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Question and Answer ArticleIcky, Sticky, Spider Webs

By Cherie Parker
Published: March 1, 2007
Photo by Brian Stewart-Coxon,
Q: We’ve had a problem with spider webs around the exterior of our cabin for as long as I can remember. There are literally thousands of cobwebs.
The built-in bench on our wrap-around deck gets covered so much that if you don’t sweep it twice a week, you don’t want to sit down. Everywhere the roof overhangs – more spider webs. Even the outdoor furniture gets “webbed.”
Who wants to spend even a little time sweeping away spider webs? Our family tries to stay away from pesticides due to the environmental factors. Do you have any suggestions about how to manage this “sticky” situation?
– Amanda; via e-mail

A: Besides being dangerous, pesticides are notoriously ineffective on controlling spiders: You almost have to chase the spiders around, spraying the poison directly on them. You could try sticky traps placed in strategic locations around your deck, though waking up each day to white strips of paper filled with decomposing spiders may be less attractive than webs. Sticky traps might be an interesting way, however, to see what sorts of arachnids call your deck home.
But before you continue your war, consider your enemy. Spiders are the Rodney Dangerfields of the natural world; they don’t get respect.
Sure, they’re creepy looking and those of us with arachnophobia get goose bumps just typing the word S-P-I-D-E-R. But for all the varieties of spiders in the world, only a miniscule percentage are dangerous to humans – most notably the black widow, the brown recluse and that monstrous one in Australia that will chew through your hiking boot.
And the rest of the spider world? They are all about eating bugs: bugs that bite humans, bugs that slip through tiny holes in the screen and keep you awake all night as they fly kamikaze into nightlights. Your spider patrol probably thinks you appreciate all the work they are doing. But they are rewarded only by becoming food for the many birds that enhance your cabin experience.
Think about it in supply and demand terms. What is attracting so many spiders to your deck? There must be an abundant food source – bugs, bugs, bugs. Do you have a lot of lights around your deck? Is there standing water? Are there other things attracting bugs?
Cut out the bugs, and you’ll cut down on the spiders. But until you can do that, think about this: Without all those spiders trapping and eating them, those extra bugs would be free to go about their business of biting, buzzing and falling dead in your lemonade. Now, aren’t you glad you have those spiders?

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