16 August 2006

Expediting spider removal

I've just returned from a three-week visit to my childhood home in the Bay Area, which was bookended by BlogHer at the beginning and my 20-year high school reunion at the end. Spending three weeks with my parents in the house I grew up brought back plenty of memories of the routines and quirks of my own childhood, one of which I would like to share with you now.

We were, and still are, a family of animal lovers. This includes insects (except mosquitos and earwigs, accursed creatures), so all house spiders get released into the backyard to go about their pest-eating little lives.

Many years ago, my father hit upon the superior tool for the job: the spider cone. Take a few sheets of newspaper, roll them into a sturdy cone-shaped funnel, fold over the pointy tip so it's closed at the bottom. (To this day, there's a spider cone lying on the floor next to my parents' front door, most likely fashioned from a newspaper from the early 80s.)

Why is it superior? First, it's long enough to reach high up the wall, where spiders like to hang out. Second, something about the darkness inside the cone makes spiders feel safe, and they literally jump inside as the cone approaches. I'm not kidding. They jump in, and then you flick the sides of the cone a couple times so they fall toward the interior of the cone, giving you plenty of time to make it to the door. Once outside, you turn the cone over, flick a few times, and out they come, probably thinking grateful thoughts in their little spider minds.

My kids think I'm a major hero each time I liberate a spider. And I don't need to explain to them why hitting is bad but violent bug-smashing is okay. And finally, I'm sure the spider appreciates change of scene.

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great hack. I've been using a water-glass-and-index-card approach for a while now, for all manner of insects I don't want to kill (ants and fruit flies get no mercy in my house, however).

Anyway especially for houseflies and bees and wasps, they can't 'see' the clear glass coming so it's generally easy to get it over them. Slip the index card (or any similarly semi-stiff thin paper) between glass and surface, and it's capped - no danger of spidey or his pals running out and freaking you out. To the door - flick the glass and they're free. I may try the spider cone, though. Spiders seem to be a more common thing here in PDX.

Despite the risk of sounding like one of those people who loses friends over misplaced commas (OK, that just happened once), I feel compelled to point out that spiders are not, in fact, insects. There, I've said it... and I'm sorry, but... my... demons... got... the... better... of... me...

How funny - I'm a Concord High alum as well (class of '97), now living up in the foothills of the Seirra Nevada mountains, near Placerville. Grew up in Dana Estates. Funny to see the link leading to your school leading to MY school, LOL.

Graham: I stand corrected! Sticklers are welcome here -- see the link to "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" in the sidebar?

Michelle: Ha! Another former Minuteman! Looks like your reunion is coming up, too (except yours is for ten years and mine was twenty, gulp). I'll tell you -- meeting the adult versions of kids I grew up with has given me a very interesting perspective on my parenting. Fodder for another post, I think. Your website is lovely, btw.

Brilliant! I love it!

You can also buy those "bug vaccums" (often now discounted) at drug stores or via mail order.

But we just use our regular "dustbuster" handheld portable vaccum. It does come with an extending attachment, but the suction is so good that you rarely need it.

True, the dustbuster approach leaves you with a trickier issue of what to do about emptying the chamber, but ours is wet/vac so we can always just rinse it down the drain.

Still, I might try the newspaper cone trick sometime--perhaps it will be just as convenient, and a bit kinder to the spiders.

On the other hand, we're teaching our kids that "spiders are our friends" because they EAT BUGS. By leaving most spiders alone we've found that they do a good job of keeping our house free of vermin--never have had a problem with cockroaches, for example.

We usually use a jar around here, then try to remember to release them (after they've been thoroughly studied, of course :-D ) before they die.

There is another tool out there that looks GREAT for catching spiders gently and allows you to release it unharmed.

You can see it on my site, here:
http://greatfamilygadgets.com/spider-catcher/

By the way, Asha (funny calling you by name, since I don't KNOW you, but have been reading your blog for about a month now and LOVE it), did you know Rachael Ray has a show coming out soon, called, aptly, The Rachael Show. :-D Here's the site:
http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/

I know they've been looking for tips and hints and I think you'd be the perfect expert for her show. Check out the section that says "What's your story? Talk to Rachael on the show" to find out the topics they're looking to fill now (I see a couple that would be right up your alley) and check back 'cuz they're always adding more.

Good luck and I look forward to seeing you there, as well as continuing to read your hacks. I have a few I need to send you!! :-D

I'm so sorry, but my friend (who has a master's degree in IPM and knows about these things) says "releasing" a house spider outdoors is still a death sentence. It's just a slower death. Indoor and outdoor spiders are different species, and he says the indoor kinds can rarely survive outside and vice versa. His solution is to release house spiders in the garage (summer) or behind the water heater (winter).

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