How can you kill black widow spiders? Strong scents, vinegar, your vacuum cleaner, and pesticides are among the ways you can get rid of this feared spider.
What are Black Widow Spiders?
Black widow spiders are more venomous than a rattlesnake and are considered one of the worst insects in the U.S. Species of this shiny black spider can be found everywhere in the United States and North America, but black widows are most common in warmer climates throughout the South. No matter where you live, we’ll show you how to get rid of black widows inside and outside of your home.
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How to Get Rid of Black Widow Spiders Naturally
You can fend off or kill black widows just by using items you likely already have around your house.
Black widows are rumored to dislike lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and peppermint because they have a very good sense of smell. They smell through their feet, and by dispersing these powerful scents, black widows will stay away.
How to make this spider repellent: All you need is a spray bottle, water, essential oil and a dab of dish soap for your DIY spider spray.
- Add five drops of your preferred essential oil into a 16-ounce spray bottle
- Fill with water
- Add 3-4 drops of dish soap
Spray this on window ledges, baseboards, corners, and beneath furniture. Liberally spray around all points of entry, including doors, windows, or around plumbing fixtures connected to the outside.
Bonus: Although this spray functions as a black widow deterrent, your DIY spray doubles as an air freshener, as well. You can buy the supplies at most grocery stores or online at places like Amazon.
Note: Avoid using essential oils around pets or pet areas, as they can be toxic to your furry friend.
Vinegar is a black widow killer. Vinegar’s acidity will burn a spider’s body on contact.
How to make this black widow spray: Combine equal parts vinegar and water, and spray directly on the black widow. If you come across an egg sac, spray liberally on all sides.
Note: You can add essential oils to help with the strong vinegar odor. When diluted and handled responsibly, some essential oils are safe to use around pets and kids. A few examples are lavender, rosemary, and chamomile essential oils.
Because spiders rely on their webs for food and shelter, removing webs is your first defense in warding off black widows and other spiders.
Vacuum high and low to remove any spider webs; pay attention to hiding places such as corners and dark areas beneath furniture. Target egg sacs carefully, and then safely discard everything in the vacuum cleaner’s canister.
Note: Be mindful that the mother black widow rarely leaves her web, so she is likely to attack out of fear.
How to Get Rid of Black Widow Spiders Chemically
If homemade black widow spider control options aren’t doing the job, there are plenty of store-bought options to get rid of these pests.
Insecticides and Pesticides
Chemical insecticides to kill black widows come in dusting or liquid options. Dusts are good for places humans won’t disturb, such as basements, crawl spaces, and window sills. Liquids are well suited to other areas, including known webs. Insecticides will kill any present spiders and prevent new ones.
Oil-based pesticides, including pyrethrin, are best for targeting egg sacs. When you locate an egg sac, apply the pyrethrin liberally, coating all sides if possible. The pesticide kills black widows and discourages others from moving into your home, garage, or attic.
Here are two products that will control black widows around your home:
- Bayer Advanced Home Indoor and Outdoor Insect Killer (Active ingredient: cyfluthrin)
- Ortho Home Defense Perimeter and Indoor Insect Killer (Active ingredient: bifenthrin)
Wettable powder or microencapsulated (“slow-release”) formulations are best.
Removing flies, moths, grasshoppers, and earwigs will reduce spiders’ food sources. Putting out traps for these pests will naturally reduce the likelihood that a black widow will choose to build her web nearby.
Kinds of insect traps: You can purchase insect traps like bug zappers, sticky traps, or disposable fly traps to send black widows out for lunch.
DIY Traps: The University of Florida offers these tips on homemade pest traps.
- DIY flypaper is easy to make from strips cut from a thin plastic material (such as a grocery bag) covered with a honey or sugar solution. Once the flypaper is dry, hang the sticky strips where flies are most active.
- Poison bait stations for ants: Mix boric acid with sugar water or honey in a 2% concentration. Place the bait in shallow container lids where ants are foraging.
- DIY pantry pest bait stations may help. Mix cornmeal with boric acid (or Borax) and put it in jar lids to help eliminate a residual infestation of pantry pests. Place the traps in the cupboard or pantry to attract the remaining larvae.
- Soda-bottle traps: Cut a large plastic bottle, like a soda bottle. Fill with something sweet. Rotate the upper half you cut. This way, bugs will find an easy way in but not out.
How to Get Rid of Black Widows Inside Your Home
Black widows move into your house and take up residence in dark, often little-used spaces such as the basement, attic, garage, crawl space, and shed.
- To make it easier to spot black widows, organize storage areas to force spiders to build webs in more visible locations, which are easier to treat.
- To limit web-building opportunities, keep items in storage in tightly sealed containers (which also protects your belongings).
- To protect yourself on spider seek-and-destroy missions, wear gloves and protective clothing. Gardening gloves and close-toed shoes will keep your hands and feet safe. Wear denim or some other variety of work pants.
