Tim Rust first noticed the presence outside a basement window as he mowed the lawn in July – a dark spot that on closer inspection revealed itself as a black widow spider, the telltale red hourglass on her abdomen.
Since then, Rust has found more of the poisonous spiders outside his house, and says he has heard related reports as he has told others about his sightings.
“Listening to people, it seems there’s more of a problem,” said George Sander of Hillside Feed & Seed. “We’re seeing more brown-recluse and black-widow problems.”
Spiders and mice start moving toward the indoors as the weather starts to cool every year. Some people think that last year’s mild winter and the drought could be affecting their behavior and numbers this year.
“We’ve seen a lot more than we’ve ever seen in this part of Kansas,” Mike Patton, of Patton Termite and Pest Control, said last week of black widows. And brown recluses have been more on the move, he said.
The black widow is more dangerous than the brown recluse, naturalist Jim Mason said. Neither spider is considered aggressive, but surprising one in close quarters can lead it to bite.
“Black widows like quiet, sheltered locations – a pile of stuff in the corner of the garage, a crawlspace under a house, a stack of boards in a corner of the yard,” Mason said. Look before sticking your hand into a dark area, he advised.
Brown recluses can probably be found in everybody’s house, Mason said.
“Practice good housekeeping in terms of eliminating clutter along the baseboards and clothes on the floor,” he said. “It’s a good time to impress on kids that if they leave their clothes on the floor they might get a spider in them.”
People sometimes take spiders to the Extension Center at 21st Street and Ridge Road for identification.
“We have seen some black widow this summer, probably a little more than normal, but still very few,” extension agent Bob Neier said. “Brown recluse are very common. Once you’ve seen that violin pattern,” behind the head, “they’re very easy to identify.”
Brown recluse spiders usually hide during the day and come out an hour or two after dark. You can then look for them within a foot or two of walls, Ward Upham of K-State Research and Extension said in the Horticulture 2012 newsletter. To get rid of them, use a crawling-insect spray.
“After destroying any spiders you find, look for a crack they may have been using to hide,” Upham wrote. “Spray the insecticide into that crack and remember to caulk or otherwise seal it.
“Caulking shut the crack is best, but if caulking will ruin the aesthetics of the room, continue to spray into it every 10 days or two weeks. You may want to log the number and date of spider kills to see if you are making progress.”
You can also put out sticky traps to monitor the number of spiders inside a house, Neier said. If many are found, spraying can be considered.
Synthetic pyrethroids are effective, K-State says. A good-quality diatomaceous earth, which is a mineral dust, also can be used, Patton said.
Exterior sprays can be used to treat around eaves, soffits, windows and doors, shrubbery and the foundation, Patton said. Pest-control companies have other treatments not available to consumers.
And mice, too
“A lot of people are beginning to complain about mice” as well, Sander said. “They’re hungrier than usual because there’s not as much grain in the fields” because of the drought.
Anti-coagulant bait has been the most popular item at his store for going after mice, Sander said, because it dehydrates them and hopefully they head out of the house looking for water before dying.
But the bait can be harder to find because of Environmental Protection Agency regulations to prevent accidental poisoning of pets and children. Once current supplies are sold out, the bait will be available to consumers only in sealed bait containers intended for one-time use.The classic snap traps also are options, baited with bacon grease or peanut butter, Sander said. But while no one has invented a better mousetrap in a long time, he said, he did read a tip recently about them: Put an unbaited and unset trap out for a while to let rodents get used to it before baiting and setting it. That way they won’t be as cautious around it and are more likely to take the bait.
Mice are usually most active in November, Patton said, but his company is already catching them outside commercial buildings.
“The drought will stress them early,” he said.
If a person can keep them from coming indoors, they’ll be ahead of the game, he said.
People should look for access points such as openings where pipes go into the house, Patton said; check where the air-conditioner line comes through the wall to be sure it still has putty or steel wool in it.
“If you can get your little finger in it, a mouse can get through it,” Patton said.
Also be sure any bird or pet food or grass seed is stored in a secure container.
Closing up any cracks or gaps in the house with caulk or putty also is the best defense against box elder bugs that invade some houses this time of year, Upham said. The half-inch-long blackish bugs with red markings do no harm, but large numbers of them can be annoying, he said.
They can be vacuumed up inside the house; the bag should then be removed and sealed.