back to article Californian chap sets his folks' home on fire by successfully taking out spiders with blowtorch

Kill it with fire! A bloke in Fresno, California, almost burned his parents' house down when he opted for a blowtorch to address the property's black widow spider population. The skittish house-sitter called the cavalry to the Woodward Lake housing development late on Tuesday. Twenty-nine firefighters responded and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cue the Who

    Look, he's crawling up my wall

    Black and hairy, very small

    Now he's up above my head

    Hanging by a little thread

    Boris the spider

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cue the Who

      Have an upvote for triggering a memory. Loved that song as a small child. Might explain some things...

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Cue the Who

      Ah, memories. In my case didn't discover it until after childhood. When, as a teenager, my uncle presented me with, 'Uncle Bob's Supertape'. Which he proudly informed me had 8 of the 20 world's worst ever songs on it - as voted for by whatever record collecting magazine he reads.

      It also had 'Boris the Spider' and Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves of London' on it - plus some other good stuff. So it was a pretty good tape. Captain Bob is still DJing down in Brighton - one of his sets being the worst records ever, should the host be foolish enough to pick it...

      My childhood spider song is something by Roger Whittaker: link to Youtube. Found the songs from that LP on Youtube recently - and it's been fun to bring back childhood memories. 'The Unicorn' is a good song too. Or is that the nostalgia talking?

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    blow torch... pfft

    Amateur, flame thrower for the win...

    1. DailyLlama

      Re: blow torch... pfft

      I say we pull back to the ship and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure

    2. overunder Silver badge

      Re: blow torch... pfft

      Laugh it up, but a flame thrower isn't out of the question.

      The US can't beat Australia when it comes to deadly spiders, but there are some parts that can become unimaginable. I've seen a farm field of miles plagued by Wolf spiders (migration or some displacement was assumed). Walking from one end to the other would mean certain death. The speed at which they move in unison is amazing. A slash and burn was executed.

      Rats. Not necessarily on their own, but I've seen a rat farm be abandoned due to tax reasons that turned into a biblical problem for neighbors. Almost a half mile away you could hear their hissing. In that case, someone illegally used an actual flame thrower to start the initial fire.

      If you have ever lived by a major river in the world, you've no doubt have encountered river rats. During their weird mating seasons, you wouldn't want less than a flame thrower (ballistic weapons just make them aggressive and moody).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: blow torch... pfft

        "you've no doubt have encountered river rats"

        "river rats" in the UK are actually aquatic voles, an endangered, protected and harmless species. Following the reintroduction of otters to our local river I've recently seen a water vole, and I don't want anybody to misunderstand this post and attack these rather lovely little creatures.

      2. onefang

        Re: blow torch... pfft

        "The US can't beat Australia when it comes to deadly spiders,"

        There is two, maybe three, Aussie spiders you want to avoid. Red back and funnel web can actually be fatal. White tails may or may not eat your flesh with their venom, the jury is still out.

        "I've seen a farm field of miles plagued by Wolf spiders (migration or some displacement was assumed). Walking from one end to the other would mean certain death."

        Wolf spiders isn't one of them. Itchy, mild pain, some swelling, but you get that from most insect bites.

        Aussie snakes is where we are world beaters. Last I checked we have seven of the top twenty most dangerous snakes.

        1. Neil of Qld

          Re: blow torch... pfft

          The trouble with funnel webs is that they can stay under water for a hour and can swim

          Enjoy the swimming pool

        2. JLV
          Black Helicopters

          Re: blow torch... pfft

          >Aussie snakes is where we are world beaters.

          And sharks. And crocodiles.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

            Re: blow torch... pfft

            @JLV - forget the sharks, coconuts are more deadly

            1. Korev Silver badge

              Re: blow torch... pfft

              >@JLV - forget the sharks, coconuts are more deadly

              But not compared to the ones with lasers!

              1. onefang

                Re: blow torch... pfft

                "But not compared to the ones with lasers!"

                Wait, they are putting lasers on coconuts now?

        3. Symon Silver badge

          Re: blow torch... pfft

          "Aussie snakes is where we are world beaters. Last I checked we have seven of the top twenty most dangerous snakes." No. No you don't.

          Actually, it's not true that things in Australia have especially evolved to kill humans, whether it seems so or not. For example, almost all snake deaths are caused in countries where there are lots of people, and where snakes have thus evolved to live among humans. Unfortunately, folks seem to rate snakes on how well they kill rodents, of which there are plenty in Australia, and which the local fauna has evolved to bite.

          "Although mouse tests (commonly called LD50 studies) are important so researchers can have standardized baselines for venom studies, they really have very little to do with what happens when a snake bites a human. LD50 is the smallest amount of venom (stated in milligrams venom per kilogram mouse weight) that when injected into a standardized group of mice will kill half the subjects. Many standard lists of the most venomous snakes are based on a study published in 1979 by A. J. Broad and colleagues working out of Australia, which partially explains the strong Australian bias of the list. The well-known venomous snakes of the Americas, Africa and Asia are mostly absent from the list and simply were not included in the study."

