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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hobo Spider Invasion

It's Hobo Spider season.

For those of you who don't know - this nasty little critter is an import from Europe around the 1930s and first appeared in Seattle. (Sorry D & T!)

Their current range extends from Northern California to the Alaskan panhandle and from the West Coast inland as far as the Western mountainous regions of Montana and Wyoming.

Hobo Spiders are also called "aggressive house spiders". They are agressive because of two things: Their webs are not sticky so they must attack their prey if they want to eat; and they have poor eyesight. Many people in the Hobo spider's range who have been bitten by this spider are told or believe they were bitten by the brown recluse - another ground dwelling spider. However, the brown recluse does not occur in the same territory and the recluse has been attributed to far more bites than it warrants by this misinformation. Unfortunately, at this time, the poison control center does not have a category for Hobo Spiders so bites of this type are attributed to the recluse since it does cause a similar reaction and problems.

Hobo spiders generally like dark places close to the ground and thus are haunts of closets, basements, under houses and porches and the like. For some reason, usually from August to November, they come indoors. Hobo Spiders build a 'funnel' web, usually anchored to a bush or wall with the bottom at or very near the ground. The webs are not sticky and are only used for channeling prey to the waiting spider below.

Bites: Hobo Spiders inject a venom known as necrotizing venom. In other words, it kills the surrounding tissue where the bite occured. You may feel a brief sting that goes away after a few minutes. Over the next 24 hours a raised blister will appear surrounded by a very reddened area. The blister will burst, leaving an oozing, pus-filled sore that under the best circumstances could take up to weeks or months to heal. The sore may increase in size and a great deal of swelling is usually present as well. You may also develop a fever, severe headache, and joint pain. In worst circumstances, this spider bite has been linked to kidney failure, limb amputations, immune system collapse, and the CDC reports at least one death attributed to a Hobo Spider bite.

Treatment: If you have been bitten, try to capture or kill the spider and bring it with you to the doctor. Go to the doctor immediately if you have been bitten. Treatments may include very strong antibiotics, steroids, 'coring' out the bitten area (a surgical procedure to remove necrotized tissue). On your own, icing the area to reduce circulation seems to be helpful. Expressing the pus and other liquid, including removal of what appears to be a black 'stinger' in the center of the wound has reportedly assisted in healing. (It's not a stinger - it's just the necrotized tissue from the bite itself).

Controls: DO NOT SPRAY! Insecticides - even those specifically targetted at spiders do nothing to Hobo spiders. In fact - the spray may kill the only predator of Hobo spiders, the familiar 'daddy long-legs'. Your best defense is 'sticky-traps'. Place these traps along walls, in closets and closed off rooms, especially around doorways or windows with wells below ground. Place them under or behind furniture. Check and replace traps about every 3-4 weeks during Hobo season or as needed (if you catch a bunch!) Keep clothing and other items off the floor. Move beds away from the wall about 4 inches. Teach young children NOT to pick them up.

You may think this is a weird post for a political blog. When I grew up here in Montana, Hobo spiders were not here. I moved back here last year and am experiencing 'Hobo season' for the first time. There is no public outreach or warnings - especially in light of how aggressive these little numbers are, and even in the spider trap packaging, the 'effects of bite' are rather downplayed, both for the Hobo and the recluse. Hobo spiders have been colonizing and expanding their range over time. If you don't have the problem now, but live in a state with a new population or next door to a state that already has them, you will in the future. So best to be aware since they are very dangerous.

I was bitten by what I now know to be a Hobo spider when I lived in Northern California. I can attest to the consequences. Fortunately for me, I did see a doctor the next day (for another matter). He 'recognized' the bite (as a recluse bite) and immediately put me on antibiotics and it still took 3 months to heal.

So watch out for Hobo spiders! Tell your friends!


SeattleTammy said...

Wow Loky! Thanks for this post. I've already smashed 3 of these big suckers, but I didn't know they were poisonous. I just thought they had giant spiders out here.

I appreciate the tips you bring up here. I'll be more careful from here on out.

lokywoky said...

Glad to help out Tammy. Yeah, I thought that too until my mom brought me some of those traps. I had been killing one or two per day for about 10 days prior to that and couldn't believe it cuz I sure didn't remember them from when I was a kid.

Anntichrist S. Coulter said...

Holy ratshit, Batman! I finally drag my ass over here to say howdy and see yer place (GORRRGEOUS masthead pic, btw, just amazing!), and the first thing I see is a killer spider!

I am so sorry that you were afflicted by these little bastards. And Tammy-Tam-Tam, I am SO glad that you were able to stomp 'em before they pounced upon YOU! Ugh.

I've been bitten by spiders most of my damned life, usually when I was zonked-out/unconscious in bed, they'd crawl in there to get warm (back when I had my house, built in '39 and apparently never fumigated) and then bite the fuck out of me. Ingrates. Don't think that I ever got a brown recluse or a black widow (or any of the other billions of killer bugs here in Caner Alley), as I never got infected, but it is irksome as hell, 'cause even the non-fatal little arachnid bastards can sting like a bitch.

Ironic, really, that I've had a Charlotte's Web tattoo for 12 years, but then, I didn't have the house when I got that... Wouldn't you think that a single-needle tattoo in five sessions would be enough to curry some favor/sympathy from 'em???

Really good, informative post, thanks!

Charles said...

I had A Hobo Spider In the corner under my front door. I didn't know what is was, so I sprayed the sucker and it's eggs. It didn't die but it did crawl out of its web and lay on its back twitching. I think the poison paralyzes it, which will give you an opportunity to squish the bastard. I'm originally from SO CAL and have been here in the Silverdale, WA area for less than a year and I'm overly paranoid now. The last couple of months my house has started to be overrun by all kinds of spiders from Giant House Spiders to Jumping Spiders. Now I learn from your site that Hobo Season is coming and I'm petrified! My 2 year old is not gonna know to stay away from them.

Thank you for the info here.