The Buzz on Boat Bugs: Spiders

The Buzz on Boat Bugs: Spiders

We boaters talk a lot about big pests like raccoons, squirrels, and seagulls and the damage they can cause. Trouble, however, comes in all sizes, and the tiniest pests are sometimes the most irritating.  

Bugs seem to love the lake life as much as we do. Though small, bugs can be incredible nuisances. They try to fly up your nose, they bite, and, in the case of spiders, drop down on you and freak you out.

It's pretty common to dislike spiders. Even tough guys get spooked by them. However, these eight-legged arthropods can be good allies. They catch and feast on biting bugs like mosquitoes and midges, which leaves fewer of those flying nasties to plague us. Unfortunately, what goes in must eventually come out, and all those little black spots of spider poop are unsightly and can even stain your upholstery. 

Some spiders can bite if they feel threatened, possibly causing a serious medical situation for their victim. Almost all spiders are harmless, unless you have an allergy, and most are more afraid of you than you are of them. The dangerous ones to watch for are the oft-misidentified brown recluse, the black widow, and the hobo spider. If you can stand to look at spider pictures, here is some info on identifying these venomous spiders. The black widow and hobo spiders usually only bite in self-defense, but the brown recluse can be aggressive.

Just because spiders don't have wings doesn't mean they can't fly. Young spiders are known to spin parachute-like threads and use them to glide on the wind (and possibly the Earth's electrical fields). Spiders can land on your boat even out on the water; sailors have reported finding spiders caught in their rigging miles out to sea. 

If you'd rather not host spiders in your stateroom, there are a few things you can do. Some people report good results using essential oils like peppermint as a repellent; others say this just makes the spiders smell minty-fresh. Smoke, such as that from incense, is reputed to send spiders looking for new digs. We know that “kill it with fire!” is a common cry from arachnophobes, but please be careful using any kind of flame on board.

Commercial insecticides, used judiciously, will kill spiders; be sure to choose one that is harmless to fish, in case some spills into the water. Some people treat their dock lines, too, to prevent bugs from coming aboard. And if you're a real hands-on type (or are married to one), just squash them. Though it can be yucky, crushing a spider quickly is more merciful than using a sticky trap. Just be sure to clean up the mess promptly; mashed spiders, like their aforementioned droppings, can leave stains.