though!
posted by mireille at 9:14 AM on April 7, 2010

There are also devices called s***** catchers, which look like a pole with a trigger handle on one end, and a bristly or poofy thing on the other end that contracts and "grabs" the little guys without hurting them.

You get to keep them at arm's length and release them outside where they can go about their business. If you don't want to kill them, this could be a good alternative.
posted by Aquaman at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2010

i used to live in an apartment that had quite a few, and often had to remove them wholesale. as part of my removal strategy, i used my small wet/dry vac similar to the top two listed here.

advantages: long, enclosed tube attachment to increase reach (and in your case distance between you and the target), and powerful enough suction to ensure target compliance after acquisition. i do not feel that a battery operated vacuum has enough power to ensure 100 percent neutralization.

disadvantages: it does have a cord, and it's noisy so it might scare the cats into doing something irrational.

overall, i think this is the best solution for you. using extender tubes really increases your reach and the powerful vacuum whisks things away cleanly and quickly. get a long extension cord with it so you can easily plug it in at a far away from the infested region.

please note that i do not share your issues regarding multi-legged creatures, so there may be some unknown problem to my proposal.
posted by lester at 10:20 AM on April 7, 2010

I'm on a Catch And Release system with sp... Critters in my house. And I'll second Aquaman's suggestion. I have one of those catchers (caution: link has creepy flash video that might be tough to skip), and it works on even the very small critters.

Picture - with only minimal illustrated lifeforms.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:29 AM on April 7, 2010

Not sure if you live in a house or an apartment, but I would suggest treating the outside of the place, if possible. We use Tempo. You mix it up in one of those pump sprayers and squirt it all around your foundation.

I can always tell when it is wearing off, because usually we never see a s***** in the house. When I see one, it's time for DH to spray again.

S***** phobia makes it so that I never, ever want to even have to see one in the house.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:32 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

This thread is making me itch. I feel your pain on this one.
I moved into an old seaside home in a town where the locals brag about the size and number of the unwelcomes, or ee-ees as they are called on our home. None of the instruments linked would satisfy me.The poles on those things aren't long enough, and you DO want a transparent, or at least translucent containment unit so you have, forgive me, advance warning if they are making a break for it.

I have the bottom off a coke bottle, attached to a broom handle that I use for whicking the bastards out the window. This gives me distance and control, escape attempts are telegraphed well in advanced and can be countered with judicious pole twisting.
Believe it or not, dealing with them at this distance has been kinda therapeutic. In the beginning I could maybe take one, freak out, and need to be saved, but nowadays I can even deal with a couple simultaneously. It's been a quite empowering.

It's gotten so I have various levels of alert and a sort of mutual non-agression pact with them. If they stay up away from me, then they will be collected at bedtime and whicked out the window, giving rise to the name "ee-ee-whicker". However, if they break the non-agression pact, by for example scurrying, rapelling ninja-stylee from the ceiling etc. then all bets are off and they run the risk of going down the loo or being whacked with something huge and flat.
posted by Iteki at 10:54 AM on April 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make Magazine issue 6 featured a DIY s***** vacuum trapper with a long wand. Made out of PVC pipe. Total cost of about $10. Advantage of the DIY route: you can make the "wand" much longer than the commercial variety.

Instructions here, so you don' t even have to seek out a back issue; no pictures aside from a drawing of the finished device, but the s-word appears several times.
posted by chazlarson at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2010

Here is different link to the Make Magazine version mentioned by chazlarson. This link has video of the assembly in addition to the link to the instructions from the magazine.

Or you could stab them with toothpicks and line them up outside your door to warn other arachnids against entry.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:17 PM on April 7, 2010

Another "spray" solution...
Get the nozzle for a regular spray can, such as deodorant.
Attach the nozzle to a can of shaving cream (cheap is good).

Long-range crawly creature immobilizer.
It stops them in their tracks!
posted by Drasher at 3:18 PM on April 7, 2010

I share your pain. When young, I had Spiderman pajamas that were essentially a replica of the costume. I loved them, but I was terrified of the spider on the chest, and always went out of my way to avoid turning it inside out so it wouldn't touch my face when I took the shirt off in the morning. That phobic.

On the other hand, I'm the only one to do the job, I've realized. My wife isn't about to do it, and our cat, like yours, is useless (though very cuddly). My response: Kill the motherfuckers. Kill them a lot. I agree about the outside/inside thing. Outside, hey, they're doing a bang up job, thanks. The second they attach themselves to the house, or enter it, they've gotta die. If you try to view it as a total war kind of thing, that they've gotta go, and most importantly, that there is no one else who is willing to do what needs to be done, it will become a bit easier, spider by spider, to kill them. In my case, there's no way I could ever accept a spider, but I've gotten to the point where I can kill them with my bare hands if I need to (though I don't want to, sometimes hands really are the best tools). Start small, then work your way up. You can beat them. You're a lot bigger than they are, and it's not fair that they terrify you so badly (again, I totally understand and share your fear). If you can get to the point where you realize the choice is waiting for hours with a live spider under a glass for someone else to dispose of it, or killing it, making sure there's one less spider around, I imagine you'll gradually become better and the killing decision. Happy killing.

Yes, I understand rationally that spiders are good. The key to a phobia is that it's not rational.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:54 PM on April 7, 2010

I use an old Swiffer (without the disposable cloths) to get at centipedes mostly. The good thing is you don't have to make contact, and it can get the bastards that are on the ceiling or way up high on the walls. The negative is there's bug guts everywhere, which is kind of disgusting (you can use a wet cloth to clean up afterward, but you've really got to do it right away to prevent permanent staining). I like to think the bug smudges discourage their cronies from coming round, but, well, it really doesn't. This works for other crawlies, too, but unfortunately not for the worst one of all (the dreaded stinkbug).
posted by Mael Oui at 8:15 PM on April 7, 2010

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