Courtesy Daniela Slanina, California
Take steps each day to maintain your home, inside and near doorways, to prevent spiders from becoming guests.
Q: Very soon I will be going on vacation, and my budgie (parakeet) and blue-fronted Amazon parrot will be going to their sitter’s home for a little more than a week. This would be an opportune time to take care of all the spiders that have decided to move into my house. I’ve thought about using some of those “bug bombs,” but I’m leery about any residue they might leave. Can you recommend products that will do the trick but not affect my birds when they come home?
A: Personally, I like spiders. I come from Florida, where spiders can grow to be as big as your hand but often enjoy associate housekeeper status. Spiders are relatively “clean” creatures, and they are beneficial in that they trap and consume gnats and other small, often vexing, insects. Outdoor spiders, in particular, construct beautifully engineered silken webs. Some, like the fishing spider (Pisauridae), eat aquatic insects and even small fish.
I don’t think I’ve ever killed a spider on purpose. That said, I realize that not everyone is thrilled at the prospect of eight-legged home invaders. In fact, many people are downright frightened of them.
Spiders produce venom that is poisonous to their prey, yet only a few species are capable of inflicting serious, venomous bites to humans. Of these, the widow (Lactrodectus) and recluse (Loxosceles) species are of most concern, according to Clemson University’s Cooperative Extension Service. Serious bites have also reportedly been inflicted by the sac spider (Clubionidae), a common “running spider” (Chirocanthium inclusum) and the black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia).
While a few beneficial spiders patrolling your home and yard might not disturb family members, a full-blown infestation can incite arachniphobia in all but the most stout hearted. Even my Amazon parrots, genetically predisposed to jungle life, recoiled and screamed at the sight of a huge outdoor spider that wandered indoors one tropical evening. (I threw a dishtowel over the intruder and gingerly returned it to its natural habitat.)
Where To Start
OK, so you want the spiders out — now. Yes, you can banish the arachnids without harming your birds.
What kind of spiders are sharing your home? Indoor spiders are usually small and pale. Outdoor spiders can be hairy, brightly colored or have distinct patterns on their bodies or legs. Contact your nearest university extension cooperative service (try the department of entomology) for information specific to your area.
Keep outdoor spiders out by cleaning up debris around the foundation of your home. Woodpiles, leaves and other debris are hospitable spider habitats. They provide shelter and attract other insects, which are food for spiders. Seal possible points of entry to your home such as cracks in the foundation and around windows and doors. Hose or sweep spider webs from roof overhangs, light fixtures and porches. Keep your basement and attic dry and clean.
Indoors, sweep away webs, frequently dust behind and under furniture, and eliminate insects that attract spiders. Get rid of old books, papers and cardboard, or store these items in pest-resistant plastic boxes or bags. Store bird food in pest-proof containers.
Paint closet and cabinet interiors white. Although spiders seem to prefer light surfaces (the better to see their prey), you’ll also be able to see spider-attracting insects before they reach infestation proportions.
If you’ve determined that the only way to rid your home of spiders is to kill them, use a pyrethrin-based insecticide. Pyrethrins are usually safe to use around birds when used according to manufacturer’s directions.
Always remove your birds and their cages and accessories from the area to be treated. Never apply pesticides to food, water or avian accessories. Open a window, and ventilate the area before returning your bird to its cage. Be extremely careful when using an aerosol product. Even though a formula can be nontoxic to birds, inhaled aerosols of any kind can be harmful or deadly to birds. Consult your avian veterinarian, county cooperative extension service and the pesticide manufacturer for specific advice and instructions.
Never use diazanon spray or granules when birds are present. It is extremely toxic to birds. It takes only a few grains of this pesticide to kill a sparrow.