August 5, 2020 9:24 AM   Subscribe

It's our first summer as homeowners in the PNW. I need help dealing with the spiders.

I know that spiders are a part of life, particularly when you have a yard. But they are driving me crazy. Please help me with some outdoor repellant solutions.

We have a professional exterminator, who has been coming monthly since the spring. His treatments have largely eliminated the spiders in the house and our finished detached garage, which is great. But now that we are trying to enjoy our outdoor areas, the spiders ARE EVERYWHERE. We have a lot of foliage, which we are still in the process of trimming and cleaning up. I know we can't expect the spiders to disappear. But it still feels like we are constantly walking through spider webs in entry doors and across our walkways.

My question is this: are there any outdoor repellant options that are a) effective and b) pet safe? I'm open to all suggestions and anecdata, including gadgets, sprays, and repellant plants. If you provide a link, I'd appreciate a warning if the page has a huge photo of a spider on it (Every article seems to start with a zoomed in photo of the buggers. I'm not phobic, but it certainly doesn't help.)
posted by bluloo to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My pest control service uses concentrated rosemary and peppermint oil as a barrier/discouraging chemical on the outside of my house, and so far it seems to work well (note: requires monthly re-application). It's concentrated such that two ounces covers the ground perimeter *and* roofline for a 1400sf house, plus more occasionally applying around windows and vents -- concentrated enough that I definitely would not want to get it on my skin (the workers use gloves, mask and goggles).

I get a monthly report of chemicals used, quantity, purpose, and location of application, so I'd know if they're using something else (they did, in the beginning, before the barrier was fully effective). I don't have a brand name (the report sorts by EPA number, and this stuff doesn't require an EPA number).

Big warning: my local environment is dry (South Bay).
posted by aramaic at 9:40 AM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

No repellent ideas, but are you keeping any porch, garage, entryway, or outdoor lights on overnight, or do you have indoor lights that shine a lot of light into your yard? If so, consider shutting off the outdoor lights (if that's safe), or getting some thicker curtains in your windows so not as much light gets outside. I'm thinking that may cut back on the moths and bugs attracted to the lights, and the spiders will stop building quite so many webs near your home to cash in on the free buffet. Every time we go through a period of leaving our front porch light on overnight, there's eventually a thick mass of webs built up in the doorway under it.
posted by castlebravo at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also in PNW, and slightly phobic. I have a bottle of diluted peppermint oil (supposedly they don't like it) that I spritz high traffic areas with, inside and out. It's basically water with a drop of dish soap, plus about five or six drops of peppermint oil. I also have bamboo, so I keep several cut bamboo canes around the house as my 'spider sticks' to clear walkways.

Otherwise, I have just come to live with them. In the PNW, they're not likely to be venomous (and the big scary looking aptly named "Giant House Spiders" that come around in the spring and fall are actually successfully competing with hobo spiders for territory). I just try to 'train' them not to build in my walkways and leave them alone when they're just chilling and catching bugs.
posted by lovecrafty at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rosemary and peppermint oils (sometimes you find Neem in the mix, which works better but kills any insect it touches, including beneficial insects, and isn't great for birds either) do work surprisingly well, I use them in the garden for many pests.

I also have a spider broom I use to sweep doorways, porch ceilings, tree overhangs, and other popular walkway-web-impromptu-flailing spots. It stays outside, obviously.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:08 AM on August 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

They're particularly bad this year, I will agree. Spider broom is where its at.

I recently hung some bird feeders on some wood slats that look kinda like these brackets; the spiders are more than happy to hang there and make their webs in the triangles. Daily disturbing pathways with spider broom and allowing certain ones to thrive in areas where I don't give a shit is the only way I've found to keep them in check.

Trust me, on years when spiders are lighter, black flies are more prominent. They're worse.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: castlebravo, nope we don't leave outdoor lights on overnight/have a lot of light that shines outside in the evening. And the areas that do get some light aren't the ones that are being overrun.

furnace.heart, we also had black flies. Worst of both worlds, I guess.

Keep em coming!
posted by bluloo at 10:40 AM on August 5, 2020

Spiders are good for the environment and controlling pests that can eat your garden plants. But if you keep removing their webs repeatedly, it could encourage them to move on.
posted by pinochiette at 1:00 PM on August 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

I would love to encourage to make friends with your spider friends. If you're west of the Cascades, then you really don't have to worry about venomous spiders. They are pretty rare here. The stripey orb weavers we get in the garden and various nooks and crannies do get pretty populous in late summer. I just take a stick or a broom to clear out the ones that are in my way.

As for house spiders, the best thing you can do there is make sure that entry points to your home are all sealed up. I used to get pretty big house spiders all the time. Again, not venomous, but large and therefore a bit of an unpleasant surprise. As part of weatherization I various openings in my basement all sealed up and I haven't seen a giant house spider since!
posted by brookeb at 4:44 PM on August 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

We had a serious spider problem - multiple types including black widow - that covered everything. We did two things: eliminated all possible hiding places for them (including an umbrella stand that harbored 100's of black widows - shudder) and got a praying mantis egg case. We didn't see the praying mantises hatch, but slowly the spider webs disappeared until one day there were none, and there was one single giant, fat mantis sitting atop the screen door looking over her territory. Spiders have been under control since. For those concerned about other insects being impacted by the mantis - I'll say that we have tons of other bugs - butterflies, caterpillars, ants, rollypollies etc. that are still happily chilling in the yard.
posted by Toddles at 4:51 PM on August 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, no, I would *love* to de-phobia myself enough to make friends with the spider buds. I’m quite phobic, but I’ve gotten way better! But I... just can’t in my home. I’ve tried. I appreciate them and am grateful to them in certain places (from afar as possible), but... no.

Removing their webs, and making your space(s) as active and used as possible helps a *ton.* I’ve also taken to getting them with the Dustbuster (I’m so sorry arachnid-loving folk, really) and just quickly removing the holding-area-piece and chucking it in the yard so they can run off. Away from the house.

Quickly, with the Dustbuster, is the operative term. I don’t want to kill them, I just don’t want them in my safe zone.
posted by functionequalsform at 8:14 PM on August 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I live in San Francisco and I've noticed extra spiders in the backyard lately too.

The other thing I've been noticing is that there are a lot more flies (spider food).

The taqueria behind our house has been storing more trash out back which I think is attracting the flies.

Is there a possible food source for your spiders that you could figure out how to get rid of?
posted by tacit_urn at 9:39 PM on August 5, 2020

I used to dislike spiders, but like others here I have come to view them as friends and allies against the flies, which are far more loathsome and once invaded my house en masse in a horrifying way that spiders have never done. When I see a spider now I wish her good hunting, and they've never caused any actual problems.
posted by waffleriot at 11:00 PM on August 5, 2020

(PNW spider stan here so take with a grain of salt)

It sound like your current question here is with outdoor spiders, probably mostly our common garden spider that makes orb web. I honestly don't think you can drive them off, I just walk with an arm ahead so I don't eat web. You can use a stick. You have my permission to knock down webs across the path if that helps any -- spider dreams of big game crater, oh well.

You didn't ask this so feel free to disregard, but if your spider-distaste has some flexibility, the spindly-legged pholcids who make webs up in corners will really never get in your way and are awfully useful if you don't like random craneflies and daddy-longlegs. The big wolf spiders who run around the floor and bathtub, I can understand if you prioritize them lower.
posted by away for regrooving at 1:21 AM on August 6, 2020

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