How do I clean out a spider-infested shed?
July 27, 2013 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I recently bought a new house and, after a few weeks of getting moved into the inside, I turned my attention to the shed. The previous owners left a LOT of stuff in there. Mostly cans and bottles of various things -- insecticide, paint, etc -- but the also left behind around a large population of spiders. I'd like to get rid of them or reduce their numbers to a more manageable level.

I don't mind spiders, as a general rule, but the pervasiveness of them in this particular shed (as well as my inability to identify them) makes me want to just burn the whole thing down and start over.

Help me not do that.

One option is to take literally everything out of the shed, spray the whole thing with some sort of spider-be-gone spray, give it some time, and then move all of the stuff back in that I don't want to throw away. This seems to have two problems: a) it's a bit scorched earth for my tastes and b) the spiders are totally just going to come back.

I fully recognize that I will not be able to eliminate all spiders from the shed, but if I could reduce their number and keep them restrained to, say, the ceilings and corners instead of stringing webs everywhere inside, that would be ideal.

What is the surest way to make that happen?

(As a bonus, can anyone help identify this one? This is the most populous species in there, and I'm not quite sure what to make of her. In one case this guy was sharing the nest.)
posted by toomuchpete to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Is there an outlet nearby? If so, use a Shop-Vac to suck the little buggers up. The hose (and corresponding attachments) can reach into all of the sketchiest nooks and crannies.

We had a huge spider population in the basement of our newly purchased house. Cobwebs all over the place. Spiders the size of kaiser rolls. We spent an hour down there with the shop-vac and just emptied it out into a trash bag after. Suffice it to say: No more spiders.

I believe you can rent Shop-Vacs from most hardware stores.
posted by shiggins at 11:11 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

An insect fogger would likely be the best place to start. Once you clean out the cobwebs and other junk in the shed, you should be able to manage their presence with regular application of bug spray around the doors and windows. (My spiders tend to congregate around exterior doors and windows.)
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 11:17 AM on July 27, 2013

I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.

Step 1: Have professional exterminators identify and eliminate all spiders.

Step 2: Have 1-800-GOT JUNK come out and deal with getting all the shit out of the shed.

This accomplishes some things.

1. You're not screwing around with chemicals that may or may not do the job.

2. You are providing work to hard working folks.

3. It's hot and humid out there. Have a lemonade and let the pros take care of it for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:30 AM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

We used a fogger in our shed 2-3 years back. There's probably some new spiders living in there by now, but it's nowhere close to what it was before we fogged.
posted by mattu at 11:37 AM on July 27, 2013

I'm with Ruthless Bunny: this is a job for professional exterminators. Or else for waiting until the first freeze. But seriously, I am also in the South and the spiders here are absolutely out of control this summer. I think you need some heavy duty professional-grade chemicals in there.
posted by something something at 12:22 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

What the professionals most often do these days is just take a dusting head on a long handle, and knock down all the webs they can find. Without webs, most spiders starve to death, and can't reproduce. If you're conscientious about doing this, say every couple days, for a couple of weeks, your spider problem will be gone without doing much else.

But do consider that without all those spiders, you'll then be dealing with all the other insects that are currently quietly dying as spider food.
posted by paulsc at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Cleaning out the shed will do wonders. The spiders are there because there are bugs. Take away the homes for bugs and you'll take away the spiders.

Take everything out, throw away the crap you don't want. Give the shed a thorough cleaning, powerwash it if possible, and then put everything back you want to keep, but organize it. Shelves and whatnot. That will remove most of the bug playlands and the spiders will find better hunting somewhere else.

If you feel like there are truly horrible number of creepy crawlies, then, as mentioned above, bug bomb it when it's empty, but to kill the bugs, not the spiders.
posted by Ookseer at 1:02 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with fogging and then cleaning out the shed. Or yeah, have pros do the dirty work if you can afford it.

And the spiders look like Steatoda, most likely S. grossa. A bite won't kill you but you probably won't feel good for a day or two.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:30 PM on July 27, 2013

We had a black widow problem in our shed when we bought our house. We bought the blue raid fogger. That did the trick and then we were able to get in there and clean. We gave it a day to air out after because the space was smaller than recommend for the fogger.
posted by MayNicholas at 2:51 PM on July 27, 2013

I second the vacuum. Any kind will do, run an extension cable if need be. If you can get a hold of a bagged vacuum, you don't even need to dump out the spiders into a bag.
posted by captaincrouton at 7:27 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take everything out, throw away the crap you don't want.

If you do this, contact your city sanitation dept to find out the rules for hazardous waste disposal.
posted by CathyG at 8:35 PM on July 27, 2013

First, I think you should do a little research online, besides what you are doing here of course, and try to get a good ID on the spiders (you can try What's That Bug to start). If you're confident the majority of the spiders are not of a poisonous type, I say put on some good work gloves, get a good vacuum (like Shiggins said) with a looong wand, clear out the worst of the clutter so you can get into nooks and crannies, and vacuum the heck out of that place. A vacuum will suck up adult spiders and kill them instantly; it will destroy their webs; it will take away their food source (smaller bugs) and, perhaps most importantly, it will suck up the egg sacs.

Then empty the vacuum directly into a plastic bag, tie the bag, and put it in a trash can far from the shed (in case you have any survivors). You could try putting out some sticky traps in the shed post-cleaning to catch any stragglers.

If it seems you have more than a few brown recluses or black widows hiding in there, then I say call an exterminator.

But to me (Note: I am NOT an entomologist; I'm just a gardener), the spiders in your pics look like some sort of Tegenaria Domestica AKA Barn Funnel Weaver spiders, which are not poisonous and are in fact afraid of people.
posted by BlueJae at 9:10 PM on July 27, 2013

(Oh here are some more pics of barn funnel weavers that look a lot like the ones you posted.)
posted by BlueJae at 9:14 PM on July 27, 2013

Is the shed attached to your home? Because if it is and if you just clean out the shed, destroy the webs, eliminate the insects the spiders are eating, etc, the spiders are going to move into your house. I moved into a big old house with a huge basement at one time years ago and the basement was absolutely a living, moving entity all its own thanks to about a kazillion spiders. Ugh - it was horrible. But I needed the place to live, badly, so I charged into the basement with a vacuum cleaner and flyswat and broom and whatever else I could find and killed spiders by the dozens - I won't use insecticides (another subject). I felt so much better after I managed to clean that basement all up - boy, it looked nice. Then I went upstairs to bathe and eat supper and hit the sack - and was dismayed to find that there were now spiders in my bedroom, in the kitchen, and in the bathroom.

If the shed is attached to the house, I'd try to hit the attached wall first and ceiling first with the vacuum and move away from the house as you go. Then I'd seal the common wall and ceiling with some paint/acrylic/shellac/varnish - or something - as quickly as possible.

Many years ago I abandoned a bunch of stuff, boxes and such, in a small shed in Tucson, Arizona because the shed was absolutely full of black widows - couldn't handle that. And yes, I know very well what a black widow looks like.

Good luck, dear.
posted by aryma at 8:39 PM on July 28, 2013

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