Creepy Corner: Is the Hobo Spider Dangerous?

hobo spiderThe woods are full of all kinds of creepy crawlies, and if you’re afraid of spiders, the outdoors could very well be your nightmare. But just because a creature creeps you out doesn’t mean it is necessarily worth being afraid of, and not all spiders are out to get you. One of the most commonly feared species in the US is the hobo spider, but is it worth getting worked up over?

The hobo spider is a type of funnel web spider, found throughout parts of Europe and the Pacific Northwest region of the US. It builds a flat web with a funnel outlet at one end, where the female spends most its life lying in wait for prey, while males may wander in search of better nesting locations, causing them to inadvertently tangle with people.

Believed to have been first discovered in the United States in Seattle during the 1930s, it is thought that spider eggs were introduced to North America from European ships. A lack of competition from native spiders enabled the hobo to breed quickly and adapt to urban settings as well as forests. The cool, dark spaces of the region’s basements, garages, and wood piles made perfect habitat for the hobo spider to establish itself in the Pacific Northwest.

This species is sometimes confused with the brown recluse, a significantly more dangerous doppelganger of the hobo, but its bite causes a much less severe reaction. The primary reason for this is the hobo’s propensity to deliver a “dry” bite, meaning that no venom is injected. Only a few studies have found the venom of the hobo spider to cause skin necrosis, but people with allergies or compromised immune systems can experience more severe reactions to a bite, so if there is any question as to a person’s health, be sure to seek medical attention after a bite occurs.

Hobo spider web

Hobo spider web

You’ll recognize the hobo spider right away from its distinguishing markings: two broad stripes that extend in a V-shape from the front of the spider’s head across the thorax on a grayish-brown body, with smaller V-markings on the abdomen. The leg span will typically extend to roughly 1.5 inches, making this spider stand out when it comes into view.

Hobo spiders like their personal space; you will not usually find a hobo spider aggressively charging you, except in the case of a female guarding her eggs. However, the male’s propensity to go out in search of other habitable spaces means they can easily wind up in shoes, rumpled clothing, or bedding, so it is best to give everything a thorough once-over and a vigorous shake if you live in the hobo spider’s territory!

Images via tuppus, Wikimedia


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