Do I have to surrender my backyard to the spiders?

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I iz in yer yard, driving you crazy. (Photo by: Dan FoyCC BY 2.0)
I’m not arachnophobic, but I’m not exactly an arachnophile either. Our lovely Portland, Oregon backyard has transformed into a spidery wonderland during the past year. There are webs over everything, changing almost daily. There are webs in every shape and size. There’s spiders who don’t bother making webs and just run along… everything. It’s so bad that we can’t even use a clothesline without it getting spidered.

The 10-foot, square space is so well-shaded that we don’t even get grass growing back there. Birds don’t care for the area and I’ve tried putting up an insect/peanut butter/suet feeder — they continue not to care.

Spiders are awesome and super important for the environment, but we need our personal space! What can I do to de-spider the backyard, short of spraying with pesticides?Lydia


Comments on Do I have to surrender my backyard to the spiders?

  1. KILL THEM WITH FIRE. Sorry, I just…I can’t. I did here that they don’t like peppermint or black pepper, so maybe try spraying a mix (I know there’s one on pinterest)? I….eeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh. That’s me shuddering.

  2. We had our yard sprayed with a garlic solution regularly this summer to repel mosquitoes. I’ve read that this also work to repel spiders, though you’d probably have to apply more liberally. (The mosquito solution primarily works by spraying the bushes. I assume you’d have to spray the grass too for spiders.) Peppermint oil is also supposed to work this way.

  3. I have been slowly winning the battle against spiders in our front yard, and am going to tackle the backyard this fall/winter. Because yeah, I know, spiders are harmless and good for the environment and love kittens and yadda yadda, but I AM arachnophobic and the last thing I want is to end up with a face full of orb weaver every time I go to walk the dog.

    One of the main things is, eliminate their food source. I replaced all outside lightbulbs with those yellow “bug light” bulbs that don’t attract as many insects, and that alone really made a difference with the number of spiders hanging around the porch area. I also trimmed bushes and trees that had become overgrown, so that there would not be as many usable spaces for spiders to run webs between trees and bushes.

    Also, part of eliminating the food source involves me spraying outside. I use an all natural pesticide that I buy at Home Depot (I believe it’s called EcoSense) that is mainly made up of peppermint, citronella, and other essential oils. It is not harmful to birds or mammals, and it is not strong enough to kill all the bugs in the area so it isn’t really harming most of the beneficial insects that I want to stick around for my garden, but if I do it consistently it keeps down on the number of giant water bugs hanging around outside (a major spider food source here) and mosquitos. I buy two different kinds; one is a perimeter spray that I use on the porch/front door/walkway area every three days or so, the other is a bottle that hooks to the garden hose, which I use to spray at dusk when mosquitos are most active, and if I do it once a month it really keeps the skeeters under control. (Which also seems to deter the spiders.)

    I’ve been doing all these things for about three months, and have noticed a real drop in the spider population around the front of the house. (I can walk from the front door all the way to my car without looking like a Month Python character doing a silly walk now!) I also have a hummingbird feeder in my front yard, which in my environment (southern US) has the added benefit of attracting potter wasps, which are mostly harmless to humans and which kill spiders to feed to their babies. Attracting beneficial wasps might be another thing to try. There are probably lots of things online that tell you how to attract the ones native to your area.

    As for spiders getting in the house… peppermint oil does work. I use a strong peppermint oil/vinegar spray on thresholds and around the edges of the windows inside where gross house spiders were living when we bought this house, and it keeps them away.

    Last thing, if you can stomach it; if you have a pretty good sized spider that has a web located away from a spot where you want to walk/exist, leave that one alone. Spiders eat each other…and the big orb weaver that lives over the outside of our front window, far away from where I might ever walk through her web, eats other spiders all the time. 🙂

    Good luck!

    • I 100% second the suggestion to use the non-bug attracting lights. I lived in a 2nd floor apartment for nearly 3 years, and at first it was like the movie Arachnophobia on our outdoor access stairs. I’m talking huge scary spiders building webs across the stairway and threatening to jump on your head from the roof. I switched our 2 outdoor lights to the non-bug attracting kind and the amount of spiders decreased by 90% and the ones that stayed were much smaller.

  4. Osage oranges work really well to repel spiders inside the house. Maybe hanging them in the yard and around the porch would work, too? If you hide them in hanging lanterns or something similar it wouldn’t look bad, either.

  5. this is great.

    I don’t have spiders outside, but we do have them inside. Well, we have webs under all our rads, in corners, under dressers, all the time, yet i NEVER SEE A SPIDER. I assume they are tiny, but having to de-web constantly drives me crazy.

    I am so going to try the peppermint oil spray. (i have tried lemon, osage oranges, vinegar, nothing seems to work. the webs are back within a week.)