          All that said, St. Patrick had the right idea.

          p.s. " [Australians'] death rate due to snake bite is about the same as the United Kingdom and Holland

          1. Sweep

            Re: blow torch... pfft

            Australia has a couple of snake bite fatalities a year. Meanwhile, snakes kill 45,000+ people a year in India.

            1. sms123

              Re: blow torch... pfft



              Suggests that number is ~1000 per year, accounting for population (which india has about 53x the population) would be the equivalent of 19 people a year in australia dying. Instead very few people die in Australia:


              The important part is: "Wide access to antivenom and adequate medical care has made deaths exceedingly rare with only a few fatalities each year.". 5 people died in 2018 making it ~4 times less likely to die from a snake bite here compared to India.

    3. Jay Lenovo

      Re: blow torch... pfft


      Peppermint oil, vinegar, diatomaceous earth, horse chestnuts, cleaning your house


      Spiders love hydrocarbons (flammable fluids). Flame throwers likely will only attract more to stop by.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: blow torch... pfft

        Peppermint oil, vinegar, diatomaceous earth, horse chestnuts, cleaning your house

        Let's not go crazy with clearly infeasible suggestions, now.

      2. onefang

        Re: blow torch... pfft


        Don't kill the spiders, especially the ones that are keeping the local ant population at bay. Also, don't follow that up by letting your young daughter leave chocolates under the bed, that's only make the ant problem worse. Ask my ex and her daughter how I know.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: blow torch... pfft

        ”Peppermint oil, vinegar, diatomaceous earth, horse chestnuts, cleaning your house”

        The WooWoo is strong with this one.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: blow torch... pfft

      "Amateur, flame thrower for the win..."

      Is that an Elon Musk Boring Company Flamethrower?

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Our youngest is arachnophobic and was from a young age. A cry of horror would bring me upstairs to be presented with what the rest of us would all a money spider but to her had assumed the threat of a giant tarantula.

    I would dutifully evict these arachnids outside, until my scientific interest brought me to a study showing house spiders evicted almost always die. Either the cold gets them, birds get them or other spiders get them. Outside is a patchwork of abutting spider territories and an evicted house spider has to navigate that without becoming lunch, most fail.

    I would also find the occasional silverfish and with those two concerns combined I refused any further spider evictions and instead pointed out to said offspring that the piles of mess on her floor were ideal spider habitat and if she cleared up she would have fewer spiders.

    Which had the effect of making her too scared to go near them . . .

    She was the offspring who failed to notice the wasps buzzing and dying between the window and the secondary glazing, both shut (so how did they get there?). Turned out they had burrowed into the sill etc and were flying about so I had to be up a ladder with wasp killer spraying all access holes and later with the caulking gun blocking them all with tinted silicone.

    When the double glazing installers got to that window I warned them they might find gruesome things.

    We get a lot fewer spiders since the two offspring finally moved out (they both boomeranged).

    The irony? said offspring now lives in NZ which has an actual slightly venomous native spider, the katipo. Except it is kin to the Aussie redback some of which have made the jump across the Tasman by inadvertent (we hope) human agency and they have interbred . . .

    1. overunder Silver badge

      You have to be bit a few times to get over it. I was similar, but now me and the most poisonous spiders in north America have a love hate relationship. I've been bitten by every common spider in north America several times. I've been worried of death twice.

      The problem as you pointed out, is that you need them. If you're fortunate not to need them, that's great (although I would wonder what's lurking in those walls and introduce spiders myself). Imo, a tarantula is one of the better ones to get over your fear as they don't constantly bite every time. But I'd just use one at a pet store to tackle that fear. They used to let you hold them for a bit (although due to the conditions, the things are always a little afraid there, rightfully).

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        I have to evict all spiders due to my wife’s arachnophobia, they take their chances in the cold which is slightly better than my wife’s preference of vacuuming or flooding.

        Whilst swimming in a Los Angeles motel pool, I saw a dead black widow floating on the water about 500 ms before it went into my mouth with a gobfull of water.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Why were you letting motel pool water into your mouth at all? Don't you know where its been?

          1. ivan5

            Don't you know where its been?

            Or more to the point what has been in it.

          2. Hollerithevo Silver badge


            Baby Elizabeth.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        How can one person have been bit by every common spider in the US? While I'm sure I have been at some point and didn't know it, I'm not aware of ever being bit by a spider. I'm certainly not arachnophobic, but I'm also not a fan so I don't go out of my way to bother them unless it is to kill one that commits the grave sin of being seen in my house. Do you have a job that takes you into cellars and crawlspaces or something?

        As for werdsmith swallowing pool water, I echo Big John's comment and suggest that the dead black widow was almost certainly the least disgusting thing in that mouthful of water - especially if you were in the San Fernando Valley area of LA (aka "porn valley") If El Reg permitted emojis, here's where I'd type the green faced one that's about to become sick.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @overunder

          > "...especially if you were in the San Fernando Valley area of LA..."

          I spent my childhood right in the middle of that valley, and I can attest that the porn industry there is a very tiny fraction of the economy, such as it is. "Dull Valley" is more like it.

        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: @overunder

          As for werdsmith swallowing pool water,

          I didn't swallow it, not any significant amount. It got into my mouth by accident because of the surprise of seeing a black widow right in front of my face.

