James Hamilton, Submitted to the Grand Forks Gazette
Some may still remember the motto of Baden Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts) “Be prepared.”
Winter will soon be here and, with the falling temperatures, will come the attempted intrusion of all kinds of yard critters seeking shelter and sustenance. “Be prepared.”
The other day, I identified a cute little critter, with a red patch on her back, racing along the inner window, as the deadly black widow spider. Apparently they are becoming quite numerous in southwest Canada. Too fast to catch, I did some research on how to deal with my arachnophobic reaction by eliminating such a potentially dangerous pest from the home. Apparently only about one to three per cent of folks bitten by the black widow will actually die, but still … (apologies to any arachno-amorians).
Keep things tidy because, as it gets cooler, the spiders will want somewhere to hide in a warm area. Start indoors first so that spiders find your home an unacceptable retreat from the increasing cold.
Perhaps you don’t want to risk the health of your children and pets using pesticides. Here are some safe things you can do:
Place traps (sticky paper stuff) or make a natural spider repellent from strong smelling eucalyptus sprigs, mix with regular table salt, dissolved in water in a spray bottle. Spray the bushes, flowers and any needed part outside the house with this salt solution. Salt can be fatal to a spider if it gets on its legs.
They say that if you use two to 12 drops of lavender, citronella, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, neem, lemongrass, tea tree oil, vinegar, salt or chestnut extract, mixed with water, it will be effective for killing, or chasing, trespassing spiders from the area.
Make sure your mixture smells a bit minty. Spider’s legs are their noses and they really dislike the smell produced by such repellents and will avoid unpleasant locations. Use a glass spray bottle, as essential oils can sometimes react with plastic. Mix well and spray it in the cracks, corners, and crevices. Spray regularly to keep spiders away. Spray also in locations populated by any insects which are a spider’s food source. They won’t hang around long (pun intended) when their food source is depleted.
Did you know that a thin layer of 100 per cent food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, sprinkled along areas where you see bugs or spiders crawling, will scratch the protective oil off of their exoskeleton surfaces causing euthanismic dehydration? They will shortly dry up and expire. DE is safe for endo-skeletal beings such as you and your pets.
By using sprays and deterrents around the points of entry of your home, you can effectively deter bugs without any negative consequences to your health. You can also dip a cloth in the solution and use it to wipe around the entry points of your house, for a more concentrated application.
The strong smell of cedar will deter arachnids too. A sprinkling of cedar shavings or several blocks of cedar around points of entry and spider-infested areas or laying down cedar mulch in your garden will deter spiders. Alternatively, herbs and spices, like bay leaves, whole cloves, turmeric, or ground black pepper scattered around the exterior or entry points seem to be effective.
Here’s a small list of what various people suggest works for them — and they can’t all be crazy.
“Reduce the humidity of the home with a dehumidifier.”
“Even just a whiff of citrus fruit peels, tobacco, baking soda, ammonia, Dawn dish soap or lemon Pledge polish all make spiders feel like leaving.”
“Learn to love all insects or buy a flyswatter and use a vacuum cleaner.”
“Buy a free roaming gecko as a house pet.”
There you are. Choose your own remedy.
‘The Prepper’ is a column written by local Grand Forks gardener James Hamilton.