Spider man: Beasts in the basement

Foster's Pest Control

Q: My children's playroom is in our partially finished basement, and I've noticed an ever-increasing number of spiders down there– some of them huge. What can I do to get rid of them, and do I need to be worried about their bites?–Arachnophobic


 A: Just like flowers, insects are in full bloom right now. Every year there seem to be one or two insects that are more predominant than others. This year seems to be spiders– all types of them.

All spiders have venom, but the only two around here that will cause a serious reaction in most people are the brown recluse and the black widow.

How do you know if you're seeing a black widow? They're shiny black spiders that get to be a decent size– as big as a dime sometimes. The red hourglass on the underside is a good sign. You could use a pencil to turn the spider over to check. If in question, it's best to leave it alone and have a professional look at it.

It's more difficult to identify the brown recluse. The head is violin shaped, but I've only seen a couple. The good news is that they don't commonly come into contact with people. True to their name, they like very dark, damp places with still air. Crawl spaces and woodpiles are favorite hiding spots, so if you're working around wood, wear gloves.

The big hairy spiders in your basement are likely wolf spiders, which are pretty harmless. They're a spider that will make you hurt yourself, versus them hurting you. They're very large– often longer than an inch– fast, unpredictable and they can jump and startle people. They can make you do some pretty reactive things. When they get really large, they're hairy and remind people of tarantulas.

Some things that may help to reduce the number of spiders is to pick up clutter, where lots of insects like to hide. And wipe down cobwebs once in a while as a preventive measure. That goes for the outside too. Insects commonly called "granddaddy longlegs" are not true spiders. They actually prey on spiders, so you might be happy to see a few of them lurking about.

Except for the brown recluse and black widow, spiders are harmless. The easiest thing is to just relocate them– pick them up in a tissue or on a piece of paper and drop them outside. If you have a huge infestation and think you absolutely must get rid of them, I recommend a pesticide around the exterior of the house. I don't have a lot of faith in aerosols– they're potent, but they don't last long. And while some of the products sold at local hardware stores aren't too bad, I'm not sure they're worth the expense.

Dan Foster of Foster's Pest Control