          I don't go about quaffing pool water to quench my thirst.


    2. Long John Brass


      @Muscleguy: Not many dangerous species here in NZ. However the the Avondale Spider is fearsome to behold. It was featured in the Movie Archnaphoobia. Further reading here

      However Orcland has other issues :)

  4. CustardGannet

    Merkins, eh ?

    Reminds me of the Transpondian whose solution to a stuck car wheel-nut was a 12-gauge shotgun

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Merkins, eh ?

      Ah, but did it work?

    2. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge

      Re: Merkins, eh ?

      OT but I used to call our West Pond brethren this until a friend explained what it was. This friend knew a young lady who suffered from alopceia of the nether regions and resorted to a merkin.

      Pikiwedia because it must be true.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Merkins, eh ?

        "This friend knew a young lady who suffered from alopceia of the nether regions and resorted to a merkin."

        Resorted to a merkin to do what? Or are you just drawing attention to the preference of our leftpondian neighbours for shaven vulvas?

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: Merkins, eh ?

          A Merkin is a pubic wig. Some commentards also rejoice in the use of the same word to describe our American cousins. Not on this occasion though.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Merkins, eh ?

      > "...solution to a stuck car wheel-nut..."

      That's one case where a torch can actually help. Unequal expansion breaks the rust bonds, freeing the nut. Just don't set the tire on fire, and kiss that nice chrome plating goodby while you're at it.

  5. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge


    Douse the whole site with kerosene.

    But don't light it up, just leave it there.

    Cover (tarp?) the place up, and go live somewhere else for a week.

    Kerosene fumes will do the trick, not just against spiders, but pretty much anything else that breathes oxygen, including humans and all sorts of pets.

    1. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge

      Re: Kerosene.

      Take the pets, mind you.

      Animal cruelty is wrong, but only towards your pets.

  6. Netgeezer

    Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky


  7. Danny 2 Silver badge

    "The astronomers were shining laser pointers on the wall to tease random jumping spiders they found. The arachnids were mildly curious about red laser light but unleashed eight legs of fury trying to catch the moving green dot.

    Morehouse tweeted how green could be more triggering to spiders because of their acute color vision in this spectrum. And when pressed about the astronomers' celestial interests, Morehouse calculated that jumping spiders, indeed, have the visual acuity to see the distant moon, if they were so inclined."

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Now immortal

      "eight legs of fury." Mucho upvote.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    As regards the evolutionary psychology, I think the significant adaptation is to remove anything that looks as if it could be an ectoparasite. Spiders have the misfortune to look like bigger and nastier (more legs) versions of fleas and the like so the beneficial reaction goes into overdrive.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My (current) home town.

    Words fail me.

  10. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    cleaning your house or blowtorch?

    Hmmmm ...

  11. Herby


    If you actually use one these days. Usually rolled up and used with great impact.

    The Garfield comic strip usually has something about these at least once a month.

    1. onefang

      Re: Newspaper?

      "Usually rolled up and used with great impact."

      I've always said that physics beats chemistry for pest control. Pun unintended, but I'll roll with it.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Newspaper?

        "I've always said that physics beats chemistry for pest control."

        Test that in a cloud of Scottish midges. Anything you try to hit them with simply pushes them aside. You have to rely on chemicals, and not DDT. Avon's 'Skin So Soft' repels the wee buggers.

  12. Scott 29


    These guys overwhelmingly weave their webs at most 2 feet off the ground. I see a lot of them while walking; have to look at your feet all the time as they weave between a wall and the sidewalk in the San Gabriel valley. There are many (dozens) now, but, after Halloween, they'll all be wiped out. The kids and parents trample them.

  13. cNova

    I killed a spider with a blow-torch last night...

    ...How he got the blow-torch I'll never know.


    1. onefang

      Re: I killed a spider with a blow-torch last night...

      After seeing that photo of a spider dragging a mouse up the side of a 'fridge, and the one of the spider eating a frog, not to mention bird eating spiders, I'd say you got lucky. Did you sneak up on the little bugger, or was he having trouble getting the blow torch lit?

  14. PerlyKing Silver badge

    Stranger in a strange land

    I was staying with a friend of mine in California. After a river rafting trip I had a pair of soaking wet trainers which I left outside on the porch overnight. After they had dried out I went to put them on, but my friend stopped me, turned the shoes over and knocked a black widow out of one of them. That reminded me how far from home I was.

  15. Symon Silver badge


    Not much, if any, better than placebo.

  16. defiler Silver badge

    Poisonous vs Venomous

    Thank you for getting that right. That's all.

  17. Maty

    Black widows

    Only good thing about the little buggers is that you have to work quite hard to get one to bite you. Mostly they prefer to get out of the way, or sit quietly even if you disturb stuff around them.

    Nevertheless, in parts of North America it's a good idea to check boots before putting them on, and wear work gloves when reaching into dark corners.

    I know a guy who does inspections for prospective house buyers, and he reckons that he gets one black widow bite for every 25 or so crawl spaces he checks. It's an occupational hazard and like a mild dose of the flu, apparently.

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