Please soothe my spider fears
December 23, 2020 8:18 PM   Subscribe

More spiders have been popping up in our house and I am stupid afraid of spiders. We rent so are not sure this is an actual concern to bring to the landlord. Today one was crawling on the couch pillows about to hop on my shoulder (sob) as we watched TV and I am properly spooked. Is there such thing as a spider infestation or am I just too paranoid?

By more spiders, I mean probably one every couple of days in the past few weeks. Usually on the ceiling, or in a corner, or scurrying across the carpet. We had one house centipede. Our previous place rarely had bugs, so I am just a bit freaked, and we live out west. Compared to the south, there’s just generally fewer indoor bugs that I’ve got used to. I set up traps by our air vents for other creepy crawlers (they were covered in cobwebs when we moved in) but I’m not sure where else they come from. And what if they make it to the bed now that they realize how comfortable the couch can be?? I read that spiders popping up on beds and couches means you have issues, and that sent me into a stupid worry spiral.

I keep the house clean (because I have been afraid of this day coming — like I prepare when we lived in GA during the summer) and we have only had a few fungus gnats, so I’m not sure what they want to eat. Nor do we have many hiding spaces that don’t get swept each week! Maybe they just want warmth?

Like...I know that spiders are good lil things. But my irrational side is kicking in REAL hard that this is some sign of an impending spider infestation. I don’t want to ask my landlord for a pest control person to come by...unless this is like a sign of the bug apocalypse. Or just a sign that we live in an old house. Which is fine, but is there any way else to prevent them other than trying to seal up cracks (of which there are probably many?) Bug spraying the house? Also do they like couches? This is new to me. Usually they don’t want to be near you.

(And please, I already know I’m not the most rational about this now because my fear response kicked in, so I don’t want to be berated about being freaked out about spiders please.)
posted by buttonedup to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I have also tried imagining the spiders as little Miles Morales as I love Miles but I’m sad to say it’s not working out well
posted by buttonedup at 8:33 PM on December 23, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I don’t have any scientific evidence or citations or anything, but this sounds like a totally normal amount of spiders to me.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 8:36 PM on December 23, 2020 [12 favorites]

Perhaps you can do some research and observation to identify the species you are seeing? Once you know what type(s) you are seeing, and their specific behaviour, it can really help narrow down how to quash any kind of infestation.

Anecdotally: I noticed a huge uptick in a very specific type of spider in my home just after bringing in a freshly cut Douglas fir for Christmas...... on the bright side, my resident fungus gnat population entirely disappeared shortly thereafter.
posted by nukacherry at 8:38 PM on December 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

I too am curious if these are all the same kind of spider that you suddenly started seeing frequently.

One old house I lived in had tons of spiders and webs in one of the bathrooms, which I found strange until I noticed that there was an actual hole through the floor into the crawlspace, which should not have been a hole at all, and they were just walking on up through that. So it's possible you have that sort of thing going on, especially given what you said about the air vents being covered in cobwebs.
posted by wondermouse at 8:48 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am not sure the type as I’ve never been able to bring myself to look super closely. The most I can identify is that they are usually pale in color, and no bigger than a quarter. I googled common spiders in my state and yellow sac spiders come up, but I’m not entirely sure if that’s it... we do have a crawl space! No visible holes except the vents, and I’m not sure I can convince my landlord to investigate that. Maybe I can glue mesh over the air vents...
posted by buttonedup at 8:59 PM on December 23, 2020

Best answer: That doesn't sound like an unusual amount of spiders for an older house, but if you want to try to remove them that's a personal decision.

An insect fogger is the usual way of dealing with a spider infestation. You will have to get all humans and pets out of the house for a minimum of several hours, protect food and food contact surfaces, and open all the windows after you get back to air things out.

Personally I have only used insect foggers on unoccupied spaces (which are especially likely to harbor certain types of spiders) such as a garage, when no one is even going in for a few days. I myself would probably not choose to cover all the surfaces (and it gets on ALL the surfaces -- clothing, plates, toilet paper, etc) in my house with insecticide from a fogger unless the spiders I was seeing were especially dangerous ones -- but if I wanted to kill all the spiders, I would far prefer to use a fogger that costs less than $5 instead of dealing with having the landlord send in some sort of commercial pest control company coming in to spray who knows what. Sticky traps are something some people use as well. You might also look at diatomaceous earth.

Some cats greatly delight in hunting spiders. You should only go this route if you would also want a cat for other reasons, of course.

Also, flip the couch over and vacuum the underside. If there's a cloth tacked on covering the underside "open space", you might consider removing it and vacuuming under there too, once these get loose spiders can find it very cozy.
posted by yohko at 8:59 PM on December 23, 2020

Best answer: For the air vents, there are air vent filters meant to cover the air vents to remove allergens and dust. Also, replace the furnace air filter if it's been a while.
posted by yohko at 9:01 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Spiders like drafts (good places to put webs and catch critters). Putting in weatherstripping on doors and fixing other gaps can help a lot. You can also cover overflow drains on sinks, because critters tend to follow pipes in (and end up in sinks).
posted by emjaybee at 9:28 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sticky traps are something some people use as well. You might also look at diatomaceous earth.

