Ask the Bugman: Know before you spray

My new neighbor across the wall in my condo says she needs to spray for spiders. I have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and have asked her not to spray. However, she was bitten by something, (she thinks it was a spider because we have lots of bugs here) and is determined to spray.


She knows of my illness, but wants to spray in any case. She is afraid because the doctor told her the bite may have been from a brown recluse. Is there anything you can recommend that will control her spiders and not cause me illness? Or any advise you might give her on cohabiting with spiders?

My feeling is that the spiders are all around us and will come back in any case. She is remodeling and the spiders are being disturbed. – Alice R.

Answer: Tell her it is foolish to use pesticides unless you know what the target pest is. It would be illegal for a professional to spray pesticides without this information.

Spiders rarely bite unless they are squeezed against the body or mishandled. I freely handle spiders, including black widows and brown recluses, and I haven’t been bitten.

If she has spiders around her house she can kill them herself with soap (20 percent), water (40 percent) and alcohol (40 percent). Just spray the spider directly, and it will die. She can also put food-grade diatomaceous earth in potential hiding places or dust any webs she sees.

If she was bitten by a brown recluse, she would have some severe symptoms by now. I wish doctors wouldn’t guess when they make those statements. It is impossible to determine what bit most people, and particularly what species, as everyone reacts differently to bites from the same animal. Some insects have a delayed bite, meaning you won’t feel anything until a while after the bite. This is to prevent you from smacking them when they are feeding on you. She could have been bitten by something outside, such as a biting midge (Ceratopogonidae), and not realize she had been bitten until an hour later.

Spraying pesticides in a home or business is not necessary, and it is absolutely foolish if you don’t know what you are spraying for.

Q: We are inundated with cockroaches. What is a good, nontoxic method of controlling them?

A: The EPA’s Science Advisory Board concluded in 1990 that, when compared with dozens of other risks, pesticides presented one of the country’s more widespread and severe environmental problems. The best product available for roaches is Niban Bait, which is made from boric acid. Place the bait under sinks, behind and under appliances, in hot water heater rooms, in the garage and other areas where roaches are seen, but out of the way of kids and pets. Also, keep all of drains closed at night because roaches can come up through the sewer system. They are most active between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Somebody used taxpayer dollars to do a study to gather that information. Niban is available online. There are others as well.