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Good news, bad news about Northwest spiders

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Brown reclusePULLMAN – People in the Northwest can take a sigh of relief as researchers confirm brown recluse spiders do not live in our area. A scientist at Washington State University wants to clear the dreaded spider’s name. Richard Zack said the spiders that live in our region are the hobo, wolf and giant house spiders.

“People often tell me they saw or they got bitten by a brown recluse,” Zack said.”But if it happened out here, it’s probably another species of spider they’re talking about.”

While a brown recluse’s venom can be toxic to humans, Zack says it’s very rare for the bite to turn into a serious flesh-eating condition. Just last month, the death of heavy metal guitarist Jeff Hanneman in Los Angeles was blamed on a flesh-eating disease caused by a brown recluse that bit him in a hot tub. A few days later, the cause of death was attributed to chronic liver failure. For the record, the brown recluse lives in the South and lower Midwest.

Zack said the spiders people in the Northwest should worry about are black widows and hobos, whose venom can make people sick.

“If someone gets bit, it’s usually defensive in nature,” Zack said.

The venom of those two species is not as threatening to humans as that of a recluse, he said. A black widow typically injects a neurotoxin that can make people feel sick as if they had the flu, according to the Washington State Department of Health website on venomous spiders. The venom of a hobo can produce a slow-healing wound around the area of the bite, the website says.

Zack stressed that the incidence of spider bites that actually inflict harm is quite low.

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11 comments

  • wendy

    I respect your opinion however heard the same line on a radio commentary; however also in 1994 I was admitted to Harborview hospital with a bite they had no idea what had bitten me until a few days later a nurse from out of state looked at my thumb and said: "that resembles a brown recluse bite" the hospital treated me for that and ended up amputating a part of my thumb that had turned black, I was kept in the hospital for 2 weeks due to a fever of 103 they couldn't break. You are not going to tell me that you can say with certainty the Northwest has no brown recluse spiders.

  • fred

    Hobo's in the Pullman area are agressive & we have have the scars to prove it.
    They are territorial & can inflict a nasty bite leaving you sick for several days with a necrotic wound that can go on for months.
    The Hobo's bite is Lightening Fast, Black Widows on the other hand are timid & Non Agressive.
    Until you've lived in an infested area Infested with Hobo's people shouldn't call the Hobo Spider Bite Defensive in nature. They are dead wrong.
    Some people tend to get bitten over & over while others go unscathed.

    • Spider Power

      In WA, we have more giant house spiders and wolf spiders than hobo spiders. I can tell you from experience that Hobo spiders are NOT aggressive. I can’t say she’s a “pet” but I have a hobo spider and several spiders including a black widow in captivity. I hold them all, I pick them up with my hands, and have even tried to make the hobo bite me and she wouldn’t. The Hobo, or Tegenaria agrestis, are wrongly named “Aggressive House Spider” because of the way “agrestis” sounds. The Latin word Agrestis actually means agri, agriculture, “field” or “spider of the field” They are a common spider in Europe (where they originated) and never were they considered a threat to humans over there.
      Point is, if you’re getting bit, it’s not likely to be a hobo, or if it is, you’d have to be trapping it against your skin to provoke a bite. Even then they are very reluctant to bite you. (See my video “Hobo spider bite test” on YouTube then “Hobo spider PSA” if you get a chance)

  • dale

    i have been bitten by a black widow spider and got really sick like i had the flu for about two days and the area around the bite was red where as the bite itself was white and swollen

  • Lara

    I have been bitten three times by a hobo spider. They are nasty little things and it was on whidbey island I got bit twice and once in sedro woolley. Caused a flesh eating reaction and a lot of pain and swelling. I haven’t seen a recluse here even once but numerous wolf spiders and hobo spiders. They are extremely aggressive and will attack over nothing.

  • karen granger dempsey

    Well I WAS bitten in Spokane by a brown recluse back in 1976 taken to hospital wvery high temp middle of summer wearing 3sweaters and a parka shivering in the waiting room i said i saw jesus with his arms out to me. Well they got me in quick, isolated the area(big toe). The Hospital did not recognize the bite…a blue black spot with a white ring around it so they had to call University of Wa.to get an identification. I had the whole staff it seems come in just to look at the bite for it was so rare in washington. Men came to my apartment basement where i got bit to try to find the spider( the laundry room where I went barefoot to do my wash that day). They concluded the spider hitched a ride in a suitcase and was prob dead. Don’t downplay or scoff when someone tells you they were bitten by brown recluse. It was horrible.

  • Tiffany

    I had a spider expert at my home 2015 who found a brown recluse in my wood pile. In 2004 my best friend/college volleyball team mate/room mate was admitted from LLC where doctors told us she had been bitten by a brown recluse after she not only had a giant hole in her leg, but we also brought in the spider. I too respect the opinion, but I definitely don’t believe this to be an isolated case.

  • whatsthis

    When I lived on Orcas Island for three years I was bitten three times by Hobo spiders and once by a Black Widow spider. Hobos are fast and aggressive. They also sneak up on you while watching TV or when you are sleeping in bed. Their bacteria from the bite is very toxic and can eat through leather as well as human flesh. I have seen it done. Yes, I have also caught a recluse in the Long Beach, WA area. Vacuum your home regularly (all corners and nooks) and set sticky spider traps at baseboards.

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