From Time’s rich archives: a spider hungry for bed bugs

by nobugsonme on August 20, 2008 · 23 comments

in bed bugs, cockroaches

Back in 1929, Athens was apparently crawling (sorry) in bed bugs.

What to do?

Time magazine reported on one way of cutting down the population.
(Warning: you have to skim past commentary on “ignorant and indolent” bedbugged Europeans to get to this.)

Last week one who has been vexed by Athenian bedbug pricks, Dr. N. T. Lorando, chief physician of the Evangelismos Hospital and Near East Relief at Athens, published in Scientific Monthly a learned treatise on bedbugs and biological bedbug hunters.

In the U. S., Dr. Lorando’s research reveals, red house ants attack bedbugs, dismember them, carry off body fragments to their nests. Florida peasants advocate introducing the ants artificially to homes.

Cockroaches are also voracious bedbug hunters so. in some places, is the kissing or assassin bug.

Disclaimer: no, you do not want red house ants, cockroaches, kissing or assassin bugs in your home. Centipedes also eat bed bugs, but they can sting if perturbed, so don’t call in troops of centipedes. None of this is a good bed bug treatment plan.

That out of the way, this is the juicy part:

But the insect of choice, in Dr. Lorando’s experience is Thanatos flavidus Simon, a spider. Bedbugs will run from an irate human, but they apparently have no fear of Thanatos flavidus Simon. He catches the bugs by their backs and sucks out their blood and juices until only a shell remains. So efficacious is Thanatos flavidus Simon that he thoroughly cleaned an Athenian suburb where bedbugs were so thick that householders were obliged to sweep them off the floors and sidewalks. Dr. Lorando reports that the spider is not poisonous to humans, is less objectionable about the house than are ants, cockroaches or kissing bugs.

Why can’t I find any photos on google images of, or other relevant links to “Thanatos flavidus Simon”?

Perhaps some of our friendly, neighborhood entomologists can tell us if something was spelled wrong by Time.

Could Thanatos flavidus Simon really have “cleaned an Athenian subsurb” of bed bugs?

Could this spider be of any use today?

I have a hunch we first have to find out what moniker he’s really using…

Time was referencing this article, which I am currently tracking down:

LORANDO, N. T., 1929: A biological method of destroying bedbugs. Sci. Monthly 29, 265-268.

Thanks to spideyjg, apparently an arachnid fan, for sharing this link in the forums.

1 Anxious and itching August 25, 2008 at 7:38 am

Found the spider, it’s Thanatus, just one letter different. There is a Thanatus vulgaris Simon which is probably the same or very similar. Apparently a denizen of the eastern US. If you search on thanatus you’ll come up with loads of spider registries. Haven’t had time to read further yet because I’m still busy trying to stop the bugs getting into my home.

I have no problem with the comment about indolent Europeans and insecticide. After all, it was 1929. All they had to do then was spray a bit of DDT about. And the article also refers to “Florida peasants”!

2 nobugsonme August 25, 2008 at 6:05 pm


Thanks for the spider!

Actually, DDT was not invented yet in 1929.

Unlike you, I did find this comment troublesome: “The populace is too ignorant or indolent to kill off the pests with insecticide.”

Bed bugs were (and are) much more difficult to kill than this lets on.

To me, it mirrored comments I see daily attached to news articles, by readers who assume all one needs to do to avoid bed bugs is “wash their sheets more often” or “clean their homes once in a while.”

These comments are very ignorant. No one has bed bugs because they do not wash their sheets or clean their houses, and though doing so can obviously help keep a home bed bug-free, they won’t prevent bed bugs.

The “Florida peasants” remark is also troublesome but less specific in describing the shortcomings of same.

3 spideyjg August 31, 2008 at 3:52 am

Thanatus flavidus Simon is listed under the Philodromidae spiders.

They are known as the running crab spiders and Thanatus Flavidus is listed as living in Greece, Russia, and the Ukraine.

We have our own running crab spiders here in the US as well.


4 nobugsonme August 31, 2008 at 9:22 am

Thanks, Jim!

I have now tracked down the article and will post some excerpts ASAP.

5 Monique March 30, 2009 at 2:19 am


Does anyone know if it would be practical for my family to purchase some of these spiders to help get rid of our bed bugs?? We are very against pesticides but need to get rid of them.


6 nobugsonme March 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm


I don’t think it would be practical.

You can avoid pesticides using thermal heat treatment, which is very effective.

7 spideyjg April 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm

IMO while going through a BB infestation you should let spiders be. They will not clear an infestation but if they eat any BBs at all, those are a few less you have to deal with.

There is no place to purchase small spiders such as the Thanatus family. Roaming hunters, not web builders, such as Running Crab, Jumpers, Yellow Sac, and Wolf will feed off BBs if on the prowl as will any hungry spider.