posted by j_curiouser at 9:36 PM on December 23, 2020

I have a new house and I can look at pretty much any corner of my ceiling and see a spider. It's a big high ceiling and they're welcome to it. I'd rather have the harmless spiders in the house than whatever insects they're eating. I'd likely change my tune if I lived somewhere with dangerous spiders though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:25 PM on December 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

I pretty much like spiders, or at least I’m not scared of most of them, especially by sight. If I find them in the house, I bring them outside. I live in an old house in the Pacific Northwest. I think I’ve found two or three spiders in the past year? And I’ve been home a bunch during quarantine. I have a bunch outside, but one inside every few days seems like more than I would expect to see.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:10 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Spiders will hang out where there are other insects to eat. You saw cobwebs by the vents and set up traps there to catch other insects? Yeah, the cobwebs were from spiders eating those insects. I’d ask your landlord to have a general pest-control evaluation — say you’ve noticed a bunch of spiders lately, and you figure they must be there to eat other bugs.

Oh, and house centipedes also eat other insects (they like to eat cockroaches!) so that is another sign of having a general pest control problem that you could mention to the landlord.

Also I have never in my life heard that seeing a spider on the couch means you have some kind of massive infestation. Nothing is special about the couch. It just happened to be there. It doesn’t mean a spider is more likely to turn up on furniture in the future.
posted by snowmentality at 1:46 AM on December 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I feel you on the fear - don't be ashamed. I've tried all kinds of things to reduce my fear of spiders, and none of them have really worked. I also try to remember that they are good at controlling other bugs, but it doesn't really help. I cannot have spiders around me either - even if they are small or just hanging out.

Definitely cover up your air vents and do a really thorough vacuum including under the couch and upholstery.

I agree with others that it is probably worth getting your landlord to send over pest control. In the end, it's not your responsibility to seal up everything, and you'll have peace of mind.
posted by sedimentary_deer at 2:42 AM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might try one of these -- my parents had something similar years ago and swore by it in their spidery Florida house. Theirs was noisy but I imagine the ones made now are different.
posted by JanetLand at 7:04 AM on December 24, 2020

When I was young and lived in Houston, we had a LOT of tiny (half a dime sized) black jumping spiders in the house -- like, you'd see one or two every day. My mother had the pest control folks out, who shrugged and told us 1) you live in basically the tropics and 2) if we get rid of these spiders, you're going to see an explosion in all the other bugs in your house. It was decided to leave the spiders alone and just treat them as part of the household.

I had been very afraid of spiders as a child, but I guess constant exposure wore me down. I still don't love them, but I love other bugs even less. Do you think that your arachnophobia would be too triggered by learning more about what kind of spiders they are, and what other bugs they might be controlling? I wonder if you could start to see them as helping you out.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:55 AM on December 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Do you have a real Christmas tree? I’ve heard many a report of bugs hitch hiking in that way
posted by raccoon409 at 9:29 AM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feel you on the phobia! However, spiders are a form of pest control themselves. Spiders are creepy but as far as household bugs go, they are benign.
posted by ichomp at 10:58 AM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, it's good you recognize it's a phobia you've got, and it doesn't really sound like an infestation. I personally don't have that phobia at all; I'm sure you'd be freaked out at my house- I've got a brown recluse that lives under the lamp behind my chair right now! I'm not worried, but that's me. You can talk to your landlord, or put down traps or chemicals or whatever but I think the most productive and helpful thing for you is to do what work you can to get over your phobia. It's super common and you don't need to feel ashamed at all about it, but they're so ubiquitous you'll be running into them as long as you're alive so hopefully you can get a handle on it a bit more. Good luck!
posted by Red Loop at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks y’all, I did not know there were air vent mesh covers!! I’m going to buy those. I’m glad to know that this isn’t abnormal per say... but something I could bring up to my landlord as it could mean lots of other bugs hanging around somewhere (I’m guessing the crawl space.) we don’t have a fresh Christmas tree this year! Or have ever had one. But knowing spiders can hitch a ride on them I don’t think I’ll ever get one until I work out the fear lol.
posted by buttonedup at 1:04 PM on December 24, 2020

Best answer: If you're looking for a way to get more comfortable with occasionally finding spiders about -- and they are a benefit to your home, so a worthy endeavour -- I might recommend the Spiderween series (previously).
Informative and entertaining, and filled with whimsical anthropomorphic spider illustrations that can be helpful in altering the way you relate to them. (Links on each page lead to photos of each relevant spider.)
They're fragile, they're tiny, and they really are more afraid of you, but that hasn't stopped countless millions of people from harboring a pathological terror of spiders so severe, some of them can't even look directly at a cartoon facsimile of an arachnid without experiencing immediate anxiety.

But with nearly 50,000 described species dating back at least 390,000,000 years, the Arachnid order Araneae is a much bigger part of our world than all of us vertebrates ever put together, our global ecosystem would suffer terribly without them, and the colorful, quirky forms they can come in can be downright unbelievable.

I think everyone deserves a chance to learn about such an amazing corner of the animal kingdom, and so for an entire thirty-one entries in a row, we're about to go over some of the most interesting spider species, spider habits and spider superpowers without a single realistic spider in view.
I was mildly creeped out by spiders for most of my life, and occasionally still am, but reading this and browsing r/spiderbro has done a lot to make me feel more welcoming toward them.
posted by myotahapea at 2:11 PM on December 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

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