Catch Spiders from 4 Feet Away

And Release Unharmed

Man catching a spider from 4 feet away

Tony Allen / Spider Catcher

Are you an arachnophobe—someone who is afraid of spiders; an entomophobe—someone who is afraid of bugs in general; or do you simply not want to touch those creepy, crawly things? But, are you also a bit of a pacifist and prefer to not kill the tiny creatures?

The Critter Catcher/Spider Catcher

If any of these are true of you, you may be interested in Ireland's Tony Allen's invention: the Spider Catcher. Rather than stomping spiders or other bugs with your booted foot, swatting at them with a fly swatter, spraying them with pesticides or conducting search and destroy with a rolled-up newspaper or magazine, or even fighting spiders with fire as some people have tried with dangerous results, you can now control spiders in and around your home by grabbing your critter catcher and catch and release a bug without ever getting near it.

Originally called the Spider Catcher, but today, alternately called spider catcher or critter catcher, Allen came up with the invention when he got tired of chasing after spiders with the vacuum cleaner or newspaper—and his wife got tired of the "splats" on the walls. He didn't really want to hurt or kill the spiders, but his son was terrified of them, so he had to do something.

Thus the spider-friendly Spider Catcher. By pressing a lever in the trigger handle, you open up bristles in the head of the tool (which is about 26 inches away from the trigger). Set the opened bristles around the spider or other bugs, and release the lever—closing the bristles and trapping the spider. You can then take the bug outdoors and release it—preferably well away from your home, so it doesn't find its way back in!

The catcher comes with instructions, a wall hook—and even a small plastic, fake "practice spider," so those with phobias (or just want a little pre-bug practice) can test the catcher and get good at its use, without having to work with real spiders or insects. However, it is not difficult to learn or use. Allen provides a simple five-step process for its use.

To Pick up the Spider or Other Insect

  1. Squeeze the lever so the bristles open.
  2. Position the open bristles over the spider or insect.
  3. Swiftly release the lever so the bristles close.
  4. Pull away from the surface.
  5. To release the bug, squeeze the lever so the bristles reopen.

Not only is the spider not harmed by the catcher, but it is also unlikely that it would harm itself by trying to escape, as they usually react in defense by curling up their legs. So as long as the tool is correctly used, and the bug is surrounded by the bristles which are completely closed, it should be easy for both the user and the bug. Capturing insects without harm was, in fact, one of the main reasons for the invention.

Princely Endorsements

The Spider Catcher was recognized at the International Exhibition of Inventions, Geneva, with the Geneva Gold Medal with Distinction. This exhibition is the largest event in the world exclusively devoted to inventions, and anything shown there can be shown only once. Industrial and commercial companies, universities, inventors and researchers, associations, private and state organisms and institutes, present their inventions, the results of their research and their new products.

And even the Prince of Wales likes the catcher! When it was given to him as a gift, "The Prince was so impressed with the environmentally friendly product that he asked his secretary at Clarence House to send a letter praising the invention and congratulating Tony on his idea."

That letter states, in part, "Thank you so much for taking the trouble to write as you did about your invention, the Spider Catcher, what a brilliant idea! His Royal Highness is not only grateful to you for bringing this wonderful invention to his attention but also for so kindly sending him one."

And the site endorsements were pretty impressive as well. I've never been much afraid of spiders (but don't even get me started on mice!), but I know several people myself who can relate to the following: "I no longer spend 20 mins plucking up courage trying to get a glass over the spider, let alone the time spent getting card underneath the glass. I can look at the spider now, get my catcher and deal with it in a couple of minutes. … No more spiders up the [vacuum], or frantic phone calls to my husband or my dad (who is 86 miles away)."

Although it is not a new device (having been first available in 2012), it saw a recent resurgence when a YouTube video was posted by Insider and the Today Show picked up on the story. Additionally, with more spiders being seen across the U.S., any spider control help is greatly appreciated.

Critter Catcher Features and Benefits

As described on the website, in addition to the catcher being about 26 inches long, the average person's arm length is 26 inches long, so your body will be more than 4 feet away from the bug while you catch, then carry it for release. This also means that you can reach many ceilings, behind appliances, under furniture, and into corners. The site also says that the bristles are gentle enough to catch butterflies without damaging their wings. Other features and benefits of the catcher:

  • Because the bug is captured alive and released elsewhere, there is no mess from a squashed bug.
  • It is eco-friendly. This is particularly important in the capture of spiders, as there are more spiders that are beneficial than there are dangerous spiders. (In fact, spiders, themselves, will capture and eat other bugs you don't want in your home.)
  • It is completely chemical-free and manual, so does not require batteries, charging, pesticides, etc.
  • The catcher can even be used to pick up dead insects that you don't want to touch—or even insect bait for fishing.
  • You can even catch bugs when they are moving.
  • It can capture bugs as small as 0.80 inches up to 1 inch in size. It is said to be able to catch tarantulas and all small spiders, scorpions, wasps, bees, stink bugs, crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, butterflies, roaches, water beetles, etc. (except lizards).
  • The inventor states, "It will actually pick up a strand of hair from a table, rendering it sensitive enough for use in laboratories."
  • To capture flying insects (moths, wasps, bees, and flies), side-sweep them from the window or wall.
  • There is also a smaller "travel spider catcher" available, which is about 16 inches long—designed for RVs, boats, cars, tents, etc.

The Spider Catcher is available through Amazon but is least expensive through direct purchase at Critter Catcher, and it provides for free shipping. If you do order a catcher, you also need to realize that it will be coming from the United Kingdom, so delivery to a U.S. address can take up to 21 days (three weeks).

What's next for Allen? According to an April 2016 article in IrishCentral, he's still inventing—he already has a patent on a Pooper Scooper bag, and he is now working on an ashtray cover for outdoors.