Spiders: Insect-Eating Heroes or Dangerous Pests?

Lots of people are afraid of spiders. Just look at all the examples from popular media: the plethora of spider-related horror films (like the 1990 film Arachnophobia), the hundreds of scary spider videos uploaded to YouTube, and the many articles written about why humans are so afraid of spiders. When you type the phrase “Why are spiders” into the Google search bar, the autocomplete feature finishes the question with “scary.”

There’s still some debate as to why so many people find spiders creepy: some researchers think that the fear is learned from having a bad experience with a spider or watching a parent react negatively to a spider. Other researchers think that the fear is an evolutionary trait, with the “fear of spiders” gene being passed down from ancestors who were much more likely to encounter and be harmed by venomous spiders in the wild.

Sure, there’s something a little unsettling about spiders, with their many legs and eyes. But does it make sense to be afraid of spiders? Are they dangerous pests, or are they insect-eating heroes? In short, they’re both!

Harmful Spiders common in Ohio and Kentucky

Good news: almost all spiders native to the Ohio and Kentucky area are harmless to humans. However, there are two varieties of spiders in the area that you have to watch out for: the recluse and the widow.

The brown recluse and the Mediterranean recluse are pale or reddish-brown in color, with six (not eight) eyes and thin legs. A recluse’s bite is not usually life-threatening, unless the person bitten is very young or old. A recluse bite is not very painful initially, but it can become quite painful after several hours. A bite from this spider is concerning because the venom actually prevents the wound from healing normally and may cause the tissue around the bite to die from lack of blood circulation.

Female southern and northern black widows are both black and shiny with a red hourglass-shaped mark on the underside of their abdomen. The females of this species are the only ones known to bite humans; the males do not. Like the recluse, black widow bites are typically only fatal to children and the elderly. The venom of this spider is neurotoxic, meaning it affects the nervous system. A black widow bite can be very painful, causing muscle spasms and aches, nausea, and paralysis of the diaphragm, making it hard to breathe.

More good news: spider bites are actually quite rare, as spiders only bite humans in self-defense. Typically, a bite will occur when the spider is residing in a shoe, glove, or other article of clothing. When the person puts on the article of clothing and accidentally crushes the spider, it will respond by biting. Even if bitten, you are extremely unlikely to be harmed: the amount of venom in most spiders’ bites is not enough to hurt you, a human many times the size of a spider’s intended target (an insect).

How to get rid of spiders

Spiders may come into your home looking for food. To make your home unattractive to spiders, cut off their food source: insects. You can help prevent an infestation by sealing cracks, keeping window screens and weather strips for doors in good shape, cleaning regularly, and storing food properly.

If you can stomach it and you believe the spider to be harmless, it’s not a bad idea to leave it alone. Spiders are an important part of the food chain and a few of them in your house will actually reduce the number of insects you have to deal with. If you can’t stand the sight of them, however, you have a few options for removal:

  • Trap the spider using a jar and piece of paper, then release it outside. (This option works well if you have already sealed off possible points of entry for insects in your house.)
  • Use a vacuum to remove spiders, spiderwebs, and old cobwebs. (Note that this method will kill the spider: it’s not going to come crawling out of your vacuum.)

If you find a venomous spider in your house or have a serious spider infestation, it’s best to call in a pest control expert to help. Don’t risk a serious bite or attempt to get rid of a spider infestation on your own: spider extermination requires the skill and knowledge of a professional.

Concerned you might have a spider problem on your hands? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our websiteFacebook, or Twitter.