To kill or not to kill spiders

A spider nest in the blackberry patch

Out in the yard this morning, I was watering plants and feeding the birds when I noticed a nest of spider eggs in my blackberry patch.

My first thought was to get the diatomaceous earth so I could get rid of the nest. It’s right by where I walk, right where the dogs cut through the bushes to come into the house. The likelihood was very high that someone, probably Bailey or Bandit, would brush up against the nest and dozens of spiders would get a free ride into the house on dog fur.

Diatomaceous earth – or D-earth, for short – is a naturally occurring material that consists of fossilized remains of diatoms. Essentially, silica from dead marine sediments. It kills insects by drying them up. It’s safe, natural, and my go-to product to kill insects.

But just as quickly as I’d decided to get rid of the spider nest, the reality hit me that these were living creatures, and living in nature. The spider hadn’t built the nest in my kitchen or in my car (which happened last summer).

My general rule of thumb is that if bugs are inside the house (or my car), they should be prepared to meet their maker. But outside, I generally leave them alone. Who am I to kill the spiders in their own home, just because they give me the willies?

That’s when I saw the nest was moving. The spiders were hatching, right in front of my eyes. Life coming forth into the world. Good grief, so many spiders! And crawling in every direction! And so fast! I could feel my skin start to crawl.

Spiders with the right to live, but also the potential to make my life decidedly difficult. As in, webs all over the yard, dogs crawling with insects, spiders in my hair.

So do I dust with the insecticide or not?

It feels hypocritical. I swat flies and mosquitoes. I step on ants in the kitchen. I kill mites in the chicken coop. I kill fleas and ticks to keep my dogs healthy and comfortable. (I hate using chemicals on the dogs and cat. I’ve tried dozens of natural remedies over the years to repel the insects, but after a major flea infestation that took months to clear up and left one dog and the cat with major skin sores due to flea allergies, I now treat with chemicals. The lesser of two evils and all that.)

My point is that I kill stuff all the time and never feel bad about it. Why did I even hesitate this morning?

I wonder if it’s simply the fact that more and more I’ve begun to feel like a part of a bigger picture, less “man controls the world” and more “man is one particle of the intertwined universe”. What if this nest was like Horton’s dust ball, filled with an entire world I can’t see or hear?

I stood there with the D-earth and pondered the spider nest, baby arachnids hatching and scurrying to the four corners of the blackberry patch. I’ll leave my decision about what I actually did a mystery. But tell me: what would you have done?

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