Spiders, Roaches, Ants
Three of the most common household pests are spiders, cockroaches and ants. We’ve all seen them, but how much do we really know about these persistent pests? Let’s explore these two six-legged insects (the cockroach and the ant) and the one eight-legged non-insect (the spider) so we can understand how insects and arachnids affect items tucked away in self storage.
Before renting a self storage unit, ask management how they protect the facility from pests. Look around and make sure you feel confident that they are doing a good job. If not, go elsewhere. Pests like to hide in boxes and paper bags, so they can easily gain access to a storage facility. For this reason, a couple of deads bugs on the floor may not mean trouble, but spiders in the corners, scurrying cockroaches and lines of marching ants might signal that pest prevention methods are not working or are insufficient.
While spiders are frightening to most people, they do keep damaging pests in check. Spiders prey on insects that harm crops, livestock and stored food products with biting jaws and venom. Most spiders can’t open their jaws wide enough to bite people, although some – such as the brown recluse and black widow spiders – can and do bite people when disturbed. In fact, the bite of the brown recluse can result in an open sore surrounded by dying skin. Organ failure can result in a small number of cases because of the poison.
To lessen the chances of having brown recluse or other spiders in your home or self storage unit, keep it tidy. Cleanliness is an important factor to limit the reproduction of spiders, as is filling all cracks and crevices leading into the home to deny them access to these desirable living conditions. Look for a self storage unit that does not have spaces under the doors where pests could enter or cracks in the walls. Try also to keep basements and crawlspaces dry, since spiders like humid conditions.
Insect sprays approved for indoor use can be spread along baseboards and door trims to help kill and deter spiders. Read and follow label instructions, or contact a licensed pest control professional, who can use somewhat stronger insecticides, to help.
A few of the more venomous varieties of spiders include the following:
- Brown recluse spiders.
As mentioned above, these can cause a severe reaction in some people. The brown recluse can be found throughout the United States but resides predominantly in the South and most of the Southeast up through the lower Midwest. They are aggressive, so be careful if you see one.
- Black widow spiders.
Females have a distinctive yellowish orange or red spot that may look like an hourglass on the underside of the abdomen. Their bodies are about one-half inch long, shiny and black. Their bite can be deadly, especially to children and older adults, but an anti-venom is available, so seek medical attention right away if you suspect a black widow bite. Bites often cause severe pain. These spiders prefer cluttered areas that are seldom disturbed like woodpiles, sheds, under rocks and in self storage units. Look before touching items in such areas. Seek medical attention right away if bitten.
- Wolf spiders.
They bite when provoked. The bite is poisonous and can be painful, but it is not likely to result in serious harm; however, those who are bit should seek medical attention, especially the very young or old. Wolf spiders burrow into the ground around homes and line the nest with a silken web. Grass or leaves intertwined with silk may cover their hideouts. These brown or mottled gray spiders display a Union Jack design on their backs. They are not aggressive, so try not to provoke them.
- Hobo spiders.
These brown spiders have a painless bite that goes from a red spot to a blister within a day. This blister can break open and ooze within 24 to 36 hours. The venom can cause headaches, temporary memory loss, nausea and other symptoms. Victims should seek medical attention. These spiders are common in mountainous states in the northwestern United States, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. They seldom climb and are usually found at ground level.
- Mouse spiders.
These spiders are black. The males have red heads and long fangs that can cause deep bites. Those bitten should seek medical attention right away. Mouse spiders may be found at ground level, especially after rain, but they make their homes by burrowing into the ground three feet deep or more. They are not aggressive, so don’t provoke them.
- Black house spiders.
These spiders spin webs in dry, secluded areas like corners, eaves and overhangs, windows, toilets, and tree bark. They like to eat insects that are attracted by house lights. Their venom is poisonous to humans but usually not deadly. For some it can cause severe sypmtoms like nausea, headaches and heavy sweating. Medical attention should be sought.
