How to Identify and Remove Spiders from Your Home
Let’s talk about spiders. Why are we so scared of them? Are they really as scary as they look? Or should we -- gasp -- let spiders live in our homes?
Why spiders are your best buds (yes, really)
(Most) spiders are amazing roommates. They’re quiet, clean, and will get rid of other gross bugs — including flies, earwigs, cockroaches, clothing moths, and even disease-carrying insects like mosquitos — living in your home. Some spiders will even take care of other spiders for you.
Also, while it’s true that almost all spiders are venomous, most spiders have venom that is much too weak to cause actual harm to humans.
Not that spiders would want to bite you anyway because a) they’re more afraid of you than you are of them, and b) they don’t feed on humans. According to the arachnologist Chris Buddle, "You really have to work to get bitten by a spider, because they don't want to bite you."
That bite on your arm you were so quick to attribute to a spider? It was most likely left by something else. In one study, it was found that out of 182 patients looking for treatment for spider bites, only 3.8% had been bitten by a spider.
On the rare occasions that spiders do bite, they generally do so out of fear or surprise.
How to identify a spider
The vast majority of spiders are totally harmless. Only about 0.5% of all spider species are classified as potentially dangerous, and even fewer can kill you.
Still, if you see a scary-looking spider in your home, you’ll probably want to make sure that you’re dealing with the non-poisonous variety. A bite from a brown recluse spider or a black widow spider can require medical attention. In rare instances, a bite from a black widow spider may even prove fatal.
Here are some useful tools that can help you identify a spider:
Apps: Google Lens and Spider in Da House (Apple App Store | Google Play)
Websites: https://spiderid.com/ (submit spider pictures for identification and help others identify their spiders).
Reddit communities: r/spiders, r/whatsthisbug, r/spiderbro, and r/Whatisthis (handy for identifying all sorts of strange things, not just spiders).
If you reside in the US and don’t have access to a phone or internet but instead have to rely on your eyeballs, keep an eye out for the following three spiders.
Brown recluse spider
Maximum 0.8 inches long (2cm).
Brown body and legs.
Dark violin shape on its back (although young brown recluse spiders may not have this mark yet).
6 eyes arranged in pairs: one pair in front with the other two pairs on either side (this is important — most spiders have 8 eyes).
Short, fine hairs on their bellies and legs (most spiders have large “spines,” i.e., thick hairs on their abdomens and legs).
Typically reside in dry, out-of-the-way places like attics, basements, sheds, cardboard boxes, shoes, etc.
Black widow spider
Usually around 1.5-inches in length (3.8cm).
(Usually) glossy jet black with a plump belly.
8 eyes, with 2 lateral pairs that practically touch.
May have a red, hourglass-shaped marking on the underbelly. However, they may also have other red markings or even markings in different colors, like yellow or white. Young black widows may not have any markings at all.
Hairless, smooth body.
Long legs compared to the body (front legs are the longest whereas the third pair is the shortest) with hind legs covered in bristles.
Prefers to reside in dry and dark corners, like attics, basements, and undersides of patio furniture
Note that the above describes a female black widow: The adult female black widow differs in appearance from the male black widow and juveniles. However, the male and juveniles are usually harmless.
Anywhere between ¼ to ½ inches long (up to 1.2cm)
Brown body with darker brown marks on the front body.
Yellow marks on the belly (more or less invisible without a magnifying glass).
Males may (i.e., not necessarily) have 2 antenna-like protrusions between the front legs that look like boxing gloves.
Tends to reside in dark areas like basements and dark recesses.
Usually found at the ground level but can climb to a level of around four feet high.
The trouble with Hobo spiders is that they look an awful lot like Giant House Spiders. However, unlike a Giant House Spider, a Hobo spider doesn’t have round marks on its sternum, stripes on its back, or leg joint bands that are darker in color.
IMPORTANT: It's possible to have an allergic reaction to a spider bite, just like it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to getting stung by a bee. Signs of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, extreme swelling, and itching, among other things. Healthline goes into more detail about this.
How to get rid of a spider
The easiest way to get rid of a spider is to get a cup/glass and a piece of cardboard and put the cup over the spider, sliding the cardboard underneath it. Then, carefully lift the cup and the cardboard together, making sure that the spider remains trapped. Release the spider outside.
You could also get a spider catcher — a tool that lets you remove spiders without harming them but also without you having to get too close to them.
If your home is overrun with spiders and you’re desperate, you could also try a spray called Dethlac. It has a ton of warnings, though, so definitely use it as a last resort and DO YOUR RESEARCH beforehand.