June 12, 2011, I was in my garden trimming off dead leaves of a squash plant that a neighbor’s dog marked. While I was trimming the leaves and planning to put a wooden stake there for the dog, I spotted a wolf spider running away and stopping and then I saw another spider… a species that I had never seen before… I got my camera and took a few photos of it.
I don’t kill spiders in my garden. I have a theory about them needing to be there to eat pests.
(I have to tell you that I immediately exterminate spiders in my house. I have zero tolerance for them in my home.)
After I took the photo of the strange looking spider, I continued on with my day and forgot all about it.
The next day I weeded and hoed in the area where the spider had been and I still thought nothing of it.
A day or so later I got a piece of scrap wood out of our shed and pounded it in the ground by the now totally dead squash plant. I trimmed the rest of the leaves off of it. I didn’t see anymore spiders on it.
Just a quick note here, last year we had a tomato plant that got marked to death, but we left it and the dogs or critters didn’t bother any of our other plants… so we figure it’s better to accommodate them with a marking post at the plant they choose. It does help.
We keep our garden clean as possible. I trim and toss dead leaves and debris to keep from giving squash bugs and other pests a place to live. I dig up and bag any dead vines & plants.
Everyday that the weather allows, when needed my husband rotor-tills the rows, I hoe and pull up the weeds from around the plants & vines. I check every leaf of my squash plants for squash-bug eggs and squash-bugs at least 4 or 5 days a week.
Finally, one evening I decided to check and see if I could find out what type of spider that was that I took a photo of a few days before. I opened the photo of it. I thought it must be just an ordinary fat old garden spider. I ran an image search for brown spiders and to my horror discovered that it was a brown recluse. One of the top two most fear spiders here in the southern USA. Their bite can cause severe tissue damage and requires immediate medical attention. (The other spider is the Black Widow spider and very distinct and recognizable.) The brown recluse is also called the fiddle spider or fiddler, because it has a mark that looks like a little fiddle on it’s back of it’s upper body.
I found a website about the brown recluse: The Official Brown Recluse Spider I contacted the site owner and sent her the photo. I was hoping that I was wrong about it being a brown recluse and she would tell me as much and calm my fears…
Dr. B Gilmore replied to me and told me that it was a pregnant female brown recluse and I should fumigate my garden, but she didn’t tell me how.
I emailed her back and asked her how I should go about fumigating my garden, but she hasn’t replied yet.
It’s 8-12-2011 She never did reply back.
Immediately, I panicked and began to read lots info on the brown recluse. It scared me to realize that spiders can’t be controlled by regular bug sprays. The brown recluse has to be either smashed or actually hit-directly with industrial strength pesticides to kill it. I knew our vegetables would be ruined if we did a heavy spraying of industrial strength spider sprays. Plus our pets could probably get sick or die…
I was at a point of desperation. I considered having my husband mow the garden down and just stop gardening for the year. I felt so stupid because I should have smashed the spider to begin with.
The more I read, the more I realized the brown recluse probably didn’t stay in my garden after I interrupted it’s sleep that day. Brown recluses doesn’t usually live where it can be bothered too much. It doesn’t like sunlight and hunts after dark. Our garden is in full sunlight and our garden is in constant motion from rotor-tilling, weeding and my bug hunting. Plus we’ve had a couple of severe storms since the day I took the photo. The storms flooded our garden and tossed the plants around something fierce. I’ve lost several plants and am having to replant them.
According to what I read, the brown recluse doesn’t usually bite a human unless it’s touched or brushed up against or when you put on a piece of clothing that it’s crawled in, or reach into a dark place where they are or an unfortunate encounter like that.
The brown recluse spiders are thought to not be able to bite through clothing. In the garden, I always wear rubber gloves and as of this week I now wear gym-shoes instead of flip-flops and pants instead of shorts.
Day before yesterday, we did our weekly routine of tilling, hoeing and weeding. I re-planted several cucumbers, squash and sunflowers.
I gave an extra careful search and thankfully didn’t see any spiders other than wolf spiders.
We had another terrible storm yesterday and it makes me feel more certain that a brown recluse wouldn’t live in my garden because of the direct sunlight and hard hitting of the storms. I’m hoping the one I saw was on the move and had just stopped there to sleep through the day. I hope a bird or a mouse or another critter saw it and killed it.
I learned a valuable lesson over this, if I ever see another spider I can’t recognize as beneficial, I’ll take a picture of it if possible and then I’ll kill it.
My being too compassionate has allowed a venomous pregnant spider to continue to be on the loose .
I hate that it happened, but it’s too late for me to do anything about it, except learn from it and try to prevent, kill or control spiders in the future.
I hate pesticides and am happy to report that I did find out some relatively safe/natural methods to help control and/or kill spiders that I plan on utilizing around my home and in my garden.
Apparently spiders don’t like essential oils. Here’s a few methods to use them:
Dusting with Lemon scented Pledge is supposed help to deter some spiders and some other bugs.
A homemade spray made up of essential oils, liquor and water is supposed to help deter spiders and some other insects.
There’s another spray recipe on a Garden forum thread where you use essential oils, water and neem instead of liquor. (Personally, I could be wrong, but I don’t trust neem to be safe and non-toxic enough to use around my family, pets and garden.)
You can also use traps. Now this sounds like a dandy idea, until you realize that if you do, you draw these things and it could bring them into dangerously close proximity of your family, pets and home. I will not be using the trap method of control unless it’s for our shed and we would use it along with other methods of control.
And last but not least I read of a product: Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth, that supposedly helps control many insects and spiders and kill them too. It’s a food product and is mostly safe for humans. The only draw back to it is if you breath alot of it in in may cause you some lung problems.
Here’s several links if you would like to research more about the brown recluse spider or about products:
‘Reduce the Brown Recluse and the hysteria’ website has alot of really good info. It has photos of adults, eggs and the tiny baby spiders. The tiny baby spiders are white and light colors, I’d of never suspected them as a brown recluse. It also has photos of some spiders that are not brown recluse, but could be mistaken as one. There’s much info on the site, the site owner apparently has on going experimentation and tests with spiders in an effort to more define it’s aspects.
The Official Brown Recluse Spider
Home Remedies to Repel Spiders
Natural methods to get rid of spiders
Shoo Brown Recluse Spider (mentions Diatomaceous Earth )
Diatomaceous Earth (food grade): bug killer you can eat!
How to get rid of the spiders? GardenWeb forum They talk about the recipe with neem and also using diamaceous earth
Right now, I plan on using safe and regular precautions. From now on, I’ll be doubly cautious and use better sense in my attempts at being a compassionate and green gardener.
My Dear Friends and Readers,
Please, be alert, be careful and mindful of the less obvious dangers around your home, garden, work, at play and anywhere you, your family and pets may be.
6-25-2011 – I found another one of these dangerous creepers. It was next to my pet’s water bowl.
I bought lemon pledge and have ordered the essential oils. I hope they help…
Here’s a photo of the creeper just before I killed it:
Below is a photo that was sent to me by a friend.
A mutual friend of ours has found several of
these dangerous critters in his home.
A friend of mine put out spider traps
and caught this baby brown recluse.
She said it’s body is about this size
of a bee-bee if that big. With it’s legs
open it may be as big as an English pea.