Pest manager Jay Turner shares his 12 top tips on how to control spiders.
Spiders would have to be up there as one of our easiest pests to treat, so it is often frustrating when we get that occasional service call or callback for spiders. The following are my top 12 tips for treating spiders to help minimise those annoying service calls or just simply raise the standard of your current spider treatments. It was supposed to be ten tips but I got carried away!
1. Get to know your local species
As most would know I’m a bit of a stickler for this, but if we are claiming to be a professional service, then at the very least we should be able to accurately identify our quarry and understand its behaviour. Being able to confidently identify a spider down to genus or even species level and discuss its biology with your client is priceless in giving your client confidence in your abilities as a professional pest manager. Understanding different spiders’ behaviours will also help you tweak your treatments.
2. Ask the client
I always like to ask the client straight up – what spiders are they having issues with? Some clients are absolutely petrified of the ‘big hairy type’ of spiders, whereas some customers like their orb spiders in the garden, but just don’t want spiders inside. Others don’t mind the occasional huntsman inside but just don’t want the untidy cobwebs from webbing spiders. These customers will also typically point out the cobwebs that are bothering them the most, so make sure you treat those, as I can guarantee those are the areas the client is going to check first.
3. Do a walk around before treating
We should be doing this anyway to identify potential hazards and risks, but it is also a great opportunity to identify the level of activity, the problem areas, and help you decide what products and methods you are going to use.
4. Choose your products and application methods well
Synthetic pyrethroids are certainly the mainstay of domestic spider treatments, and for good reason, but not all actives are equal – some are better suited for different areas. For example, externally you would want a product that has good UV stability such as bifenthrin, whereas internally, where human or pet exposure is more of an issue, you would want choose a product with a good safety profile/lower active ingredient use, such as deltamethrin. How you are going to apply it is also critical; if you are targeting redback spiders that hide on the undersides of objects then you would select an application method such as a space spray or mist that is going to get up and under where those spiders are.
5. Tweak your treatment to suit the environment or targeted spiders
As we know not all spiders behave the same nor should all spider treatments be the same. A house set in an open, rural environment is most likely going to have a high wolf spider population, whereas a house set in a woodland environment is probably going to have a lot of huntsman spiders around. Therefore if you were targeting ground- dwelling spiders such as wolf spiders, trapdoors or funnel-webs you would try and create a nice wide, horizontal treated zone. Whereas if you were targeting arboreal spiders like huntsman spiders, then you would focus your treatment on those vertical surfaces and crevices where they like to hide. A targeted treatment is always going to be far more effective.
6. Think like a spider
If you were a spider, where would you construct your web? Around outdoor lights or windows where the light is going to bring every flying insect in the neighbourhood straight to you, most likely. Or maybe pergolas and verandas where it is easier to string up your web. Look for those natural obstacles such as steps, garden edging and retaining walls that ground-dwelling spiders are likely to encounter and track along rather than climb. Treating these areas is going to maximise the spiders’ exposure to your product.
7. Don’t miss treating those visual areas
Think of those areas that the client is likely to be looking at on a regular basis i.e. the letterbox, clothesline, front entry. There is nothing more annoying than getting a phone call to say “You missed one!” or worse still, the client thinking you did a poor job because they have to look at their web-covered clothesline every time they hang out the washing.
8. Don’t miss treating those not-so-visual areas!
This one might sound a bit complementary to the previous. But what I mean is, try and treat those spiders and areas that aren’t staring you in the face. For example, those red house spiders hiding behind the 20 picture frames throughout the house; those redback spiders hiding under the outdoor table and chairs; the black house spider webs up under the second storey gable end; and the wall spiders on the cornice behind the open garage roller door.
This is also applicable to where you apply your residual product. You need to apply your product to as many hidden areas as possible where it is not going to be mopped or vacuumed on a regular basis. Behind the couch, under the TV unit, dresser and behind the bedhead are going to last a lot longer than down the hallway or on the kitchen floor. The areas where it is easy for you to apply are also the areas where it is easier for the homeowner to clean. So, in other words don’t forget to look up and under, because it is these hidden spiders and areas that are going to reinfest the house before your warranty is up!
9. Educate the client
Talking to the client about the biology of the different spiders around their house often helps lessen the fear factor. It is human nature to be scared of things we don’t understand or know a lot about. Dispel the myths about white-tailed spiders, explain how orb spiders in the garden are harmless and are great natural pest controllers. Educating your client won’t downplay the need for your services but it may help reduce the hysteria when your client does see a spider.
10. Try using a cobweb broom
Traditionally we have been taught to leave the cobwebs in place so that when the spider comes out onto its web it will pick up the insecticide. But recently I have been trialling using a cobweb broom before I treat. Physically removing the webs beforehand seems to give a visual ‘wow’ impression on most clients and the spiders will still come out of their hidey holes to construct a new web or move on, exposing themselves to the treated surface.
11. Set the client’s expectations
Unfortunately, some clients have unrealistic expectations of what we actually do. Many believe that we can put a magic barrier around their home that will repel any spider from coming near. You need to explain to your client that spiders don’t simply hit our treated zone and walk away or die on impact but rather track across the treated zone, picking up tiny traces of the product, and eventually succumb to it 24-48 hours later. We cannot eliminate every living spider but what we can do is reduce the population and help prevent them from taking up residence in their home and multiplying. The old saying “under promise and over deliver” really comes into play here and helps set the client’s expectations of what our service entails.
12. Simplify your warranty
A lot of pest managers only apply warranties to webbing spiders. The reason for this is that there is a common perception that residual insecticides aren’t really effective on wandering spiders. I tend to disagree (but this a topic for a whole different article). The reality is that most homeowners don’t really care whether it’s a webbing spider or a wandering spider – to them it is a spider and they just don’t want it around. It often saves a lot of anguish and builds loyalty to simply honour your warranty regardless of the type of spider it is than to argue the conditions of your warranty.
We each have our own preferred methods and products for treating spiders, but we can all agree that service calls can be costly. Not just financially, but also to our reputations. And as the 90/10 rule goes, sometimes it’s that 10% extra effort that makes that 90% difference. So hopefully you can relate to a few of these tips and add that extra element to your standard spider treatment which reduces that annoying unnecessary service call!
Jay Turner, Owner, Laguna Pest Control