The hobo spider is one of those mysterious spiders that most people are inherently afraid of, yet they don't know very much about. It is a widespread idea that hobo spiders are incredibly venomous--venomous enough to kill you-- very aggressive and actively seek out humans to bite. While these statements do have a bit of truth to them, they are largely false and can easily be disproved by simply doing a bit of research. Hobo spiders--while incredibly creepy and indeed venomous--rarely kill. And, more often than not, hobo spiders will not attack unless they are provoked or their habitat infringed upon.
Nevertheless, these creatures are still venomous and the proper precautions should be taken to avoid them. And the first--and probably most important--part of protecting yourself against the hobo spider is understanding their characteristics, their habits and their environment. Because once you are informed, you can take the proper steps to protect yourself and your family.
The Hobo Spider Environment
Unfortunately for those of us who live in the Northwest, hobo spiders are native to this area. They can be found anywhere in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and also in Southern British Columbia. These spiders can also be found in some parts of Northern California.
Hobo spiders tend to make their homes in dark, hidden places that they can easily build a web. They typically build webs in the outdoors near trees, fences or other small structures. However, the hobo spider will occasionally make its way indoors. If they do, they will usually make their home in attics, basements, or in small crawl spaces.
Characteristics of the Hobo Spider
Hobo spiders are brown in color and measure roughly 12 to 19 mm in length. They are often hard to distinguish from other brown spiders such as the brown recluse because they have no distinguishable characteristics. Their legs show no distinct markings and typically have short hairs. However, their abdomens typically have several "v" shaped markings that can sometimes distinguish them from other spiders. Male hobo spiders can be distinguished from the females in that they have two large palps on the underside of their body. These palps are often mistaken for venom sacs, but they are actually male genitalia.
Hobo Spider Web
One of the most trademark characteristics of the hobo spider is the webs that they spin. These spiders spend a large portion of their time creating non-sticky trip webs to catch their prey. Once the prey (often smaller insects) becomes tangled in the web, the hobo spider attacks the prey before it can get away.
Their webs are typically funnel shaped and hobo spiders will spin them near any object that remains stationary and near the ground level. Webs are also commonly found near the siding of homes, or attached to weeds or plants.
Hobo Spider Bites
The good news is that about half of hobo spider bites are "dry". This means that there is no venom injected into the victim during the bite. Nothing happens to the victim of "dry bites" and they often do not even realize they have been bitten. However, for bites where venom is injected, the victim will typically experience an immediate redness. The bite might initially appear to be a mosquito bite, but it will typically quickly blister in the center and within 36 hours the blister will break open, leaving an open, oozing ulceration. Then, within about three weeks, the bite will scab over and a permanent scar will usually be left.
Some hobo spider bite victims will not experience any symptoms. Some, however, will experience severe flu-like symptoms within 24 hours of the initial attack including severe headaches, nausea and vomiting.
The Toxicity of Bites
Unfortunately, the toxicity and aggression of these spiders is debated by many scientists and is not 100% known. Most agree that despite their reputation, hobo spiders are not typically aggressive unless provoked. The only time that these spiders may become aggressive is if it is tending to an egg sac and they believe that their sac is being threatened.
Fortunately, hobo spider bites are not fatal to healthy humans. The most severe symptom typically associated with a hobo spider bite is necrosis. Necrosis occurs when the tissue around a bite essentially dies and eventually turns black and shrivels off. Necrosis usually only occurs in a spider bite victim that has a pre-existing medical condition.
Hobo spider bites can, however, cause pain and a host of other symptoms that are very uncomfortable. People who believe that they have been bitten by a hobo spider should seek the proper medical attention immediately. Medical professionals will then assess the severity of the situation and administer an antivenin if needed. Don't wait to see medical attention. They longer you wait, the less effective treatment will be.
Preventing Hobo Spider Bites
Preventing hobo spider bites usually comes down to preventing them from coming into your home. It may sound obvious, but one of the most effective spider prevention tools is to keep your house clean. You can also purchase spider traps at your local hardware store if you are particularly worried about spiders or if you live in a wooded area or if your home is very old.
You can also do certain things to protect yourself from bites when you are outdoors. When working in the yard, wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves. If they don’t come in contact with your skin, they can't bite you.
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Barbara on August 20, 2014:
I was bitten by a hobo right down to the back cramping that kept me up nights.y doc gave muscle relaxers toe which solved it if I take them. Early treatment was refused in ER and no blood test as I had begged for was administered, no urine test for venom, as I am diabetic & had the black nircrosis? (Sp) had hallucinations, tremors, vision problems, swelling, blood trail, my wound looked like hamburger for the longest time, now a small crater and symptoms. The dizzyness was continuous & only occurs n occasion. I only wish the doctor on call would have done something, anything. How long will I live w/venom inside me now when it could have been prevented w/ early treatment.
stanfrommarietta on June 11, 2014:
How do you distinguish the hobo spider from the funnel weavers we have in the East. I have them in many of my house windows in Marietta, GA. Are these also poisonous to humans?
My father was the co-namer with Gertsch of the brown recluse spider.
Eric on October 26, 2013:
Andrew A Kalogirou from West Palm Beach on May 18, 2013:
Very good hub!
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on April 21, 2011:
Thanks for the cool information on this spider. I think they get a bad rap.