Spring is in the air and with that, comes the beautiful flowers, green lawns and pesky critters.
In a previous article I talked about termites and roaches. This week I will talk a little about spiders and ants.
Did you know there were over 40,000 species of spiders in the world? The fact is, most spiders are actually beneficial, and they eat a huge number of undesirable insects in your yard or home, up to 100 per year per spider!
The problem is that many people are deathly afraid of these tiny creatures. It is partly due to the four varieties of spiders that are poisonous. The only spiders we need to fear are the brown recluse, black widow, yellow sac and hobo. In actuality, you are usually within range of a spider wherever you are at any given time. You might not see it, but it is there. Remember, 99 percent of all spiders are harmless.
In our region, we need to be most concerned with two types, the brown recluse and black widow. The brown recluse lives up to his name very well. Most inspections will not allow you to visibly find these guys as they love dark, moist areas. The bite is very painful and requires immediate medical attention. The venom will immediately begin to eat away at the tissue causing a painful sore. This spider can be identified by a violin shaped markings on its back.
The black widow spider does not like confrontation and will usually try to run away from you rather than just attack. They will usually only bite if provoked to do so. They are identified by the famous hourglass symbol on their abdomen. If bitten, immediate medical attention is usually required.
Many other harmless spiders can bite but usually it will be a matter of local swelling similar to what you might get from a mosquito bite.
If you want to keep your home as spider free as possible, try using the non-chemical solution of soap and water. Simply use your favorite dish soap and add enough water to make the solution easy to spray or apply. Use along window sills, baseboards, around pipes or anywhere a small creature might be able to enter the home. You can also get an insecticidal soap mixture at your favorite garden center. Using the soap solutions are not only good for the environment, but it is also good for you since you are avoiding the use of dangerous chemicals.
Another natural method for use outdoors is a salt and water solution. Mix about an ounce of table salt in a gallon of water and spray or apply around the perimeter of your house. Keep the solution away from your plants as the salt-water solution can kill them as well.
Ants are one of the most common insects on the planet and can be found everywhere, including your home. They come in all sizes and shapes and they seek or eat a variety of foods. The best way to keep ants of the house is by prevention. Be sure to look for old caulking that might be cracked or peeling away around windows and doors. Repair as necessary. Be sure to keep plants from touching the structure. Ants can use the branches as highways. Be sure all sweets and leftovers are covered tightly. It also helps to clean the crumbs from your toaster regularly.
If you do encounter ants in your home, there are a number of methods you can use to eradicate them. There are a large variety of ant traps out there that are safe to use because the ingredients are stored within the trap and you do not handle them directly. For a more natural approach, try baiting the ants with cream of wheat cereal. The ants will eat the cereal and afterward, the mixture expands and kills the ant. I have also heard of folks using pancake syrup as bait in small low containers. The ants find the mixture and die because they get trapped by the sticky solution. These methods will work for most common house ants. If you have fire ants, that will require a whole different article.
As you can see, you can often control pests with common household products you already have on your shelves. Using these natural methods are good for you and the environment.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to email@example.com or visit his website www.hometowngarden.com.