So now you understand why the very first thing I did after closing on my new house was meet up with my new heroes, spider man Jamel Sandidge and his colleague Jason, at Brown Recluse Solutions . Before I go any further, let me be clear: I'm eco-girl. I don't like bugs but I'm the kind of person who usually either makes peace with them (little ants) or tries to keep them at bay with low-impact products (such as boric acid). Even though brown recluse spiders scare the dickens out of me (did I mention they're known to bite people in their sleep?), I did not want to douse them with chemicals that would pollute the air and hurt me and the kitten I hope to pick up from the shelter as soon as I'm settled.

So I called Jamel, the man who holds a PhD in BR mitigation.

Jamel greeted me with a wide smile and headed right down to the unfinished basement. He emerged with an exoskeleton in his hand and announced, "You have them. Not a large active population, but some." That was the moment I wanted to say, "Please use whatever nuclear device is required to eradicate them!" Instead, I peered at the spider's casing (marveling at its small size) and said, "So how can we get rid of them kindly and gently?" Jamel explained the brown recluse is a prehistoric spider and the best lines of defense are ones that have been used for ages. The treatment involved precision dusting (not carpet bombing) of select areas with naturally derived compounds from chrysanthemum flowers and botanical extracts, as well as the elimination of brown recluse egg sacs in the attic and the basement. "Kill the babies," Jamel said. "Yes, please," I said weakly.

I was as thrilled as I could have been with the treatment. If I have to exterminate, I want to use substances cooked up in nature, not a lab. I know we have experienced better living through chemistry, but I'm also well aware of the host of products we use in our home that contribute to poor air quality. That's air quality that the EPA has determined is twice as polluted as outdoor air in certain areas. (I'll talk more about this next week.) The goal, Jamel said, is "to get rid of the problem, not the people." Exactly.

Jamel took me (i.e., made me go) downstairs and showed me the unusual loose webs BRs cast, explaining the whiter the silk, the newer the web. He then pointed to a cricket and said, "You also have camel crickets. Lots of them." He explained that most insects within a house are a reflection of something going on inside the structure. In my case, it's a very damp basement. The solution? A simple dehumidifier and better sealing around window frames.

Jamel's partner Jason treated the attic (another favorite hiding place for BRs) and happily announced, "You don't have mice." Unless they eat brown recluse spiders, I'm going to consider that a good thing.

Off to research the best dehumidifier,


More from Simran Sethi
Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For more information on Sethi, visit


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