  6. Most spider experts agree that the best way to get rid of spiders is to destroy their nests. I have had this work extremely well for me. When I lived in the wood in Vermont, there were dozens of spiders (BIG ones!) that built nests on and around the porch. Every night, I went out and swept the webs away. Over the course of a couple weeks, they gave up and moved their homes away from where they would get destroyed. Before you resort to bug spray (even the environmentally friendly ones can kill bees!), try a couple weeks of daily brooming – unless there are environmental factors causing a spider population boom, that should be sufficient to send them packing.

  7. Most people don’t realize that hummingbirds LOVE spiders. They eat them for protein in addition to nectar. I have one guy that comes by my house just for the spiders by the front door. All that’s left is legs & the web when he’s done.

    • Ah, maybe that’s why there are spiders on half my garden but not the half that has a lucifer bush. The lucifer bush is a perennial that has red deep flowers, and they really attract hummingbirds.

  8. Now, our climates are clearly somewhat different, as I’m in Ontario Canada, but my experience was that eventually the spiders just leave on their own. We moved into our house in the summer of 2009 and there were a fair number of spiders that year, and then the summer afterwards as well. We had similar issues; they kept weaving everywhere. We would, at least once a week, find huge webs spanning the staircase down from our deck.

    But then the next year they disappeared, and they haven’t been back since. I mean, we have the odd spider in the garden here and there, but nothing like those first few summers. Mind you, this was the Summer of the Bumblebee. They were living under both our front porch and our back deck. One even stung me in the face for no reason, which is weird. Apparently bumblebee aggression is very rare.

  9. Not much help with the spiders proper, but I’ve started keeping a “spider stick” by my door so I can wave it around and knock down webs in the morning when I take the dogs out for a walk.

    I’m from the PDX area too and I TOTALLY understand the spider issue right now. Yesterday an enormous spider built a web between my upstairs neighbor’s balcony and a tree across the way, and then it dangled down right in the center of our yard area, where it looks like there’s no where for it to be coming from. I very nearly caught it with my face!

    • I love this! And yes, what is it with the spiders this summer? My husband and I live in Seattle and we have our own spider stick by the front door just so we don’t get cobweb face walking to the front gate. We did try the peppermint spray, but it’s only seemed to deter the house dwellers.
      We have spared a few and are currently housing a Charlotte and a Wilbur above our entry way door.

      • so here in Vancouver BC there is a massive spider boom happening, it seems to be all anyone can talk about. from what i’ve heard, we have over 900 species of spiders and many of them have reached maturity right now and are looking for mates. Thats why a) they’re so fucking big, and b) they’re everywhere! Interesting to hear that the problem extends all the way to PDX

        • Yep! I’m in Seattle. I’ve been learning a lot about spiders for my volunteer gig with the parks dept. We do a whole program with school kids on spiders. Most species of spiders around here only live for a year, so they hatch out in the spring, eat eat eat, and then it’s only late summer/fall that they start getting big enough to notice. The dry, warm summer we had has made it a good year for bugs, and thus a good year for spiders. In the fall the males leave their webs and go looking for mates. They stop eating, but they still need water, which is why you find them stuck in your tub or sink or such place. It’s neat to watch them try to woo lady spiders without getting eaten, they do a little dance. They’ll lay their eggs to over-winter, and thus most of them will die out as it gets cold, so the problem will most likely take care of itself. Fall is always the worst in the PNW.

          • Huh. I wonder if that has something to do with the spiders=Halloween thing, other than them being creepy crawlies.

  10. I don’t go into my back yard much, so I’ve basically resigned myself to the fact that spiders might take it over. I do, however, draw the line at them coming inside. To stop this I’ve tacked nylon up over all of the filter-less vents in my apartment where they were frequently coming in (spiders on the ceiling…ICK!). It lets the air in but keeps the creepies out. And I keep my favorite spider weapon loaded at all time- the swifter. If you wrap toilet paper around the end instead of the cleaning pads, it makes an excellent long-distance spider squisher.

    Oh! I almost forgot. I think someone finally convinced my landlord to stop her war on lizards, and so the local lizard population has really helped keep the spiders down this year. Which is great because my apartment has narrow walkways that are lined with tall spider friendly bushes. I was getting tired of having to wave my hands in front of me as I walked just so I wouldn’t get webbed in the face. (Although I bet the sight amused my neighbors)

  11. I’m not entirely sure of the question as I had to click on the number to go straight to the comments. I’m pretty sure after seeing that picture they are now crawling all over me and are crawling all in my computer. **shivers** Kinda wanna set my screen on fire.

    I’ll be back when more stories are posted so that icky picture can go away.

