Spider-proof Apartment?
July 5, 2021 4:59 PM   Subscribe

For a story: what steps might a somewhat unstable character with severe arachnophobia take to make sure their apartment is completely Spider-free? Thinking beyond "get an exterminator to visit often" and more visually, like "cups of water around the bed-posts to keep spiders from crawling into bed, cans of raid scattered about," etc. Thanks!
posted by egeanin to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Special thick doorstops
posted by bbqturtle at 5:20 PM on July 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are plants that allegedly repel spiders and would do well indoors. I'd also think that anything that keeps insects/other hypothetical prey out would seem like a good move.
posted by teremala at 5:27 PM on July 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Diatomaceous earth sprinkled all over the floors.
posted by beccaj at 5:30 PM on July 5, 2021 [7 favorites]

Pet lizards running around freely (lizards eat a lot of spiders)
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:37 PM on July 5, 2021 [9 favorites]

there are several natural remedies listed here, including chestnuts, garlic, cedar, citrus, eucalyptus, cinnamon, vinegar, and peppermint
posted by QuakerMel at 5:37 PM on July 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

They could keep spider wasps in/on/around the house. They have pretty much evolved to specialize on killing spiders.

Depending on genus and species, pompilids capture a variety of spiders for their larvae to feed on, covering nearly all free-living spider families
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:48 PM on July 5, 2021

The start of last week's This American Life is about someone with severe arachnophobia. You'll have to listen to it for full details but some that I remember: completely un-make and re-make his bed every night, to check for spiders. Avoid all 90-degree angles since there could be a web there. And he *sold his car* the same day he saw a spider inside it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:54 PM on July 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

My maternal grandmother hung slices of dried Osage orange in closets as a spider repellent. No idea if it actually worked, but a severe arachnophobe is probably willing to try even dubious methods.
posted by jocelmeow at 7:10 PM on July 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Really good window screens, and careful monitoring of windows.
posted by vrakatar at 7:16 PM on July 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

My maternal grandmother hung slices of dried Osage orange in closets as a spider repellent

Yes, there was some citrus fruit that an ex bf kept around, which he said repelled spiders. I don't remember what it was but it was big and 'grapefruit adjacent'.
posted by marimeko at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2021

The hardcore arachnophobe breeds house centipedes. The walls and ceiling are scuttling with house centipedes.

Their predatory guard is the only way to be certain a spider won't lower themselves into your mouth while you're sleeping.
posted by away for regrooving at 8:00 PM on July 5, 2021 [7 favorites]

Flamethrowers. At some point, they burn the place down.
posted by stormyteal at 8:32 PM on July 5, 2021

For the more humane arachnophobe: Bugzookas armed and ready for double-wielding like in a John Woo film.
posted by cursed at 8:41 PM on July 5, 2021

Intentionally making the house dusty so spiderwebs show up better.

No legged furniture, and furniture either several feet away from all walls (like the bed) or taped flush to the wall so spiders can't lurk behind things.

Buying 100's of extremely cheap sealed clothing items (underwear, shorts, long underwear, etc) and throwing them out after one use so closets can be kept empty of easy spider hiding spots.

Taking all trash out to the outdoor trash can (that's also far from the house) to ensure no trash attracting bugs/spiders. Or if they live in a city maybe they eat every meal out and open packages outside and never use trash cans.

Never opening a window and never leaving a door open so spiders can't come in.
posted by hermanubis at 9:14 PM on July 5, 2021

Check out The Spider Wars on imgur, in which an entomologist (but not, he notes, an arachnologist) has to stay in a room for several days which is infested with deadly Brown Recluse spiders.

The main part of his physical defense was to wrap the legs of the bed in aluminum foil (just a layer at the bottom) and place each bed-foot on a paper plate that's been sprayed generously with Raid containing Pyrethroids. He also moves the bed away from the walls, which might make it awkward to move around, but would prevent most spiders from getting atop the bed via the walls.

Additionally he recruits some harvestmen spiders which are harmless to humans and predate on the recluses but I suppose an arachnophobe would not bring those on.

