How to Treat a Hobo Spider Bite
Now is a great time to do some pressure washing on the outside of your house, as the spiders are all trying to crawl inside due to the colder weather at night.
The other day I was shocked to see a giant Hobo Spider crawling across my living room floor!
The poor spider was probably more traumatized by all the extreme screaming that occurred right before it met the sole of my hot pink flip flop. (please don’t call PETA)
After careful evaluation, we noted that the characteristic “violin pattern” on the back was consistent with the Hobo spider, also known as Tegenaria agrestis. Contrary to popular belief the Hobo spider is not the same spider as the Brown Recluse spider. Although we treat both bites equally, the brown recluse is more likely to be poisonous and cause death in children. To the best of my knowledge, there are no known deaths that have occurred from the bite of a Hobo spider.
Hobo spiders are found in Europe, the northern regions of the U.S. and the southern regions of Canada, and now recently Alaska, hence their name “Hobo” for their love of traveling.
I am not sure what scares me more, the one month Seattle summer we just had here despite global warming, or the fact the Hobo spiders have infested my patio, even after a thorough pressure washing.
Should I be terrified that there are Hobo spiders living outside?
No, not really. I should just be cautious. About as cautious as people living in Rattlesnake terrain. Hobo spiders are less likely to bite humans than rattlesnakes, and their bites secrete less venom. An estimated 50% of Hobo spiders do not even secrete venom when they bite humans.
Typically a bite made in defense will not secrete venom, a bite made to kill and eat prey will secrete venom.
Since humans are not the ideal prey for these spiders, most bites are not life threatening. According to my research these spiders are actually very hesitant to interact with humans, and usually only attack when they feel threatened. The bite of the male spider is also more dangerous than that of the female.
So, is the bite of a Hobo spider something to lose sleep over at night?
Not necessarily. But, prevention and early intervention are key. If you think you have been bit by a hobo spider contact your health care provider immediately as these bites can become “necrotic”, meaning that the skin and surrounding tissues may die and possibly become infected.
What to do for a Hobo spider bite:
- Stay calm, stay seated, do not move the affected area if possible to prevent the spread of the venom.
- Try to have someone trap the spider with a glass jar, slide a paper card underneath, flip over, and secure the lid. Bring the spider to your doctor for proper identification.
- Allow fluid to freely drain from the bite, but don’t squeeze it (messing with the wound will accelerate the spread of the venom).
- Clean the site with saline solution or soap and water (not hot water as heat will also cause venom to spread).
- Use a pen to draw a circle around the initial raised, red area that develops so your physician can monitor the advancement of the swelling.
- Apply a cold compress to the bite, and keep the area elevated.
- If symptoms are severe, call 911, as anaphylactic shock may occasionally occur in those that are allergic to insect bites. Trouble breathing, rapid swelling, and extreme redness over the entire body are key signs of anaphylaxis. Other signs of extreme reactions include a rash over the entire body, nausea and vomiting, joint pain, fever and chills. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call the experts.
- Make an appointment to have the bite and spider evaluated. Babies and children should be seen immediately, as they will more likely be sensitive to the venom.
- Spider bites should be carefully monitored, and antibiotics may be prudent as a preventative for infection or tissue necrosis (open ulcers that do not easily heal and may require skin grafting).
- Do NOT Engage in exercise or extreme activity which will only further the spread of the venom if present in your system.
- Do NOT apply a warm compress as that will speed the circulation of venom in your system as well.
- Do NOT attempt to suck the venom out or, cut the tissue out. These techniques will most likely ensure that you have the worst reaction possible to the bite.
- Do NOT apply electricity or electrotherapy from a stun gun, or attempt to burn the bite out. (I can’t even believe I just had to type that, but people freak out and do extreme things which likely cause a worse prognosis.) Please stay calm and allow your doctor to decide if further steps are needed.
Hobo Spider Bite Prevention:
- Chemical control and pesticides are not recommended and should be used only as a last resort in extreme situations.
- Clean up your messes outside and in the garage.
- Wear pants, long sleeved shirts, and gloves when working in the garden or garage.
- Don’t go on a spider killing rampage! Attempting to eradicate all species of spiders from your garden will result in predominance of one species. Instead, encourage the friendly spiders to stick around. Spiders are extremely territorial and will fight for territory or prey.
- Funnel webs are a key sign of hobo spiders. Clean up these kinds of webs seen near your home CAREFULLY.
- Remember that spiders do not typically attack humans unless threatened.
Picture Credit: Hobospider.org
Does anyone else feel like creepy crawlies are all over them now? Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table!
~ Dr. Nicole Sundene