Allies in the war, but they are not gonna win it for you.


8 Mr. Angry May 4, 2009 at 11:27 pm

We have to find a way to destroy these bastards with the fist of technology. We need to find a way to genetically bombard their semen and eggs with gamma radiation.

I found an exoskeleton today after being free for a long time, and I am ready to punch a bed bug in the face.

I wish science would invent a six foot tall bed bug just so I could take my time kicking the shit out of it.

9 Sam May 19, 2009 at 8:15 am

I agree; just like we need to get rid of lice, and fleas. Now luckily, I have not had those issues in some time, however I noticed, just last night a minor bed bug infestation. Currently looking for as much information as I can get, so as to better be able to inform the landlord. I am not looking forward to this. I think I caught it pretty early though. I hope.

10 bug hater May 31, 2009 at 7:37 am

I have just found an evil critter bed bug in a sleeping bag I had used in an infected hostel, where I was molested by the little feckers. Its pure violation when things get ya while you sleep. I have now got slammed with imaginary itchyness. Damn it, been getting bites I couldnt explain for a few months and at last I find the evidence that its not blood suckers of the flying kind.

Its 23.33 and now I dont want to go to sleep till I annihilate every last one of them! Ive been thinking about soaking the sleeping bag, surely drowning them is an effected method of killing them…this site has been useful in discovering more methods of murder. I agree with mr angry though, we need to find more weapons to use against these invaders. No more reading and writing, Ive got to get to it.

11 nobugsonme May 31, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Hi Bug Hater,

Sorry for your troubles.

I hope you were able to vanquish your foes. However, it can be hard to find and kill bed bugs. If this has been going on for months, they are likely to have moved beyond the sleeping bag.

Boiling water should kill them, but the key is hitting all the bed bugs and eggs with boiling water. Even if they were all in the sleeping bag, this would be tricky unless you have a very large pot.

A hot dryer will kill bed bugs, but it may take very long to kill them all, since a sleeping bag would provide a lot of insulation. They may live, inside, when the outside feels quite hot and dry.

If you need additional support, we have an active forum.

12 I HATE BB'S June 16, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Does anyone know if i just wash some of my clothes in hot water but dont dry them in the dryer if i will still rid it of bed bugs??

13 nobugsonme June 17, 2009 at 3:06 pm


You should read the FAQ on killing bed bugs in clothing at various temperatures.

This comment on that FAQ from Fedupandparanoid describes research by Richard Naylor which was done on hot water washing only, which did kill bed bugs. However, you do need to verify what “hot” is on your machine.

Fedupandparanoid reports that all stages of bed bugs were killed at temperatures of over 60 C (which is 140 F). A manual should tell you if your washing machine reaches this temperature. If you use a commercial machine, you should be able to find out online (or in a pinch, by calling the manufacturer).

14 Sandi June 18, 2009 at 9:26 am

OK, OK …
So, you guys think you’ve got BB problems?
Let me let you in on mine.
I live in Chicago.
It’s 5:30 in the morning & I’m still up trying to find reliable as well as informative information to copy & distribute to residents of the 47 unit building I manage before our extermination service arrives to access a BB problem I discovered in one of the apartments.
I was summoned to this this residents apartment where I was questioned as to what kind of a time frame he could count on for an eviction process to actually happen.
I mean after all, he was going to need time to prepare his finances, due to the fact that he needed to save enough money for a security deposit, first months rent & movers, after he found another place.
Did I say he hadn’t payed his rent in several months?
Did I say that when he opened the door & asked me inside I was reluctant based on the smell alone, not to mention the absence of carpeting due to beer cans and overflowing garbage bags as well as who knows what else stacked about the room?
Let’s just say, it wasn’t going to take a fresh coat of paint & a general good cleaning to get this apartment back into,’Move In Shape’ again.
To get to the point …
He then complained … he might have ticks in his couch & chair???
He handed me a jar, with a few of them inside, to prove his point …
Long story ….(sorry)
Yes, you guessed it Bedbugs.
Let’s just say the inside, under the cushions was crusted black.
Yes, I called the exterminators, they quoted me $450 per unit & said it would take 5 weeks,
& remember this guy hasn’t paid his rent in several months & I’m going to have to invest more than I should have to to repair this apartment after he saves up enough to move out.
However, that’s not my main problem at this moment.
My problem is ….
How do I explain to my other residents that we now have BB’s?
I don’t care how ‘nicely’ you put it ….
They are not going to appreciate it.
I now have come to find out … after being told that he did not have TICKS,
instead he had a very bad case of BB’s, he’s placed his couch & chair in the hallway.
(he didn’t want BB’s in HIS apartment) So, now you can be sure …
If for some miracle the BB’s hadn’t spread outside his apartment by now,
this act will shurely do exactly THAT!
(I expect he’ll be passing them out door to door next)?
What do I do now?
(sorry this was so long)
Thanx for any suggestions?

