Some spiders on Dewees are really helpful and control mosquitoes. More on them later.
Brown widows are a tropical species of spider that has been migrating northward. They like spaces near people, and like the black widow they make a sort of messy web. It is thought that they disperse by hiding in kayaks, boats, cars, and trucks. I actually had one in my car (at the passenger’s feet) in the Dewees parking lot! They are venomous, and most medical facilities stock a sort of anti-venom. Depending on which source you consult, they are either less venomous than a black widow or more venomous but far less likely to bite. You are far more likely to notice them by their egg cases, which look a bit like cartoon land mines. Each one may house 50-200 new spiders.
How do I get rid of them without using pesticides, you might be wondering. (I was certainly wondering that!) Lori suggests using a stick to wipe down the web and rolling the egg sacks around it, putting it in a plastic bag, and putting it in the freezer for 48 hours, after which you can throw it out. Reggie is a big fan of stomping the egg sacs and smooshing them to a microscopic paste, which can then be washed away with the hose.
I had a spider with one egg sac on the porch, and the spider stayed tucked under the bottom 2×4 of the porch rail. Whenever I bothered the web, a spider came out and checked to be sure the egg was still there. She wouldn’t stay out long enough for me to step on her, though, so I had to think of another plan. I googled “non-toxic spider spray” and a collection of recipes suggested a mild soap and essential oils of tea tree, lemon, peppermint, and lavender. I tried spraying this concoction under the rail, and immediately a small brown widow ran out. After stomping that one, I was still wondering where the bigger one was. Ted and I finally decided that we would spray her out with the hose and simply remove her from the porch, without worrying about how to step on her. She actually ran out, onto the porch, against the flow of water, allowing me to get her with a shoe.
This spider was eating a cricket and escaped with her life before I had iden-
I have found that boiling water is a pretty good defense– I pour it on the egg sacs and the spiders, if they are visible.
Clearing your yard of plastic containers and periodically checking recycling bin handles can do a lot to prevent major infestations, and you should regularly inspect kayaks and unused boats, both of which provide great storage places where brown widows love to hide.
Update Summer 2010: The really cold winter this year seemed to provide a welcome respite from these pests, but we are still finding an egg sac now and then. The combination of that non-toxic recipe (in a spray bottle, I put a tsp of Meyers Lavender soap and 3 drops each of peppermint, tea tree, and lemon oil with 2 cups of water) seems to be keeping them off the house structure, but I think I should spray the inside of the kayaks, too.