Halloween Gives Creepy Crawlies a Bad Name

29 October, 2009

October 2009 – Walk down any leaf-lined street this time of year, and you’re likely to see spooky decorations featuring the mascots of the Halloween season – spiders and bats. But despite their ghoulishly close association with the holiday, you won’t find either one outside right now. They’re both creatures of warm weather, and by the end of October, they’re usually hibernating for winter, says Chris Arne, PhD, Technical and Development Director for Ehrlich Pest Control.

Their Halloween “appearance” hasn’t done much for either animal’s reputation. In fact, it’s fueled many of the spooky superstitions and myths surrounding them. But the truth is that both bats and spiders are basically beneficial to humans and the environment.

Comstock, author of “The Spider Book” has said: “Few animals are more feared, and few deserve it less. They (spiders) can bite…But in all the world there are not more than a few species, if any, capable of killing man.” Films like Arachnophobia and tales of vampires have heightened those fears, and the fact that bats are nocturnal (active at night) hasn’t helped.

Arne agrees that many people are afraid of spiders and bats. “In their outdoor setting, these creatures are pretty harmless,” he explains. “Despite their reputation, bats rarely, if ever, attack people. And there are only a few types of spiders dangerous to humans, including the black widow and brown recluse, neither of which is very prevalent in this area. Even the tarantula resists biting unless strongly provoked.”

According to Arne, folks in the bug business typically think of spiders and bats as natural pest control. “On a good summer evening, the average bat can consume its weight in insects like mosquitoes and flies.” He adds that we can even use what bats leave behind. “Bat droppings, called guano, are high in natural nutrients and are used for fertilizer. Spiders feed on insects and small pest animals using their webs and/or paralyzing their victims.”

Bats and spiders can cause problems, says Arne when the “haunt” your home. Both can enter through small openings – a bat can get in through a hole as small as 3/8”. Although they prefer caves and hollow trees, bats will settle for an attic if it’s near water, food and protects them from wind and cold. Arne says Ehrlich has seen attic bat colonies reach several hundred, a situation that can bring noise, urine and droppings, odor, fleas, ticks and other parasites. Bats have been known to carry encephalitis, mosquito born malaria and histoplasmosis, a systemic fungus disease.

If you find a bat in your home, don’t panic. It will not attack, even if chased. It can find its way outside by following air currents, so open all windows and doors and turn off the lights. If the bat doesn’t leave, use a coffee can and heavy cardboard to catch and release it outside.

Spiders don’t cause any damage, but most people don’t like cobwebs. The spider excretes the web material as a liquid which hardens into a silky strand when it hits the air. Spiders don’t need much room to get in; a crack in the wall will do. They like moisture, so a damp basement with lots of clutter is the perfect spider getaway.

Keep spiders outside by sealing cracks in foundations, around windows and doors with caulk. Ehrlich also suggests reducing clutter in your basement and attic. If spiders do wander in, use your vacuum to gather them. Make sure you get any webs and eggs.

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About Ehrlich Pest Control
Ehrlich Pest Control provides commercial and residential pest control, termite control, bird control, bioremediation and vegetation management throughout the East Coast. The company employs 1600 coworkers. Ehrlich and Presto-X Pest Control in the Midwest comprise Rentokil North American Pest Control. Rentokil is the world’s largest commercial pest control firm.

Lynn Gerlach - Corporate Communications
Ehrlich Pest Control, 610-372-9750, x 29907
Lynn.gerlach@jcehrlich.com