I need to kill Black Widows without getting cancer...

I think the title says it all. I’m freaking about the number of Black Widows in and around our house, the hunny is freaking at the idea that I’m gonna have someone come and spray poison all over the place.

At the risk of setting you up to sound like the lady who swallowed the fly, do they have any natural predators? Are any of these natural predators creatures you’d be sanguine about inviting into your house?
…or you could just walk around with a brick and squish them…

There’s a great book you should check your library for:
Common Sense Pest Control by William Olkowski.
It has listings for most every kind of creepy crawly, focusing on least toxic control methods. My previous workplace had a copy, and I know black widows were listed, but I don’t remember any more than that. (Darn dead brain cells … guess I should’ve worn the ol’ respirator a little more often during household hazardous waste collections …)

Here is an eco-friendly solution that will not cause undue environmental impact.

applied lever action cephalothorax bi-dimensionalizer

Raid Max, and lots of it. It kills them pretty quickly.

To hell with “environmentally sound” when it comes to something that will seriously make you ill/potentially kill you, like widows and recluses. Save lesser methods for the silverfish.


The next question is what exactly is it that you think will give you cancer? Many commercial insecticide emulsions use aromatic hydrocarbons, including xylene, as a solvent. Xylene has certain been implicated as a carcinogen. However there are many dust and wettable powder applications available to pest controllers that they will be happy to use if you ask them. These are based on the pesticide being adosrbed to a fine clay dust that is then either puffed directly onto the critter or mixed into water and sprayed on. No aromatics used, just a bit of deteregent and anti-caking agents (the same stuff you eat in your salt).

Now if you’re worried about the carcinogenic effects of the pesticides themselves you have problems. Certainly the organochlorines (DDT, deildren etc) have been implicated in carcinogenesis but these substance can’t be used in the USA AFAIK. The organophosphates/carbamates have some nasty stories circulating and they are certainly moderately toxic to humans, but there have been no studies that prove they are carcinogenic as far as I know. The synthetic pyrethroids are about as safe as you can get, with an LD50 well below that of coca-cola or table salt for the vast majority of them. They have also been suggested as possible carcinogens however. The commonly available aerosol packs for home use (Raid etc) all contain synthetic pyrethroids these days, many of them with far higher toxicities than the commercially applied chemicals such as permethrin. If you’re going to reject these then you’re reduced to either the ‘natural’ pesticides or mechanical means.

‘Natural’ pesticides include natural pyrethrin and various other plant extracts as the most widely available, at least in Australia. Some, such as derris dust (rotenone) are far more toxic than even the organophosphates and I wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole. Many extracts have a problem in that no-one knows exactly what they are or how they work. They’re a complex cocktail of chemicals taken from a plants and bottled. Just because something comes from a plant doesn’t make it safe; consider that strychnine, fluoroacetate (1080), LSD and rotenone are all plant products. Natural pyrethrin is another plant extract with an extremely low toxicity, though again no lower than most of the more effective synthetic pyrethroids and again just because it’s natural doesn’t make it safe and it has been linked to cancer.

Basically I don’t understand what exactly is causing your fear of commercial applications. If you specifically ask someone to use Permethrin as a wettable powder or dust you should be safer than using anything that you can apply yourself, at least from a purely logical/scientific point of view. If you don’t trust a commercial operator to do what you ask, go buy some permethrin that doesn’t contain a hydrocarbon solvent and spray the little sods yourself. Any of the synthetic chemicals should be available to any decent pest controller, and the natural alternatives, at least the pyrethrin, will be available at your local hardware store. Just mix in a sprayer and apply. If you reject the use of pesticides altogether then your options really are limited. You haven’t told us where these things are, but if they’re within easy reach you can use a vacuum cleaner to just suck the little buggers up. Just make sure you get any egg cases left in the nest at the same time. There are few effective natural predators of these basically nocturnal critters. I’ve got a couple of geckos inside and about a zillion tree-frogs outside that seem to control mine, but I don’t suppose that’s an option for those of you not in the tropics. These animals can’t be effectively controlled by baiting (they only take live food), can’t be killed with surface treatments like borax powder (they don’t walk on the ground much) and squashing the big bloated females is real messy and pretty much everything else seems impractical.

Just be aware of the fallacy of the ‘it’s a natural product it must be completely safe’ line of thought.
Have fun!

Just don’t spray indoors. I too, have a plethora of Black Widows and have the exterminator spray the perimeter of the house every six weeks.

My spider guy says that Black Widows don’t like a lot of heat, so they start moving indoors in early summer, though I don’t know if he’s correct. It seems to work well though.

I haven’t ever had them spray in the house and I still haven’t found a Widow in here. I found one in the garage, lots of dead ones outside and exterminator guy found a bunch on the bottom ledge of my garage door, but that’s it.

A FOAF (My neighbor’s friend) went into kidney failure from a Black Widow bite, please don’t mess around, especially if you have children.

This is all very depressing.

I’ve come up with a mix of answers. Our biggest problem, I think , is that we are kind of slobs. We have a big wood pile, a pile of ruined gardening crap, a stuffed garage and a pile of crap out by the pool shed. All ideal breeding places for Widows. We need to do a big clean up…but for me that presents a bit of a catch-22, since the whole problem is that I am afraid of touching and moving stuff for fear I’ll put a hand right on one. So my honey is going to de-spriderize most things before I clean and sort them.

