Black widow spiders want my blood
November 14, 2006 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Black widow spiders are coming to get me; what do I do?

What do I do about any of the following:

1) My house is starting to get a large number of black widows (I've killed 3 in the garage and 1 just now in my bathroom window in the last 3 months) (I'm in Los Angeles)

2) I am totally arachnophobic and this is freaking me out

3) My insect spray just seems to make them mad, at which point I need to find some sort of device that I can flail at them to make them splat, which is plenty traumatic for both me and the spider.
posted by sdis to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
I hate spiders too, but really don't like to kill them. GalPal got me one a these and I now dump them outside - everyone wins!
posted by Mutant at 11:53 PM on November 14, 2006


No, seriously, get an exterminator in. If there are any lurking nests they will find them and get rid of them.
posted by cholly at 11:56 PM on November 14, 2006

Will be interesting to read the responses. I live in Los Angeles as well and just figured they were part of the lay of the land.

If it is any consolation, my understanding is that Widows aren't hunters so much, more stay in their messy nesters and waiters, and are a bit scaredy - prefering dark quiet places like garages. I don't think I've ever seen one running across the floor or up a wall for example.

Another fun fact: males are harmless.
Another: females rarely leave nests.

Info you may have already found: To control the black widow, carefully remove all materials where they might hide. They can be cleaned out of an area simply by knocking down the webs, spiders, and round, tan egg sacs with a stick and crushing them underfoot. Removal or destruction of the egg sacks may help control the population. This spider is resistant to many insecticides.
posted by asparagus_berlin at 12:01 AM on November 15, 2006

Insecticides are useless against black widows, so don't waste your money or time on spray cans. My dad had an unfortunate encounter with a black widow in an outhouse when he was 10 years old (the sucker nailed him on the penis) so my family was brought up with a hatred of the critters.

We sprayed our garage and shops with Chlordane when I was a kid and that was quite effective, but Chlordane has been banned (with good reason) for about 30 years. I've found that keeping a can of spray solvent like this works best for killing them quickly when I spot one in the garage. It stops them in their tracks and their skin begins to dissolve as soon as they're hit with the spray.

I've also found they prefer to hang out in unpainted areas and painting the concrete and wood surfaces in my garage worked wonders for cutting down the number of widows I come across.

But my favorite solution to the problem is one you may not be comfortable with: Wolf Spiders are large spiders that do a great job of keeping other spider populations in check. When we lived in the I.E. where Black Widows were common, we treated the Wolf Spiders like gold and left them to do their business.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:45 AM on November 15, 2006

As an exterminator explained to me once : there's no long-term way of controlling redbacks (the local black widow variant), short of removing all their hiding places. Spraying them directly kills them, but residual poisons don't work - they rarely come out of their nest, their little tiny feet don't have the surface area to absorb much poison, they don't drag their bodies along the ground/wall/ceiling/whatever, and they're fairly poison-resistant anyway.

The only thing to do, as asparagus_berlin said, is to remove all the hiding places where they like to build their nests, and otherwise keep on top of them individually when you see them. Unfortunately, the ones round here seem quite happy to build nests out in the relative open - the pointing between bricks is often a favourite place.

Interestingly, the common daddy longlegs is supposed to deter them, though in my experience that's not quite true - they don't build their nests near each other, but other than than they'll coexist quite happily on the opposite sides of a room.

If it's any consolation, while redbacks have a fearsome reputation here, they don't seem to be half as poisonous as they're made out to be - I've been bitten several times with minimal effects apart from local pain & swelling. Mind you, I've never been bitten on the knob...
posted by Pinback at 5:50 AM on November 15, 2006

Mind you, I've never been bitten on the knob...

From wikipedia:
Improvements in plumbing have greatly reduced the incidence of bites and fatalities in areas where outdoor privies have been replaced by flush toilets. "Nearly ninety percent of the black widow bites reported in the medical literature of the first 4 decades of [the twentieth] century were inflicted on the male genitalia by spiders lurking underneath the seats of outdoor toilets."