I would suggest a mosquito net over the bed, perhaps attached to the ceiling, as a nice visual, perhaps one with an elaborate entry system which can only be unsecured by a primate, not an arachnid. I would also suggest keeping a handy wet-vac with a long wand attachment, which can be used to evacuate spiders into containment from a good distance.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:58 PM on July 5, 2021

Putting those sticky pads for trapping insects along the tops and corners of the walls, and maybe inside windows, to trap both spiders and their food sources. (Note: things like this and water containers would need to be cleared out frequently, since they accumulate lots of dead insects over time.) Frequently vacuuming along edges of things to disrupt any attempts at web-forming.
posted by trig at 12:11 AM on July 6, 2021

My wife suffers from arachnophobia but also loves to kayak, where these little friends like to dwell. Her solution has been to make a peppermint oil spray and spray the kayak inside with it. Within minutes, she sees any remaining arachnid come scurrying out with fervor.

Apparently, this is a known remedy, although not scientifically proven. I will note that she significantly increases the amount of oil from what is recommended in that article.
posted by wile e at 1:06 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

In England there is a belief that spiders are deterred by conkers, which your character might get into.
posted by johngoren at 2:12 AM on July 6, 2021

A store in England sells a spider vacuum, a spider catcher for big spiders and also spider aerosol spray.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 2:16 AM on July 6, 2021

Conkers in the bathtubs to deter spiders from coming up the drain (this may be UK-specific, I realise).
Overflows taped over for the same reason.
Insect netting taped over the extractor fans - spiders start small!
Plugs in all the electric sockets to keep them from crawling out from the space in the walls.
Draught excluders at the bottom of all the doors, including the internal ones - if a spider gets in somehow, at least it can be restricted to a single room.
Insect screening on all openable windows and doors.
White-upholstered chairs and couches (so that a spider would stand out against the fabric) on spindly legs standing in cups of water.
A robot vacuum cleaner set to run several times a day.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:17 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hello from an arachnophobe in a particularly spidery part of Australia. Others have mostly covered my quirks. Currently trying to scale them back as part exposure therapy...
Bed in middle of the room, mosquito net over my bed tucked under the mattress with opening kept closed other than to enter, I buy “hackable” (easily diy refillable) electric plug-in diffusers and empty out the store scent and fill them with a mix of peppermint and lemongrass oil (that smell hits you as you enter the apartment), keep the lights on bright even when watching a movie, grow lemongrass in pots, first thing I do when I get home is nervously survey the walls and ceiling corners, nervously check under the sun visor whenever I get in a car, furniture not against walls, love having a bedroom with two doors so I’m never “cornered”, spread Diatomaceous earth under furniture, dream of holidaying in the artic or at least the top floor of a very tall hotel.
posted by hotcoroner at 3:53 AM on July 6, 2021 [4 favorites]

Goes without saying: checks all clothes carefully, especially shoes, when getting dressed.

My mother-in-law claimed spiders were most obvious on the day after house cleaning because they all made new webs.

There is the question of where to live. In my experience, if you live in the woods, you have spiders just as, if you live in a field, you have flies.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:20 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

When I went to Istanbul and toured the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, the guide asked if we noticed that this huge structure was free of cobwebs. Then he pointed out several ostrich eggs incorporated into chandeliers. Proven by science? No. But many in Turkey and the middle east believe that ostrich eggs repel insects and spiders and their effect lasts a very long time.

The eggs are attractive as well.

From: https://ngpest.com/how-to-get-rid-of-spiders/

Ostrich Eggs to Repel Spiders
A more unusual method of keeping spiders at bay, is to hang ostrich eggs near spider activity. This idea dates back to early 1500’s when Mimar Sinan, chief Ottoman architect to the Sultans, hung ostrich eggs in the chandeliers of the mosques he constructed. Insects are attracted to lights, so naturally spiders would be drawn to the ornate crevices, rafters, and chandeliers of the Suleymaniye Mosque. Alas, the Suleymaniye Mosque did not suffer from spiders and other insects.

