How to Treat a Hobo Spider Bite

by in Kitchen Sink, Reader Questions September 11, 2008

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:


Hobo Spider Poisoning

The Hobo Spider Story

More References on Hobo Spiders

Does anyone else feel like creepy crawlies are all over them now? Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table!

~ Dr. Nicole Sundene

Naturopathic Physician


  1. Wow I live in the PNW too and have seen these funnel webs from time to time. Never had a clue. Thanks, I will have my husband remove them.

  2. Creepy Doc! Now I feel like there are things crawling all over me.

  3. I know someone that got bit by one of these and the swelling was HUGE. Spiders terrify me. But, Doc I won’t go on a spider killing rampage, just because you told me not to.

  4. Mary, have him do it really carefully with gloves on! 😀

    SA and Heather, Spiders are our friends they help keep down the smaller more annoying bugs that fly around us.

  5. I read somewhere that Daddy Long Legs (the harmless ones 😉 compete for territory with wolf and hobo spiders and keep them at bay. Ever since reading that, I’ve left the Long Legs alone when I see them in my basement, and I don’t see nearly as many of the wolf and hobos (ick!!!).

  6. […] even the Hobo Spider deserves his place in the environment, and we just need to respectfully avoid encounters without […]

  7. If it looks like a brown recluse / has extraordinary long legs and “pop” eyes, then I’d call a hobo spider a brown recluse. Although brown recluse are more likely to “attack”, the necrotic after effects are horrifying. My doctor recommends applying ICHTHAMMOL ointment. It is SHALE OIL, smells like asphalt (so you won’t have friends for a while) and it DRAWS poison out of a bite.

    dana’s last blog post..Best Weight Loss Diet 2008!

  8. I live in the NW and was bit by a hobo on my chest while sleeping, I rolled on the spider and killed it. I dug it out of the garbage for my doc to see at his request. I had two little fang marks the swelled up and would not heal for , no kidding, months. It hurt like hell. That was years ago and I still have a dark spot the size of a dime. One in 60 years ain’t bad

    Dale’s last blog post..US Volcano Set to Blow

  9. We’re snowbirds, camping in the desert. A week ago, both my husband and I were bitten by a hobo (identified because I killed the hobo). We have not been to the dr., but are treating the bites ourselves. So far, the bite has taken on the usual appearance, red around the outside and ulceration on the inside. We are pouring hydrogen perixide on the bite frequently and applying a baking powder paste. The bite has not spread and appears to be healing. Hopefully, the bitten area will heal without our having to seek medical attention.

  10. I’ve been bitten twice by the hobos. I got on the internet and looked for treatment. Most GP doctors are ill informed on treatment for necrotizing bites. Just ask a vet in the mid-west how they treat recluse bites. Both of my bites have been successfully trreated with cortisone cream. I still had the pain and the headach and the nausea, but the necrotizing affect of the bite was stopped. I happened to be aware of the hobo and knew fast action was important. If it is discovered after the blisters begin, the treatment is to inject 1/10th CC of Dexamehtasone into two or three subcutaneous shots around the perimeter of the bite inflamed area. Anti-biotics are also recommended once they reach the open stage due to the distinct possibility of bacterial infection.

    I am totally into natural treatments for many different types of conditions and ailments, and most folks don’t like to take anti-biotics for the obvious reasons. This situation, however, is not the time to experiment. Time is not on the side of the patient, and these actions have a very solid track record.

    I send this because the usual advise is to go see a doctor. He/she may not know – this information does not seem to be readily available. I am doing my part to get it out there.

  11. Actually, one item in the article is wrong. You do NOT want to apply ice, you want to apply a heat pack.

    Also, hobo spiders attack their prey because they do not weave sticky webs. Their webs are just tripwires. They also have poor eyesight so that’s why we see them charging humans from time to time.

  12. Thanks for your input Jeff, but do you have a resource to site for using heat on a venomous bite? The concern in most of these situations is that heat causes blood vessels to dilate and thus cause the venom to spread faster rather than applying ice which will constrict the vessels and prolong the venom (if there is any) from distributing. If anyone knows the answer to this, I would like to know as from my research applying ice was the gold standard.


  13. thanks Nicole! I felt a sting and itching on my big toe at work late this afternoon and by the time I got home my toe was purple, swollen with a string of little blisters that resembled something more like a jelly fish sting than an insect bite. (Yes I work in an office on the eastside of Seattle…not near jellyfish that I’m aware of.) I;’ve applied cold compresses and a salt wash, keeping the toe elevated. The swelling has dissipated significantly and I can wiggle the toe again. I am allergic to 4 or 5 antibiotics and with no sign of infection I feel comfortable keeping this injury clean and elevated without resorting to unnecessary drugs. I will say that I applied warm compresses early in the evening before reading this information. While the warmth did provide temporary relief I noticed the swelling returned immediately. So definitely cold compresses and ice are preferred to slow the spread of poison.


