Spiders & Snakes

October 27, 2016

Spiders & Snakes

            Forty-two years ago (that’s 1974 for the mathematically challenged), Jimmy Stafford’s song “Spiders & Snakes” peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts. For those of you too young to remember this, check it out on youtube. His lyrics, “I don’t like spiders and snakes,” are echoed by many 40-some years later.

            Cool fall temperatures encourage creepy things - spiders and snakes - to look for overwintering sites, increasing the chance of an indoor encounter. Some people are frightened by and hate spiders and snakes while others see them as beneficial in helping keep insects and pests, like voles and mice, at a minimum.

            Even if you are not afraid of them, an unexpected encounter will make just about anyone jump, so it is important to pest proof our homes. If spiders or snakes are getting into your home, more harmful pests like mice may be as well and energy is not being conserved.

            Caulk cracks, crevices and conduits of the home. To prevent snakes from entering basements and crawl spaces, seal all openings one-fourth inch or larger with mortar, caulking compound, expanding foam, or one-eighth inch hardware cloth. Repair window screens and check that doors are tight fitting. Remove piles of leaves, firewood, rocks or other debris near the home as well as overgrowth of weeds or plants as these attract these pests.

            Insecticides applied to building foundations will reduce the number of spiders and insects that enter the home. However, doing a good job of exclusion is all that is really needed and this also will  increase energy conservation.

            For snakes, there are no products on the market that have shown to be effective against them. It is best to use habitat modification and exclusion. The use of sharp lava rock near the foundation, while bad for plants, does prevent snakes from coming near the foundation. 

            There are many types of spiders, but the one that gets people’s attention during fall, or at least what I get the most calls on, are wolf spiders. These are large, hairy spiders found indoors and outdoors. Wolf spiders do not build webs to catch prey, but pounce on their prey to catch them.

            While frightening to some because of their size and fast movement, wolf spiders are not considered poisonous. Since only a few usually make their way indoors, insecticide applications are not needed. Instead, place sticky traps in the corners of rooms to trap unwanted spiders and insects.

            Snakes need cool, damp shelters and may take residence under and possibly inside buildings. This is more likely to happen during fall when snakes are looking for areas to hibernate. If they end up indoors, the best way to remove a snake is to sweep it into a box or bucket and release it outdoors.

            If one is indoors, but avoids being captured, place crumpled damp towels, covered with dry towels to retain moisture, in a large cardboard box on its side along a wall in a basement. Snake are attracted to these and will crawl beneath. Check daily by tipping the box up and if a snake is in the box, close the lid or cover the box and take it outdoors to release the snake.

            Commercial glue boards, or homemade glue boards made from heavy cardboard or plastic and smeared with a tacky substance, like Tanglefoot, can be effective for removing snakes from buildings. Place these in corners or along walls of basements.

            Check glue boards daily and do not leave snakes on them any longer than necessary. To harmlessly release a snake, take it outside and pour vegetable oil over it to break down the glue. Be sure to place glue boards where pets will not get caught.

            For more information on preventing spiders and snakes in your home, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.