Once black widows are in your home’s dark and little-used areas, here’s how to evict these unwelcome houseguests:
Basements and Attics
Apply a DIY chemical spray, store-bought insecticide, or pesticide wherever you have seen or fear black widows may be living in your basement or attic. Vacuum any webs you see.
Pro Tip: After you’ve spotted signs of black widows by day, go downstairs (or upstairs to your attic) at night to apply your spider killers. Black widows are most active following sunset, so you’re more likely to have success.
Garages and Crawl Spaces
Cold weather and drought drive spiders indoors, so you may see seasonal increases in black widows in garages and crawl spaces.
Apply black widow killers frequently and vacuum window frames, corners, and beneath furniture.
Pro Tip: Sealing points of entry is the simplest way to keep spiders out. Install door sweeps, seal window openings, and repair screens. Look for openings at ground level that can be caulked or otherwise closed.
How to Kill Black Widows Outside Your Home
Discouraging black widows from moving onto your property is the best way to keep these arachnids outside your home. It also makes your backyard space safer and more enjoyable for whatever you like to do outside.
To deter black widows on your yard and property, take these three measures:
Remove Web-Building Spots
- Stacks of firewood are a favorite place for black widows to build webs, so get rid of these spider hiding places.
- Tall grass also can be a web-building platform, so trim this grass regularly.
- Compost heaps and garden bags should be closed tightly. This eliminates a potential food source and a place to construct webs.
Limit Outdoor Lighting
Outside lights attract moths and flies, so keep the lights off to keep away a black widow’s food supply.
Note: Switch outdoor lights from incandescent to yellow or sodium vapor bulbs, as these are less attractive to flying insects.
Add Birds and Plants as Deterrents
Wrens find black widows pretty tasty, so attracting these birds is a natural spider control. Install nest boxes and fill them with bread crumbs, peanut butter, or apple slices. However, keep in mind that feeding wildlife can cause other issues.
Similar to essential oils, spiders dislike pungent plants. Lemon balm, lavender, mint, and lemongrass are great options. Plant these powerful plants near the garage, basement, and house doors to help keep black widows from entering your buildings.
How to Treat a Black Widow Spider Bite
What to do if a black widow bites you: The Mayo Clinic advises that you wash the bite area and apply an ice pack. Then seek medical attention.
Typically, black widow bites don’t hurt at first, but once symptoms set in, the neurotoxin can cause serious complications. Nausea, pain, and difficulty breathing will develop a few hours after the bite.
Female black widows bite only in self-defense, and their bites are rarely fatal. They are not aggressive and will attack only out of fear. Black widows bite to protect themselves from perceived danger, which is sure to be the case if you’re caught disturbing her web.
Basic Information About Black Widows
What do Black Widows Look Like?
Black widows, while known to have red hourglass markings on the abdomen, may have several colored dots or no markings at all.
While many spiders you find around your home make delicate webs with a consistent pattern, a black widow spider’s nest is made of strong threads and has an irregular shape.
Where do Black Widows Live?
Black widow spiders are fond of dark corners where spider webs will be left undisturbed. They are most often found in basements, attics, closets, and crawl spaces and on the underside of furniture.
Outside your home, black widows usually make their homes in woodpiles, crevices, or small holes already in your yard.
What do Black Widows Eat?
Black widows’ primary diet is insects, such as flies, ants, and other spiders. They have been known to trap and devour small vertebrates like snakes, lizards, and scorpions.
With poor eyesight, black widows rarely leave their webs and rely on vibrations reaching them across their web to locate prey and other disturbances. Keep this in mind when confronted with black widows invading your space because they usually only bite when provoked.
Sealing points of entry is the simplest way to keep spiders out. Install door sweeps, seal window openings, and repair screens. Look for openings at ground level that can be caulked or otherwise closed. Strong scents found in essential oils and vinegar are natural repellents, or you can use a pesticide to keep them at bay.
Black widows smell through their feet, and by dispersing diluted essential oils like lemon, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, and peppermint, the taste on their toes will send them running. Use caution with essential oils as they can cause allergic reactions and be harmful to pets.
If your pet shows symptoms of poisoning by essential oils or liquid potpourri, immediately call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), a 24/7 animal poison control center.
Notorious for killing their mates, the term “black widow” encompasses 31 Latrodectus species that exhibit this ritual.
Female black widows are venomous spiders. The Mayo Clinic advises that you wash the area of the bite with mild soap and water and apply an ice pack. Then seek medical treatment. Typically, black widow bites don’t hurt at first, but once symptoms set in, the neurotoxin can cause serious problems.
When to Call a Pest Control Expert
Call a pest control service near you if you have black widows – or any spiders – in your home. Pest control professionals have specialized products and equipment to attack large and hard-to-reach spider infestations.
Main image credit: Konrad Summers from Santa Clarita (Valencia), California / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA