What do you do if you see a black widow spider? If you don’t already have one, marry a spouse who doesn’t have a fear of spiders and have them kill the black widow for you. If you have a spouse and they don’t like spiders any more than you do, you might just have to move and accept the fact that your home belongs to the black widow now.
In all seriousness, black widows do tend to make even people who don’t have a fear of spiders a bit wary.
And why not? Like all spiders, they have a distinctive and almost otherworldly look to them. Their size, shape, and coloring are a bit foreboding and then, of course, there’s their bite which is the stuff of legends. Black widows have a fearsome reputation indeed.
But is it deserved? If you’re wondering how to kill a black widow, are there any special precautions you should take? Are black widows really anything to worry about at all? In this blog post, we’ll talk a bit about these spooky looking spiders and see if we can help you better manage any encounters with them you may have.
Spiders and humans: An awkward “situationship”
Humanity has an ambivalent relationship with spiders. They look kind of weird, like miniaturized eldritch horrors from another dimension. Many spiders are venomous. Also, they tend to make their homes in a place where we often stumble upon them quite suddenly and that gives us a bit of a jolt.
That being said, spiders are some of the most beneficial insects on earth to human interests. Spiders eat other insects. Quite a lot of them actually. And many of these insects that they eat are insects that eat our crops, spread genuinely dangerous diseases, and generally make nuisances of themselves.
The venom of many spiders has very useful medicinal properties.
Spider silk is a wonder of the natural world that has itself been exploited for human use and inspired material scientists and engineers to create new, super strong fibers. That being said, even when one appreciates and is grateful for spiders, they would probably prefer that spiders stay outside.
For most people when they find a spider inside their home, their first instinct is to flee. When spiders are cornered or startled, they might bite and that’s why one should always be a bit wary of a black widow. Our advice regarding spiders is when you find them outside, just leave them alone. When you find one inside your home, especially a black widow, it is probably best to dispose of it.
How to kill a black widow: know your enemy
If you want to know how to kill a black widow you should know a few things about them.
Where are black widows found?
Black widows are found pretty much anywhere that isn’t frozen all or most of the time. Black widows belong to the Latrodectus genus of the spider family and they are found on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. There are three species of black widow that live in North America and the range of these three species covers virtually all of the United States, Mexico and southern Canada.
What do black widows look like?
They are black in color (obviously) and have a red, hourglass shaped mark on their thoraxes. They tend to have a shiny sheen to them. Most species have a bulbous thorax and legs that are somewhat disproportionately long compared to the rest of the body.
Tell me about black widow venom…
Black widows are poisonous. This is why people fear the spider, but sometimes that fear can be obverblown. While all black widows are venomous, only mature females are generally capable of envenoming a human.
Among the North American species of the spider, the venom can be quite potent, but isn’t actually as dangerous as urban legend may leave you to believe. Black widow venom is a neurotoxin that does affect humans. That being said, deaths attributed to black widow bites are actually freakishly uncommon.
Reactions to a black widow bite will depend on a few variables, but the most important ones are: where the bite occurred and how deep it is, how much venom was injected, the weight of the person bitten, and any preexisting sensitivities (e.g. allergic reactions occurring because of but separately from the actual venom).
Generally speaking, healthy adults, teenagers and older children will suffer minor injury from a black widow spider bite. Most don’t even need medical treatment. That being said, if you are bitten (or you strongly suspect you were bitten) by a black widow, it is a good idea to consult a doctor. Even if your life most likely isn’t in danger, a doctor can clean and dress the bite to help it heal faster.
Okay, neat. Now tell me how to kill a black widow already…
Alright, if you see a black widow spider in your home and want to kill it while minimizing the possibility of a bite, here’s what you can do.
This first method is crude but it works. Spiders are easily crushed with minimal effort from humans. You’re probably a bit concerned about touching them though so here’s what you can do. Wear gloves and long sleeves.
Spiders have small mouths and fangs and those mouths and fangs are biologically designed to bite small insects. They’re not particularly effective at biting humans. Very often, a thin layer of fabric is enough to prevent them from being able to do so. So, if you’ve got some gloves handy, put them on and just pound the little monster.
Do you have a fly swatter? A vacuum cleaner? A magazine or some other object that you can use to remotely squish a spider? If you do, then grab it and squash away or use the vacuum cleaner to suck the spider up. If you use a vacuum, be sure to empty it outside. Dumping it in the kitchen trash is effectively just relocating the black widow to a different room of the house.
There are a number of chemicals that are effective spider killers that are readily available. Pyrethroid and pyrethrin-based aerosols are quite common and are highly effective. Many come in cans that enable you to spray spiders and their webs from a comfortable distance.
Another option is “dusters.” These powdered insecticides are deployed with a duster device that enables you to treat a wide area.
Black widows do not like acids, so using acids against them can be effective. We’re not even talking about strong acids here. A vinegar/water solution is usually enough to kill black widows and their egg sacs. Mix equal parts water and vinegar into a spray bottle and get a little trigger happy on the black widows and their webs.
Spider traps are passive spider control devices that are very similar in function to a rat or mouse glue trap. Spider traps lure a spider in by mimicking their natural environment. Once inside, the spiders get stuck on a sticky surface and eventually die. Deploying these can reduce the spider population and even give you a rough idea of how many spiders may be living in the vicinity of the trap.
How to kill a black widow: avoid it entirely
Nobody wants black widows in their homes. So instead of asking how to kill black widow spiders, consider asking how to keep them out of your house in the first place. Making your home a place that is simply uninviting to spiders is a great way to skirt around the problem entirely. You’re not likely to discourage all spiders from moving in (spiders are quite resilient and adaptable after all) but you can keep the population to a minimum.
Clear the clutter
Spiders love dark, quiet, and cluttered places where they can both build their webs and be near potential sources of food. Keeping your home minimally cluttered both denies spiders a place to build their webs and denies their sources a food and a place to live as well.
Do you like the smell of mint? Tree oils? Citrus? You probably do and why not? They smell great. Spiders on the other hand? They’re not wild about these strong scents and a home that has them is going to be one that black widows will try to avoid if at all possible.
How to kill a black widow: have somebody else do it
If you are seeing just one black widow now and then those may be just one-off sightings. On the other hand, if you are seeing black widows on a regular basis, there is a good chance that you have an infestation.
In these cases you’re probably best off having a professional deal with the problem for you. Pest control experts have the training, tools and experience to identify infestations and deal with them.
Give us a call. We’ve been dealing with infestations of all kinds for years and if you’re having an issue with black widows, we’re happy to take care of it for you.