People vary in their opinions and treatment of spiders. Some people hate them with a passion and will smash them on sight. Others live peacefully with whatever spiders decide to explore or even move into their homes. Whatever your reaction to the arachnid may be, it is important to learn how to identify dangerous and/or venomous spiders so that you don’t risk aggravating a creature that could do quite a lot of harm to you if it is mishandled.
How to Identify a Dangerous Spider
Unfortunately, there aren’t any universal identifying marks that will help you quickly figure out whether or not a spider is dangerous. There are some who believe that the brighter the color of a spider, the more threatening it might be to your well-being (the black widow and brown recluse being the exceptions to the rule). Still, color varies between spiders so a spider that should be bright red might be a more muted and brownish hue.
The best way to figure out whether a spider is venomous or dangerous is to learn about the different spiders that live in your area. A taxonomic guide to local spiders will tell you which spiders are harmless and which should be treated with care. Pay particular attention to the characteristics and markings of the spiders that could potentially pose a threat.
What to do When You See a Spider
No matter what type of spider you find exploring your home or come across in the wild, the best thing to do is to tread carefully and approach it slowly. Keep your mouth closed and your eyes covered—goggles, reading glasses, etc are usually adequate. Put on long sleeves and tuck the sleeves into gloves and tuck the legs of your pants into your socks. This way if the spider panics and rushes you, you won’t have to worry too much about it crawling into your clothes.
Note: This is also the best way to dress if you’re going to be spending time in wooded or grassy areas where spiders and other bugs like to live.
The goal is to get close enough to get a good look at the spider without causing it to panic and either rush at you (remember, some spiders jump) or run away. The best way to do this is to capture it.
Capturing a Spider
The best way to capture a spider is to put a solid glass container over it. Then, slowly slide a stiff piece of cardboard across the mouth of the container. Go as slowly as your nerves can handle. This way the spider is more likely to simply crawl up onto the cardboard and won’t try to escape under it, and you don’t risk squishing it or breaking some of its legs.
Should You Kill the Spider?
Once you’ve captured and secured the spider, you can kill it if you want to, but don’t smash it. The Smithsonian recommends putting the sealed container in the freezer so that it will go into a natural hibernation state and then, the next morning, submerge it in rubbing alcohol.
This accomplishes two goals: it kills the spider in a humane way that doesn’t torture it. It also leaves the spider intact so you can take it to a pest control expert or entomologist for identification. If the spider does turn out to be venomous or dangerous, you should take steps to prevent more of its kind from checking out your living space.
Dealing with a Spider Infestation
If the spider population has gotten out of control in spite of your better efforts, it’s worth hiring a pest control expert to help you eradicate your arachnid roommates. The best approach is an environmentally responsible one. You don’t want to risk harming other, wanted occupants of the house or that might hang out in your yard. Don’t try to take on an infestation yourself. You could do more harm than good!
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