I had no idea my dad's bite was a common occurrence.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:27 AM on November 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

I'm typically a big fan of the 'spider-relocation program' but black widows need not apply. I've found hairspray to be the most effective, believe it or not.

Also, I live in LA too, and I've noticed a sharp increase in the black widow population. What's up with that?
posted by ApathyGirl at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2006

I, too, have seen a number of black widows hanging out around Southern California. Being a recent east-coast transplant, I had been living under the (apparently mistaken) impression that I had escaped the widow-terror when i moved out here.
posted by casconed at 9:50 AM on November 15, 2006

Get a cat. I haven't seen a black widow in all the years I have lived in my house in OC, because our cats love to play with them to death then eat them. Yet my neighbors complained about black widows a lot this summer (I think the uncharacteristic heat had something to do with the recent population boom).
posted by tdischino at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2006

Ooh, I don't know about cats. One of ours ate a black widow as a kitten, and was terribly ill for several weeks afterward - we were convinced he wasn't going to make it at several points. He's since survived and grown up fine, though he has a persistent heart murmur and is constantly skinny - we don't know how much the spider incident has to do with either of these, but neither of his brothers are afflicted.

Anyway, to answer the question, I've actually found that wasp + hornet spray - the foaming kind - works to kill black widows, though it still takes some time, so you'll have to spray and then catch them in some container when they fall with the foam-globs and throw them away/smash them/whatever. They -will- die, and are at least mostly incapacitated by the time you get to them, but they're not dead yet.

Daddy longlegs don't seem to have much effect, that I've seen - I live in a barn, and have seen many a daddy longlegs living not three inches from a black widow nest.

Good luck! I find them beautiful, have kept them indoors as "pets" just to look at, and wouldn't kill them but for the fact that, alas, we have not-so-bright animals like young horses about the place, who tend to stick their noses into places and ask questions later...
posted by po at 11:27 AM on November 15, 2006

I killed one with my cheek while I slept. My dad had one crawl up his body while he slept, biting him five times. Very, very sick for a few weeks. They're everywhere in northern NM.

In my experience They WILL leave their nests to go hunting--or perhaps they're just out for a stroll. Either way, they can end up in the wrong place, like on your pillow while you sleep.

I don't like killing things, but I've made my peace with killing black widows when I can't catch them with a glass and a postcard.

When dealing with them directly, remember that they can move very quickly over short stretches.

The hard part, for me, was getting off my couch and actually sealing up all the cracks. It's usually not that hard though. Just find an hour, get some caulk, or even little pieces of wood or sheetrock if necessary, and seal up your living space.
posted by nicholai88 at 2:44 PM on November 15, 2006

Another anecdotal report that they seem to be everywhere in the L.A. area these days -- my boyfriend sees them all the time when he walks his dog at night (she's always chasing crickets and getting into widows' nests, so he's taken to carrying a flashlight and some sort of nasty spray when he's out so that he can try to keep her from getting bitten), and my eldest nephew (a budding arachnologist) finds them pretty frequently around the shed at my sister's house.
posted by scody at 4:35 PM on November 15, 2006

Another alternative to poison is common dusting gas marketed for cleaning around offices, computers and electronics. Right side up, the can sprays gas; inverted, the can sprays the chemicals in liquid form, which evaporates quickly enough to freeze whatever it's in contact with. It takes some practice getting the widows by surprise, but there's something satisfying in seeing them frozen in place.

I've seen them all my life in S. California, and have adapted and become savvy to them rather than attempt to eradicate them. Any gap of a 2' or less, not heavily trafficked should be looked upon as a potential hiding place for the things. Luckily the webs are easy to identify by their strength and messy arrangement.
posted by evil holiday magic at 9:46 PM on November 15, 2006

During the spring, here in LA, I will routinely kill 5-6 big females a week. Their webs are easy to spot as folks have mentioned above. I find them at night with a flashlight and kill them with this. You have to give them a good spray, but it does kill them. If I get them early enough in the spring, I don't have problems for the rest of the year. If I get lax, I end up killing spiders for the rest of the year.
posted by p8r1ck at 10:37 PM on September 3, 2007

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