  15. I think a lot of the information you gave was good and correct. One thing that I did not agree with is that Hobo Spiders can be deadly. When they first started appearing here in Idaho there were several deaths, they really could not link the Hobo Spider with the deaths until they started capturing the Spiders and doing research. They finally were able to link the deaths with the Hobo Spider bite. There were not just a couple of deaths there were quit a few, especially in children and elderly people. Check out Hobo Spider deaths in Idaho Falls, Id, and Pocatello, Id. Thank you for your time.

  16. I got bit by a hobo spider last weekend at work… I work 40 hours in a 2 day period, and did not even notice the bite on my ankle, nor the redness or swelling, although my ankle did feel a bit itchy. A day and a half after my weekend shift, I had a massive blister the size of my ankle bone filled with puss, looked like a burn welt. I was worried about it, but figured it was just a blister from my high heel. I popped the blister (barely had to poke it) and the puss drained out. Foolishly, i was in too much of a hurry to properly clean the wound. All throughout the next few days, I suffered from migraines, nausea, and shortness of breath. Our boss here at work has had hissy fits several times that there are no hobo’s or brown recluses here, and I honestly thought nothing of them… not recalling back to last summer when I had killed several throughout the hotel.

    My ankle swelled a bit, but I cleaned the wound with hydrogen peroxide and then lavender essential oil. that seemed to scab it over for a bit, but man did it hurt! I still have not seen a doctor and did not realize what had happened till my sister, having seen a picture and hearing my symptoms, did research and directed me to several websites. The area around the open lesion (it opened again) is turning brown and it hurts like hell, and now I am thoroughly paranoid about getting medical attention.

    Thanks for the resources.

  17. I was bitten by the Hobo Spider…

    And then about 4 or 5 days later I woke up with two other bites.

    (total of 3 bites)

    I didn’t know that they were bites at first, however, after hearing about other people I know being bitten in the same camp where we are staying while working in the oil sands in Alberta, I am now convinced.

    I visited the hospital and was given antibiotics, as well as poly topic, (polysporin)…

    I checked out pics of the HOBO SPIDER BITE on the internet after I met a guy who saw my calf, and he told me that he was bitten before by the Hobo Spider while camping in a tent…

    Anyway, I will tell you this…


    Disregard the above advice, and KILL every HOBO SPIDER in your path is my new MODO…

    Barry J.

  18. My husband was bit by a hobo spider we went into the hospital since it was hurting him and he was vomiting. The doctors gave him some antibiotics and naproxen. It was getting worse so we went back and they continued to say that there was nothing they could do I now found the spider that bit him should we go back to the hospital?

  19. You have incorrectly identified the spider.

    Brown Recluse Spiders have a dark violin shape is located on the top of the leg attachment region with the neck of the violin pointing backward toward the abdomen.

    Hobo Spiders do NOT have a violin marking! Their abdomens have several chevron shaped markings.

  20. I was bitten last Saturday night in bed and I felt a very sharp pain, almost like a bee sting. Jumped out of bed immediately, found nothing. Shook out the bed sheets couldn’t find any type of bug. The next morning the site was blistered and about the size of a silver dollar. I used alcohol, peroxide and cortisone cream and bandaged the wound. Called the doc on Monday he said go to the hospital. Ridiculous I thought. Then the low grade fever, migraine type headache and exhaustion started. Saw a doc on Friday said it was healing nicely and continue to do what I’m doing. Well, now the symptoms are back again. The scab came off and back again. How long does this last? And what do I do now?? The headaches are back and i feel exhausted again. Had my husband bomb the house for the first time in 25 years. I figure if there is one there’s more. This is WAR!!

  21. My employee was bitten by a spider on the foot after putting on rubber irrigation boots. He didn’t know it was a spider bite and didn’t go to the doctor until the next day as symptoms worsened. The doctor didn’t diagnose it as a spider bite and just gave him antibiotics and pain meds. Two days later as symptoms worsened still he went to the emergency room and was admitted for 3 days with antibiotics and I assume antivenom because the told him it was a spider bite. He missed 7 days of work and is very sore still (two weeks after). I’m assuming it was a Hobo since the symptoms don’t match black widows and I’m told we don’t have brown recluse here in Southern Oregon. I’m not encouraged that it may take months to heal.

    I think it’s easy to over react about spiders considering their many benefits, BUT the danger of UNDER reacting to the danger of hobo spiders is very real. We will clean up our storage rooms, store equipment in tight containers and spray crevices with a labeled insecticide. The pain and disability are much too great to pass off as a minor threat.

  22. Help! I have been bitten several times now by what I believe is a hobo spider, but everytime I put ice on the bite it makes the swelling 10 times worse! I end up getting hives that have branched off of the main site, and pop up on top of each other. Eventually when the swelling goes away my skin will peel like a sunburn, but has never ulcerated. This last bite(#6), left me with dibilatating pain in my back, arm, and neck. Does this sound like traditional Hobo spider bites?

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