5 myths and facts: Non-toxic ways to keep spiders out

Yahoo Contributor Network

Keep spiders out

If the movie "Arachnophobia" left your skin crawling, you probably dread late summer and early fall, when more spiders enter your home. Actually, if you believe that these are the seasons for an arachnid population explosion, you have just bought into a common spider myth. Valerie Rose, of Washington State University, debunks this old wife's tale.

She explains that the number of spiders you encounter really does not change in late summer and early fall; it is just that large orb weavers and other spider species mature at this time and are easier to spot. What other spider myths do you currently believe to be true? Could these myths explain why your attempts at non-toxic spider control have been less than successful?

Myth: You can repel spiders with hedge apples or horse chestnuts. The Burke Museum points out that spiders actually thrive in Osage orange trees (where hedge apples come from) as well as conker trees (homes of the horse chestnuts).

Myth: Lemon Pledge repels spiders. Discovery Magazine explains that those in charge of working with live spiders while filming "Arachnophobia" would rely on Lemon Pledge to make a surface too slippery for the insects to scuttle on. While it is true that a freshly sprayed surface does not appeal to a spider moving about, day-old coatings of pledge on a windowsill do not have the same effect.

Myth: Ultrasonic noise emitters make spiders leave the house. Researchers at the University of Nebraska beg to differ. While the gadgets are marketed as pest control for anything from rodents to spiders, they "do not effectively repel or eliminate pests from homes."

Myth: A pristine home environment eliminates spider populations. At Washington State University, researchers found that house spiders -- those that hatched inside the home -- were different from their exterior counterparts. House spiders have adapted to deal with a "poor food and water supply." As a result, even the cleanest home may have a few resident spiders.

Myth: A burning rag is a good spider-killing device. While it is true that fire will indeed kill a spider, it does little to repel others from the home. A second thought, as expressed by the University of Nebraska's Backyard Farmer, is the question about collateral damage.

Fact: Sticky traps stop spiders in their tracks. They do not look pretty and collecting them is quite disgusting, but as noted by entomologists from the University of California, sticky traps prevent spiders and other insects from moving along baseboards once they touch the glue.

Fact: Eugenol attracts crab spiders. Eugenol, which is found in the essential oils of basil and cloves, has been found to attract crab spiders, the Journal of Arachnology reported in 1998. Cotton balls soaked in the substance and placed inside simple traps are effective.

Fact: Catnip oil repels spiders. University of Nebraska/Lancaster researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil found in the catnip plant, repels spiders as well as plenty of the insects they feed on. If you do not mind finding the neighborhood cats clamoring for access to your house, buy a few catnip plants, bruise the leaves and rub the oils over windowsills and in dark corners.

Fact: Web and egg sac removal is crucial. The mechanical removal of webs and egg sacs destroys the spiders' homes and removes up-and-coming generations of arachnids from your house.

Fact: Cut down on insect populations inside your home. Spiders are predatory animals that hunt live prey. Eliminate the prey, and spiders from the outside will move on to areas where food is more plentiful.

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