Spiders | Mites | Biting | Exterminating

My woodshop is a one-car detached garage that was built over a century ago, and it is filled with spiders. There are webs in all of the corners and between the joists, and I kill every spider that I find. I have stacks of roughsawn boards and shelves full of cutoffs, smaller boards and live-edge slabs that are all full of little eight-legged nightmares. I’ve Googled ways to kill spiders, but the results were not encouraging. It has been suggested that I spray the corners with a mix of vinegar and peppermint oil. While I’m not phobic of these little guys, I do get bitten frequently, and my dog usually hangs out with me in my shop. Recently he’s begun scratching uncontrollably, and it is my theory that he’s suffering from spider bites as well. What can I do to resolve this situation? –  Branden Watts 

Tim Inman: You don’t say where you’re set up, but that might be important to the answer to your question. If you live where some of the poisonous, dangerous types of spiders live, then I would strongly suggest enlisting the efforts of a professional exterminator. Brown recluse and black widow spiders are two that instantly come to my mind. You don’t want to fool with these; neither does your dog. I’m usually as “organic” as possible, but I also subscribe to the IPM theory, too (Integrated Pest Management). Use the mildest, gentlest method possible to deal with the pests, but you do need to deal with them effectively — especially if they might be poisonous! There are insecticides that will control spiders and give long-lasting results. Are you infested with daddy longlegs? Then Imidacloprid would be too much. Black widows? Hit ’em hard and hit ’em fast is my theory.

Chris Marshall: I agree with Tim: it’s time to bring in an exterminator to evaluate exactly what pests you’ve got in your garage. Even though you see a lot of spiderwebs, I wonder if you’re not actually dealing with a form of mites that bite warm-blooded animals for food. Mites are tiny and hard to see, so this might be a case of mistaken identity. We have plenty of spider varieties here in Virginia where I live, including both black widows, like the one I photographed above, and brown recluse. Like you, I have an old yard shed full of wood, and it has its fair share of spider residents. But, I can’t say that I’ve ever been bitten by any of the eight-legged creatures that live out there. Most varieties of common spiders don’t have fangs long enough to penetrate skin deeply enough for us to know we’ve been bitten anyway; the bites are pretty innocuous. So, call in a professional to help assess what exactly is causing this pesky and itchy problem. I hope that brings some speedy relief!

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