Itsy-Bitsy Venomous Invaders

By Patricia Kuhnen-Beaver

A bluish-white ring surrounded a tiny pinprick mark on the back of my neighbor’s leg. The visual evidence of an insect bite. She claims it wasn’t painful at the time, but when the itch became intolerable she sought professional care. There weren’t any other notable symptoms at the time, but the doctor said it could have been worse and was most probably a poisonous spider bite.

Nothing makes me shudder more than the thought of a spider. Unlike my arachniphobic counterparts, I am able to tolerate the sight of a web without going into a frenzy, but I still don’t like them. What kind of spider leaves an ugly, itchy mark? We don’t have poisonous spiders here, do we? The visual evidence of my neighbor’s injury is conclusive, we do have poisonous spiders in the northeastern United States. She warned me about the infestations of our eight-legged friends but I dared not to concede to such a notion until I saw the redness and swelling enlarge. She left me with a stiff warning; beware those things that hide in dark, quiet places.

Nature’s Resource

There are many benefits of having these opportunistic feeders in our ecosystem. After all, they deserve respect as a bug exterminator. Spider food sources depend on the species. White-tailed spiders are an obligate araneophange or (spider-eater), which means they rarely feed on other creatures other than other spiders.  Moreover, Salticids and Dipoena species of spiders mimic ants, blending right in to obtain their food source. All spiders are known to live within a restricted range of prey, amid few variations, most are quite suited to their habitat. They love bugs; mosquitoes, flies, wasps, caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, crickets, silverfish, grasshoppers and other small insects.

Generally, most spiders will only eat live prey and do not hunt humans intentionally regardless of what you might fear. They only bite if they are provoked or inadvertently disturbed. Carnivorous and cannibalistic in nature, spiders are designed to inject venom into their prey in order to immobilize them. Fortunately the common house spider is not dangerous or poisonous to humans, but it will bite if it feels threatened.

The two types of spiders that are considered poisonous in the Northeast are the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Bites from these two species can produce serious symptoms that require medical treatment. All arachnids prefer dry, warm climates so they are most visible during the Summer months and are driven by innate survival instincts into our indoor environment by the coming cold Winter weather.

Home Invasion  

Spiders are solitary, tiny and nocturnal. They need a place to entrap food sources to sustain their life. Avoiding a home invasion is straightforward: Check for places they can easily creep into such as holes in window or door screens, cracks in the walls, or windowsills or doorways. Seal them off, but watch out for your dryer vent, it may be particularly inviting. To restrict their access into your indoor environment, inspect the interior of your home then do the same outdoors, paying careful attention to spaces under porches or decks where they often reside unnoticed.

Once inside, they love to hide in cool, dark, dusty or cluttered spaces. They particularly like undisturbed areas in your home around large appliances, in cabinets or cupboards and spots such as firewood piles, basements, crawl spaces, vents, closets, under beds and attics. Paper products or cardboard containers, leftover and poorly disposed foodstuff, like bread crumbs also seem to attract them.

Natural Home Remedies for Spider-Free Living Areas 

The simplest remedy is to vacuum areas where you have found spiders.  Keep the vacuum clean and sealed. A few environmental deterrents that could work include chestnuts and diatomaceous earth (consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae) near exterior walls and doorways. Also lavender soap mixed with lemon oils is a natural spider deterrent as is two tablespoons of lemon essential oil with two cups liquid lavender soap in a spray bottle. Spray around all entrances, doorways, windows, or wherever spider webs are found.

Silicone caulking is best to use on all cracks and holes outside and in the interior of your home. Most importantly, clean spider-prone areas by pruning excess vegetation outside, and remove clutter inside. My mother sprinkled strong spices in the kitchen behind the large appliances, and dusted everything with lemon pledge, which is probably why my childhood home was virtually spider-free. Other good old-fashioned home remedies range from washing windows with ammonia and water followed by newspaper and kerosene, which evaporates and leaves a repelling residue.

While other remedies include adopting a cat or getting some ladybugs to wipe out spiders, I have used eucalyptus leaves.

If you must exterminate spiders, determine whether they are of the flesh–destroying, venomous kind like brown recluse spiders or the female black widow, because a few web-spinners may actually be beneficial especially if you live near water.

References: Mclain, Kevin.  How to Eliminate Spiders Naturally.  retrieved from:


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