Insecticides and Worms

This question comes from Christine:

I keep my worm bins in the basement and need to spray for spiders and
other creepy crawlies in the basement. I put it off this year, but my
son moved down to the spare room in the basement and has been asking
me to spray. How will spraying affect the worms in the bins? I can
avoid spraying in the small room the worms are in, but is this enough?
Should I move the bins upstairs while I spray? Is it okay to move them
back down once I spray? I don’t want to harm the worms, but also don’t
want a basement full of spiders.

Hi Christine,
Here’s my take on this. Being an ‘ecosystem’ kinda guy, I tend to view all organisms as having an important role, regardless of how ‘creepy’ or ‘crawly’ they happen to be.

Spiders and other creepies will only appear and remain in a given location if there is enough food to sustain them. Remove that food source and they will disappear – it’s as simple as that. In the case of the spiders, that food source will be other critters, like flies and moths etc. So, it is likely the food sources of these organisms that will be the root of your problem.

In my household, while my wife would definitely subscribe to your line of thinking, I actually welcome spiders, since they help to trap annoying pests like fruit flies and fungus gnats (among others).

Please don’t take this the wrong way, Christine – this is not meant as a reprimand by any means. And it’s not only a discussion about killing spiders in the basement either. I see a very close parallel between this topic and the topic of ‘critters’ in a worm bin. Many beginner vermicomposters become alarmed when they notice other creatures (aside from worms) appearing in their vermicomposting systems.

The first reaction tends to be one of alarm, paired with the desire to get rid of the ‘invaders’. Again, my advice is to assess the situation from a full ecosystem perspective. Organisms appear in a given habitat to take advantage of some resource that has become available. In the case of a new worm bin, one of the most common problems is overfeeding. When there is too much food in there for the worms, it only makes sense that other creatures (like mites, springtails, fruitflies) are going to take advantage of this abundant resource. On a related noted – one of the interesting things I’ve seen in my high density worm systems is that there seems to be relatively little in the way of competition from other worm bin regulars. There are so many worms and they consume the food material so quickly that it becomes difficult for anyone else to get a foothold.

Anyway, back to the actual topic at hand (sorry about that, Christine)…

If you are determined to spray for spiders, I would definitely remove your worm bin for a little while. Worms are highly sensitive to chemicals, and you may end up harming them. Their worm bin habitat certainly provides a protective buffer zone, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Hope this helps!

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    • Rich A.
    • October 1, 2008

    I have had good luck with organic insecticidal soap. You can get it at Home Depot.

    • Christine
    • October 1, 2008

    Hi Bentley,

    The spiders in our basement have been living down there for a long time. There aren’t any flying insects for them to catch. They are pretty much eating each other. So I have a catch 22 here. If I get rid of the food source I have to get rid of the spiders.

    • Bentley
    • October 1, 2008

    Hehe – I hear you, Christine.
    Again, be assured that I wasn’t trying to pass judgement. I totally understand that most people are not fans of spiders. If you move the bin while you do your spraying, then put it back a few days later you should be totally fine.


    • Linda
    • October 1, 2008

    We used to have Brown Recluse spiders one time where we lived. It is very difficult to spray for them because they do not lick their feet. The thing we did to help keep them out of the living areas was to vacume frequently and keep the celing “swept” so to speak to keep their webs cleaned up. Most spiders do not like to be botherd and if you keep their habitat disturbed, ie: cleaned frequently you will scare them off. This was several years ago an we did use a pest control service and he is the one that told me to keep them vacuumed etc. Another hint: If you are cleaning attic, garage etc. sort of kick your boxes around let them sit for a few minutes and mosts any spiders inside the box will have scattered.

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