It is believed that ostrich eggs emit an odor that can not be smelled by humans, but detestable to insects… particularly spiders. In Turkey, ostrich eggs are currently used in greenhouses and in food storage areas in hopes that insects and spiders will be repelled. Ostrich eggs can weigh between 3 – 5 lbs. The eggs should be hung from the ceiling in a well-ventilated area. The ostrich egg should remain intact, not pierced or punctured. You can find ostrich eggs for sale in the United States for spider repellency purpose.

posted by tmdonahue at 5:50 AM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

An arachnophobe friend of mine has two geckos (named Art and Gordon) who live freely in her apartment and she said she's never seen a spider since.
posted by essexjan at 5:58 AM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

A bed, inside a mosquito net, inside a second mosquito net, inside a third one.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:24 AM on July 6, 2021

Chose light solid colors for sheets, blankets, pillowcases, etc.
Basically make sure that any furniture, carpets, floors, walls, ceilings, etc. are in colors and textures that will make spotting insects easier.
Store clothes and shoes in sealable containers. I use Ziploc bags for socks and underwear in my dresser drawers, for storage and sorting like items.
Be mindful of towels and washcloths, especially those that are left out to dry.
Knock shoes together to dislodge pebbles inside before putting them on. Shoeboxes are a thing.

I do not enjoy getting objects down from high locations, since I cannot see what may be pulled down onto me at the same time. This includes kitchen upper cabinets and closet upper shelves.
Light fixtures and ceiling fans, exposed rafters and crown molding can all harbor insects. So can the tops of kitchen cabinets and bookshelves. Freestanding light fixtures can be a problem.

Lying down at floor level and seeing what a crawling baby sees can be enlightening. Every wooden chair and end table has dark areas that are just begging for cobwebs.
Heat and air conditioning grates at the floor and ceiling need periodic cleaning. Sometimes the air flow is hidden beneath the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

And there are the tropes about finding tarantulas in groups of bananas, the old "let's poison someone with a spider in their bed" gambit, getting helplessly tangled in an oversized spiderweb, etc.
Be careful plucking that apple from the fruit basket, and always have a book handy to smack down on anything with more than one pair of eyes. Or keep the bug killing sprays in each room, just in case something makes a mad multi-legged dash for safety. Or a dash toward you.
posted by TrishaU at 8:40 AM on July 6, 2021

For an apartment dwelling spider averse character? I used several tubes of calk and a calk gun, which are visually very distinctive and usually brightly colored to properly seal up all the baseboards and fixtures in my very old apartment.
posted by zenon at 9:16 AM on July 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

As an arachnophobe that lived in a spider infested basement apartment hell - no really - easily killing/trapping 15+ a day. This is what we actually did:

- baited sticky traps all along baseboards. Spiders travel along walls. Especially by doors.
- sealing as many cracks as we could. They came through the holes drilled for cable at one point.
- keeping stuff up off the floor. Very unpleasant to pick up clothes or *shiver* the warm wifi router to find a spider.
- pulled the bed slightly away from the wall. We didn’t have a frame and thankfully the walls were too slick for them to want to climb. One massive one got in the corner on the trim and yeah. Not fun.
- kept stuff in plastic sealed bins rather than cardboard.
- high alert checking corners and drop ceilings and exhaust fans. I can imagine it would have been smart to put mesh over an exhaust fan but I didn’t realize it would be a problem till one dropped out of there above me.
- keeping spider spray and a long fly swatter nearby.
- got it sprayed - they used some non toxic and also clearly not effective stuff by a woman who maybe was 18. It was a rental and we didn’t have the money to call someone ourselves but should have. (We did some additional spraying but it needed a professional.)

How did this all turn out you say? Well the landlord revealed uncaringly “this happens every year.” Like a giant house spider (maybe hobo spider?) invasion was normal and livable. And my arachnophobia is worse than ever after that. I still keep a fly swatter in a easy to access area and have a spider spray that shoots far and foams since they are often near the ceiling.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:39 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I aged out of my arachnaphobia (when I was young, I was kown to destroy webs and nests with a flamethrower (uh, hairspray and a lighter)) - possibly with the assistance of living in Australia for 8-months. In my apartment there, I never had any come in - but I could see a huge orb weaver in the tree in the central courtyard, about 20 feet from my balcony. As long as he was there, I was ok - dissappeared after a storm one night and I never used my balcony again (well... maybe 3-4 weeks later).

... But, at my GF's house... OMFG, there were huntsmen everywhere... Behind pictures on the wall, behind chairs, in the sunroom, in the garage, in the storage room... Except... they never came towards me - so, slowly, I learned to "look everywhere" before doing anything and then basically started to ignore them... Now, back in Canada - I don't mind our little guys at all...
posted by rozcakj at 6:06 PM on July 6, 2021

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