Then we are going to hose, sweep and otherwise clean, then spray the yrethrins stuff, then spray something called Cobweb Eliminator that’s some kind of sprayu-on teflon that makes cobweb building difficult and therefore our home inhospitable to Widows.

I’ve seen one in a closet that opens directly to the crawlspace above the house, one next to the stereo, and a couple by the door to the outside.

I’m crossing my fingers…

Thank you all for all your help. Sorta.


Move. Sounds like you are living in Black Widow Paradise if you are finding that many around. I only find a few Widows occasionally around my place, but lots of other species. Mainly those hairy ones that don’t build a web. Maybe they don’t like to mix. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Maybe they are hiding really good…plotting against me. Damn, now I gotta go walk around the house with a flashlight and a can of Raid.

I second **Gaspode’s **response. You’re actually safer having a professional do it than you are if you do it yourself. This is because professionals are trained to make safe applications, and their livelihood is on the line. They can’t afford to make mistakes.

But something else to consider is not just the toxicity, but the level of toxicity. There’s a thing called LD50, which is the lethal dose required to kill 50 per cent of the target population. This is measured in milligrams of product against kilograms of weight of the target subject. Therefore, something that is highly poisonous to a spider is just as toxic to a human, sure. But only in a dosage so large that you’d need to bathe in it for it to have any effect on you. You probably breathe in more harmful carcinogens walking through the mall parking lot than you would if you had a pesticide application in or around your home.

I know in the past that things like DDT and chlordane were rushed onto the market before proper impact studies could be done. This isn’t the case now. I’ve often thought that people distrust pesticides nowadays because of their purpose. These are designed to kill, and so people distrust them and worry about the impact on themselves and their families.

But the truth is, most of the insecticides are no more toxic than the cleansers under your kitchen sink. The big difference is they make things “clean and sanitary” instead of “dead”.

Call a professional. Explain your concerns. He should be able to address them and put you at ease. Ask him about recommending steps you could take to reduce the conducive conditions around your house. Then take action. 90% of effective pest control is sanitation.

Good luck.

My dad used a fly swatter.

Jeez Stiod - where do you live and remind me never to move there. Nothing against you, but my irrational fear of spiders would not be helped by knowing that some poisonous one could be sharing my domicile.

Stoid: The secret is to kill every one you see. (And clean up their hiding places.) Dad used to go out on “Black Widow Patrol”. He worked a rotating shift (FAA) and was friends with all the neighbours, so after a “mid-watch” he’d go out with a fly swatter and a flashlight killing every balck widow he found. Starting with his own house, he’d expand the search to the neighbours’ houses. He really didn’t like black widows. He was bitten once on the calf and the bite left an ulcerated sore that lasted a long time. No matter how many you kill, there are always more to replace them. Only by weekly searches can you keep them out of the places you don’t want them to be.

I was getting ready to go scuba diving once, and was hosing out my booties. A black widow crawled out of the booty and onto my wrist. She met a violent end shortly thereafter.

I just had an idea about the firewood. Cover it with a tarp and seal the edges as well as you can. Then put a “bug bomb” in there. After it works for a couple of hours, unstack and brush off the wood and then re-stack it. Watch for the tell-tale mess the spiders call a web. If you find a new web, get out the fly swatter and take care of the problem.

I’m so terrified of big spiders, I’d probably just pick up and move. To hell with the mortgage/lease/long term commitments. :eek:

DAVEW0071 wrote:

This isn’t true. The LD50 is different for each species, and pesticides have a much higher LD50 for their target species such as spiders and insects.

Also, the LD50 is a measure of toxicity, not carcinogenicity, if that’s a word. A toxin is poinsonous and kills you by interfering with your body’s chemical reactions. A carcinogen causes damage to DNA in your cells, and may cause cancer in some of the people exposed.

DDT is a good example of something that has a high LD50 in humans (meaning that it’s not very toxic at all), but a low LD50 in insects. It also is apparently not carcinogenic. It has another problem, which could be a “feature” for some purposes, in that it’s persistent. DDT doesn’t break down quickly like most modern pesticides. The fact that it stays around and even accumulates up the food chain (when sprayed over wide areas) is troubling, although for DDT, the evidence that it caused any harm is pretty weak.

Since it saved many, many millions of human lives (and won its inventor a Nobel Prize), I wouldn’t say that it was rushed onto the market.

For those of you wondering where I live that I have such Black WIdow issues, I live in what I like to call the ass-end of the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles County, an area known for having lots of BW’s.

I wonder if SPOOFE suffers as I do in this…we live about 2 miles apart.


If you’re worried about getting bit while cleaning out the woodstack, then just wear heavy leather gloves. Of course, you’ll want to check the insides of the gloves before putting them on each time. Maybe keep them in a ziplock bag?

With all due respect, worrying about spraying a little too much Raid around the place when you have GODDAMNED BLACK WIDOWS (Latin name: Arachnid Goddamnus) around is sort of like worrying about the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic. Why the hell aren’t you spraying the place with the nastiest, rankest bug juice you can find?

My preferred method of handling a black widow problem would be to move the hell out and burn the house to the ground. I couldn’t even sleep thinking one of those horrid little monsters was around. If that isn’t an option, I’d move the family to a motel and fumigate until not even a microbe was left alive. Jeez, they can kill you!

I guess you’d better not even think about dust mites! (also arachnids)

Actually, the black widow spider is usually not fatal to a healthy adult. Small children and the elderly may not survive, but most people will live. As I mentioned, my dad was bitten. Nasty wound, but not fatal.