  12. Conkers! Or chestnuts, I dont know if America calls them something different from Britain. We got a few and kept them in our house one year, much fewer spiders. So id guess setting them around the garden might help too?

  13. We moved into our new home two months ago, and I’m a bit horrified to discover that the backyard is over-run with spiders. I’m really hoping that when I get chickens, they’ll take care of the problem for me.

  14. I’ve recently come back to my childhood home to take care of the farm since my parents can’t anymore. Spider everywhere! This question is very timely.
    My biggest battle is with spiders living in the electrical outlets. Such a hassle to deal with webs & spiders when I go to plug in the vacuum.

    Tell you what, those plug-in ultrasonic pest deterrents do NOT work for spiders – they will even build webs in the little plugin devices.

  15. Yay for another well timed post on here! This is our first autumn in our current house and there only seem to be huge spiders living here – I’m fine with the beasties being outside, but it’s obviously getting a bit cold for them out there! I reckon we’ll be systematically going through the suggestions in the comments above – minus the hummingbirds 🙂

  16. Spider invasion is nothing new here in Australia where there are 1500 KNOWN species of spider. However some a really cute, and you wouldn’t mind having them. We also have many hunting or travelling spiders which will infiltrate homes and will hide anywhere having no web as such. Some of these are venomous and dangerous to humans and pets.
    We have jumping, flying, burrowing, swimming, shiny or hairy, large (over 6 inches) small (1/16 inch) and in-between. If your problem is Orbs, just knocking down the webs everyday will deter them and they will move on. Predators such as bird and chickens are good too. A final thought, the high density of spiders in Australia has led to speculation that people accidentally (mostly in their sleep) eat 3 spiders a year. Bon appetit!

    • Cute? …I think we have some different definitions of cute.

      You’re not alone, though. The fastest I ever booked it up this one hill on an old running route was when a little girl walking with her parents pointed out a big tarantula at the bottom with, “oh, look how cute! It’s so fuzzy!”

      Fuzzy is the worst. And the ones that scuttle really fast so you have no idea where they are. Especially if they’re fuzzy. Ugh.

  17. An Herb garden may help. Planting herbs outside in barrels or buckets may help keep the spider population down. (it depends on the herb though, for some reason the spiders seem to love my marshmallow plants so I wouldn’t recommend those)

  18. This really couldn’t have come at a better time. We have DANGEROUS spiders in our house. Tarantulas, black widows, and brown recluses. Our dog tries to eat them (and oddly enough the spiders avoid the living room, her main territory) and I’m terrified of someone getting bit (those things are NOT afraid of humans, but will chase you!). Most of them are big and easily spotted, but there are smaller ones that crawl around too. But we share a house with a child and our dog, so I’m against pesticides. I can’t wait to try some of these ideas.

    • If you have a small child AND black widows in your house, you should call a pest control company ASAP. Same if you have brown recluses. I’m not a fan of pesticides either but those are poisonous spiders that can potentially kill or seriously injure a child. If you rent, you need to make your landlord aware of the infestation, and you should call someone who is an expert in spider removal to come and deal with them instead of trying to use home remedies. Not to be bossy…but there’s a big difference in icky orb weavers in my backyard and black widows in the house.

      • Unfortunately, I don’t own the house, I only stay there. I’ve brought up the issue to the owner (the one with the child) and they don’t seemed as concerned as I am with the dangerous spiders in the house. Is there some non-pesticide ways that an expert would go about dealing with this? As long as the owner relates experts to pesticides, I don’t believe they will change their minds due to the child having health issues and being sensitive to things of that nature.

        • Depending on where you live, there are very likely extermination companies that use natural pesticides that are less harmful than chemical ones. I know, too, that there is the option (if you have a big infestation of something harmful) that humans and animals can vacate the property for 24-48 hours, and companies can seal the ducts and run an ozone generator in the house. This pretty much kills anything, including spiders, that needs oxygen.

          Brown recluse spiders are pretty rare, and they are aggressive. There are lots of look-alike spiders, though, so it’s possible that you’re seeing something else. Black widows are typically shy and don’t usually come inside houses…if you have them consistently inside that freaks me out a little because it could indicate that you have an infestation somewhere, like a basement or crawl space. When I was little, our neighbor’s little boy was bit by a black widow and almost died; that is one of the reasons I am such an arachnophobe. It depends on the severity of the infestation, and obviously the parent must follow her own conscience, but a possible hypothetical reaction to pesticides is the lesser of two evils in my opinion. The home remedies DO work (at least peppermint oil does, in my experience) but if spiders that aren’t usually found inside are continually making their way inside, it’s probably just a band-aid.

  19. 10×10? with too much shade anyway. How about just screening it in? You’ll have a 3 season room to sit in the air & seal it well enough to keep your little new friends out.

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