15 Mr. LandLord June 19, 2009 at 6:36 am

You should of evicted this loser a long time ago! Call the sheriffs! Now!

16 nobugsonme June 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm


I can’t comment on how to manage a building vis a vis non-paying or late-paying tenants.

I can note that just because you heard this unit had bed bugs first does not mean that it was the original source of bed bugs in the building. Often people have made such assumptions and then later discovered even worse, non-disclosed cases in the building. When it comes to bed bugs, try to avoid laying blame and focus instead on education and treatment.

The best thing you can do for your building as a whole is to have all units carefully inspected by a PCO who knows how to look or by a canine scent detection team — make sure they agree to look for bed bugs once the dog alerts. Educate your tenants (and yourself) about bed bugs. Some firms would recommend treating all attached/adjacent units to the known infested one, even if no signs are found (the Boston Inspectional Services Dept. has this as a city-wide policy).

Remember it can be hard to detect bed bugs visually because they hide well, and remember that a huge percentage of folks do not react to bites and may have no idea they have them.

You can come to the Forums for more suggestions.

17 Bed Bugs Blow June 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

I’m a first time home buyer, and had no idea what was biting me at night. As is turns out I thought I was breaking out into stress related hives a month before I got married. 2 months later I finally see the suckers! Of course my husband and I just started our own business and had no money for treatment. No money to speak of at all really.
So all I’ve done is spray Ortho Home Defense, which seems to make them back off for a few days, and I find a couple dead hear and there, but they still come back. What’s even more frustrating by not having money to treat, I’m the only one in the household effected! My husband doesn’t even have a reaction. – another reason why it took so long to figure out what was there.
I still find them in my clothes just a day after I wash. I’ve taken everything out of drawers and closets, but still they persist. Is there not any way to get rid of these things myself?!They were just in our room, but now they’ve traveled with us downstairs. Ugh.
Should I just pack up and sell my home!!! That’s what I feel like. Is there a city or government office that can help take care of these bugs. I don’t have money! But I still have my sanity….barely.
I can say this though, it feels good to tell someone about it. I don’t feel dirty, and like I have a gross, unclean home. I don’t! I’m just so F-ing over these things.

18 bad bed bugs go with you July 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

hi:only one problem with just packing up and moving,these dam bed bugs just go with you,they lay eggs on your things that hatch and here we go,bed bugs some more,i went through a move,washed all cloths and bedding,wiped down everything with soapy water(hot),junked all bedding(mattres’s) ,couch and chairs,and they still moved with me.ken

19 Frank August 16, 2009 at 12:56 am

Apparently petroleum jelly works very well in preventing bed-bugs, as well as the end-all beat-all natural repellent to all: Neem Oil. Between the two, you should be ok. Look at Wikipedia for advice.

20 QUESTION! August 16, 2009 at 4:22 am

Alright, I have a very serious problem with bed bugs.
…A problem I have been living with for 3-4 months now thanks to an Unresponsive landlord, and irresposible roommates. At this point, I have asked, asked, and asked the landlord to get a bloody exterminator and fix this bloody problem, amongst other problems. Now, my roommates have moved out, and have taken the infestation to their own pad. I am currently stranded in an apartment, with no fiscal means of hiring an exterminator, a landlord who says they are cockroaches (even though I have shown him the carcasses and online pictures, as well as having confirmation from my uncle, who is an entymologist) and refuses to exterminate them because it is “my responsibility.” I am stuck here, and cannot move out without taking the bastards with me, and at this point, trapped in a sinking ship. Who do I call to bring legal action and a bloody exterminator to this place?

21 nobugsonme August 16, 2009 at 7:42 am


Petroleum jelly may make a bed bug have trouble walking on a specific surface, but it does not “prevent” bed bugs from infesting your home or biting you. Slicking up your bed legs may do more harm than good by sending bed bugs to infest other areas of the home (living room or computer chairs, for example). See our FAQ on protecting the bed for better advice.

Neem, we are told, has repellent properties. But again, it won’t remove bed bugs from your home. It may scatter them further around your home, lengthening treatment times and increasing treatment cost.

People seeking DIY methods would do better to consider a dry vapor steamer and maybe some carefully-applied DE. We have FAQs on both in the “treatment” section:

22 nobugsonme August 16, 2009 at 7:56 am


Your options are affected by your location. NYC, for example, has housing inspectors who MAY inspect your home and enforce treatment. Please see our incomplete FAQ on who pays for treatment for leads on local laws where you live. We also have a FAQ on finding a lawyer. The forums may be a good place to get tips from locals also.

23 nobugsonme August 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm


Where do you live and what kind of building do you live in (how many rental units)?

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