While spiders are more frightening for what some of them are capable of doing — biting and injuring us — cockroaches seem to evoke more of a sense of intense disgust in people. For anyone who has seen cockroaches scurry for cover when a light is turned on, this feeling is well-known. What reinforces this repulsion for the most common household pests is the fact that the insects can transmit bacterial pathogens that can cause diarrhea, food poisoning and other ailments. Additionally, allergens are found in their saliva and feces. When these become airborne, they can create allergic reactions in those susceptible to them.
The pesky insects, which can go for many weeks without food or water, generally hide in dark areas during the day and then come out at night. A flat, oval body enables them to squeeze under objects and in crevices quickly, as anyone who’s chased them will attest.
Just as with spiders, cleanliness can help decrease cockroach infestations. Because they’re attracted to food and water, keeping a clean kitchen countertop and doing all the dishes are good first steps. Frequently sweeping floors and vacuuming carpets can help decrease their food sources. Where food is stored, try to keep containers as airtight as possible. Be sure to thoroughly clean every dish, chair, table, appliance and similar kitchen accessories before moving them to a self storage facility.
Baits laced with insecticide work well on cockroaches and provide long-residual control. Sprays also do a good job, but provide more immediate results. Make sure you treat the areas where you most suspect them or have seen them. With ancestors dating back 300 million years, cockroaches are usually found in dark areas, especially where surface moisture, humidity or both are plentiful. Food-preparation areas are ideal environments because of the mixture of water and food, but they’re fond of drier areas as well.
For other treatments, you may want to consider insecticide dusts. Boric acid, with its low toxicity to humans, is a popular and effective control, since it poisons cockroaches over the several months it’s active. It can be used full strength, or look for it as a key ingredient in some popular insecticide dusts. The acid is abrasive to the insects’ exoskeleton, causing it to break down and cause death. The least toxic treatment is a sticky trap, but a cockroach has to walk directly on it to become trapped, limiting its effectiveness.
Cockroaches are found all over the world. Some types are named for the region where they are most common. For instance, the familiar brown cockroach is called the American cockroach. Others include the German, Australian and Oriental. They can be found most anywhere there is food, mositure, darkness and cracks in which to hide. They prefer heat, including heaters and warm machinery, even if this warmth is found in cold climates like Alaska.
If insects were cast in movies, you’d want to use ants in a feature about British royalty. In reality, most ants spend their lives protecting the queen and her colony, gathering food, working on tunnels underground or in mounds, and caring for the young. Some ants like sweets while others like oils, cheese, dead insects, meat and grease. Adult ants aren’t able to chew and swallow food, but instead suck the juice from whatever they’re eating and then leave the pulp. If an ant finds a good stash of food, it leaves a scent trail that other ants can follow. Ants use their antennae.
Ants come in an array of colors, including blue, purple, green and yellow, but the most common colors are black, brown and rust. Among the “tidiest” of insects, worker ants take debris from inside the colony and place it outside the nest. If disturbed, most ants will bite, and some can sting.
Treating ants is similar to treating cockroaches. Boric acid is especially effective. Most baited traps contain boric acid, which it taken back to the colony where it poisons other ants, including the egg-laying queen. Sprays can be used, but they seldom control ant colonies as well as other, albeit slower, methods. When controlling ants, sprays are more effective in providing a barrier around the house, rather than to control the colony. A two- to three-foot wide barrier around the perimeter of the house is ideal.
Self storage facilities take precautions to exterminate insects and spiders, but with all of the goods moving in and out, these creatures can easily slip into boxes, papers or folded clothes and hide for awhile.
- Look before you touch boxes or reach into files, especially those that have not been tightly sealed.
- Shake out clothing, shoes, blankets and other items before packing them and when removing them.
- Seal boxes well. Use airtight containers when possible.
- Clean items before placing them in storage.
- Check boxes for cockroaches or other insects before packing anything in them.
- Don’t store perishable food.
- As a precaution, seek medical attention when a bite is suspected.
The advice on this website is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. “Storage Tips” are offered as-is and no warranty is expressed or implied. For more information, see StorageFront’s Terms and Conditions.