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Spring cleaning helps with spider control

MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Spring-cleaning is bad news for dust, mildew and spiders, which may explain why the majority of American adults plan to get out the mops and buckets this season.

A good house cleaning involves washing windows and window dressing, moving furniture to reach dust and grime that accumulates, and airing out rooms and closets that are kept closed. It is an important step in preventing houses from becoming home to spiders, such as the venomous brown recluse.

Blake Layton, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said controlling or preventing a brown recluse infestation is best done by systematic decluttering and cleaning.

“At home, as long as we occasionally do intensive decluttering, cleaning and treatment, the numbers stay low,” Layton said. “When we again begin to see significant numbers of brown recluses, that’s our clue to repeat the process.”

He said each room in the house should be methodically addressed to remove clutter and then thoroughly vacuumed. Apply insecticides where appropriate.

“Never underestimate the importance of thorough vacuuming to successful spider control,” he said.

Spiders are very unwelcome but often year-round residents of many Mississippi homes. The brown recluse is commonly found inside houses and buildings, especially in northern Mississippi.

“Brown recluse bites are rarely life-threatening but are seriously venomous, and they require medical attention because they potentially result in localized disintegration of tissues around the bite site,” Layton said.

The MSU entomologist said there is often a spike in inquiries about and detections of brown recluses in late spring.

“I believe this is due to attics and wall voids becoming too warm for the spiders, and that forces them to move in search of cooler areas to spend the summer,” he said. “That results in more spiders being seen in the living areas of the home. My experience indicates that they are in most homes and buildings in this region of the state.”

Layton said brown recluses can be identified by the distinct, dark-brown fiddle shape in the center of their backs. They are relatively long-lived, taking from nine to 14 months to develop from egg to adult, and then living several months as adults.

“They do not use webs to catch their prey, but they do build small, white webs to protect egg sacs or to serve as refuges in the dark cracks and crevices where they prefer to hide,” Layton said.

Karen Benson, Extension child and family development agent and county coordinator in Neshoba County, said houses can be kept clean and unfriendly to spiders year-round by following a few tips.

“Keep shoes off inside the house. Mudrooms are great because they provide a place to change shoes,” she said. “If you haven’t used an item in two years, give to someone who needs it, because insects and dirt collect inside and on stored items. Invest in a good vacuum that is easy to move and has attachments that get into crevices, blinds and corners.”

Lara Angel, Extension family and consumer sciences agent in DeSoto County, said the majority of people spend 90 percent of their time indoors. That highlights the importance of a regular deep cleaning.

“The idea behind spring cleaning is to do some of those things you have put off all year or don’t have time to do on a normal basis,” Angel said.

Important annual chores are cleaning out and checking the pantry and refrigerator for expired items; airing out rooms and dusting curtains, baseboards and behind furniture and appliances; cleaning windows and blinds; and sorting closets and donating unused items. Other important annual chores are cleaning the fireplace, wiping out kitchen and bathroom cabinets, decluttering the garage, and cleaning carpets and upholstery.

Angel said a key to keeping insects out of homes is to not provide them with food, water and shelter.

“Store food in tightly sealed containers. Clean up crumbs and spills right away, and empty your garbage often,” she said. “Wash dirty dishes right after eating, and don’t leave pet food out overnight. Fix plumbing leaks and drips, and seal cracks where bugs can enter homes and live.”

Released: March 11, 2016
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