August starts next week and with it, is the advent of Willamette Valley’s spider season. Up north, we have very few actually dangerous animals. We try to make the most of those that we host.
No boa constrictors that suck down tapirs like a burrito; just mild mannered garter snakes. No snapping turtles that nip off fingers like salsa-dipped nacho chips; just sun-basking pond turtles. No crocodiles that tear apart disoriented tourists like a crispy bean tostada; just edgy fence post lizards. (Okay, enough Mexican food references for this post. Just for the record though, I want to say that Chapala’s makes a great dish of veggie quesadillas.)
What we have in Oregon, is hobo spiders. In August, the spiders are in their prime. Webs are everywhere. Hobo spiders do actually make webs but they are small, funnel-shaped and usually hidden under the house. They haunt small, dark places so unless you live in the Bat Cave, you probably won’t spot one.
Hobo spiders are fairly rare. In the last 5 years of examining spider corpses spread across tea towels brought in by nervous Oregonians to OSU extension service, there have only been 2 positive IDs on hobo spiders. The poor things must have been featured on Fox News at some point, because there are probably 3 times as many reports of these phantoms than there are actual hobos.
The bitter irony is that most of the spider bits brought in as hobo spider suspects are actually giant house spiders. They do look a lot alike to us but there is a distinctive difference in their behavior. Giant house spiders are insect version of Doberman Pinschers. They are friendly (unless threatened) and are common household critters. They patrol the halls looking for lunch. Giant house spiders eat hobo spiders.
Take note, Oregonians. This means that the non-toxic but scary looking spiders that you do see are protecting you from the toxic, scary looking spiders that you don’t see. Take a deep breath, my dear arachnophobic neighbors. Do yourself a favor and step away from the tea towel.
Author’s Note: The bite of a hobo, like all funnel web spider bites, is quite painful. First Aid must be administered within 24 hours. Before you get professional help, trap the spider in a see through container for positive ID and treat the wound with a cold compress of witch hazel extract to help draw out the venom. Actual hobo spider bites can be very serious. Do not squeeze the wound. Do not panic. Just get help.