Most people can agree that indoor pests like cockroaches, flies, bed bugs, and fleas are repellent creatures that have no place within homes. Although it is now well known that these synanthropic insect pests have a negative impact on human health, many people, if forced to choose, would still prefer to live with cockroaches over spiders. In spite of all the talk about indoor spiders being beneficial because they prey on insect pests, spider control services generate more annual revenue than services that target mosquitoes, fleas, pantry pests, flies, wildlife, and all stinging insect species. In fact, 2018 marked the first year in which bed bug control services generated greater profits than spider control services.

Many, if not most requests for spider control services are made by homeowners who are fully aware that the vast majority of spiders encountered indoors are entirely harmless. This is especially true in Massachusetts where medically significant spider species are almost completely absent from the state. Of the 3,000 spider species documented as inhabiting the US, the medical community has deemed only three black widow spider species and 13 recluse spider species as being an inarguable medical hazard to humans. While recluse spider species cannot be found as far north as Massachusetts, the northern black widow is native to the northeast, though they are rarely encountered in the region. In any case, even the most dangerous spider species in the US cannot match the medical threats posed by indoor cockroaches, house flies, fleas, and several other common indoor insect pests.

It has long been known that both cockroaches and indoor fly pests carry numerous disease-causing microorganisms due to their habit of congregating in pathogen-rich environments where they readily eat just about any form of organic waste they encounter including excrement, rotting food, and decaying animal carcassess. Since roaches and flies smear disease pathogens on every indoor surface and food item in which they make contact, multiple species from both pest groups can be found on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of medically harmful organisms that spread food-borne pathogens in human settings. It should also be known that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization have declared indoor cockroach pests to be one of the most common sources of indoor allergens. Also, studies have proven that cockroach allergens sensitize children to asthamatic conditions. While the media regularly portrays spiders as killers of man, the CDC states that spider envenomation incidents resulted in only 49 fatalities in the US between 2008 and 2015. While tragic, this number seems paltry compared to the 478 fatal envenomations that resulted from wasp and bee attacks during the same period in the country, not to mention the countless number of asthma-related deaths that occur each year as an indirect consequence of living in cockroach-infested homes.

Have you ever sustained a spider bite within your home?