How to identify (or misidentify) the hobo spider
September 27, 2014 3:14 PM   Subscribe

How to identify (or misidentify) the hobo spider (pdf). Did you find a hobo spider? Here's an easy, step-by-step guide to determining whether or not you really have one.
posted by bigbigdog (41 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Quite often the question is not "What spider do I have?"

I have certainly found that to be true.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:17 PM on September 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


Where is the "nope" tag?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:17 PM on September 27, 2014 [8 favorites]


Did you find a hobo spider?

Is he carrying a stick with a sack at the end of it?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2014 [18 favorites]


Timely post. We just had our first big rain in the Puget Sound region, and while it's sunny again fall and winter will soon set in and send all the spiders inside.
posted by edeezy at 3:35 PM on September 27, 2014


Did you find a hobo spider?

Hope not, for its sake.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:37 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is he carrying a stick with a sack at the end of it?

More to the point, is the spider carving a tint nickle into an even smaller piece of art? Also, if you can determine that the spider goes by "Iowa Phil" or "Big Marie," the answer could well be "yes."
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:41 PM on September 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


So basically it's a firmware revision and you have to check the serial number.
posted by tigrrrlily at 3:45 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I found this page a while ago since we get a lot of scary-looking (and unbelievably fast, when they are skittering across the floor) brown spiders in our basement. Pretty much all of them were easily identified as not-hobo (presumably giant house spiders) based on the thorax spots test.

The key to convincing my wife not to smash them "just to be safe" is that the spiders that look like hobo spiders actually help prevent hobo spiders since they occupy the same ecological niche.

Also, the fact that the giant house spiders you see skittering across the floor are generally males looking for a mate. Hard to feel good about smashing a poor spider just looking for some booty.
posted by bjrubble at 3:47 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]


Would read 'how to identify the hobo spider from a long way away'.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 4:07 PM on September 27, 2014 [12 favorites]


This is neat! A few years ago my kids & I started trying to identify the spiders we found, and it's very hard. Multiple similar species, variation within species... We learned that often you can only definitely identify spiders by examining their reproductive organs. I'm happy to have this demonstration of that principle.
posted by not that girl at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2014


I suppose you can bait traps for them with open cans of Sterno, so there's that.
posted by tommasz at 4:21 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Last week we got our first rain of the fall last week in Portland and my Facebook page was awash in spiders!

If you are in Portland and you want a spider identified you can take it to the Binford Spider Lab!
posted by vespabelle at 4:22 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


Google "hobo spider range"...

Hahaha suck it PNW.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:36 PM on September 27, 2014


I can't really tell...spiderbro is kind of, smashed...
posted by Windopaene at 4:55 PM on September 27, 2014


Ugh. Suddenly I feel all itchy. WHAT IS CLIMBING ON ME OH MY G
posted by litlnemo at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2014


A few years ago my kids & I started trying to identify the spiders we found, and it's very hard.

Ask is awesome at it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:33 PM on September 27, 2014


Is he carrying a stick with a sack at the end of it?

Or as hobospiderologists call it, a "bindle".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:35 PM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


A very clearly written guide. I would like for the authors to do one for gulls commonly seen on the West coast, and sure, warblers too, why not.
posted by rtha at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2014


Or as hobospiderologists call it, a "bindle".

A word that, I now realize, I can only hear in the voice of Cave Johnson.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:45 PM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm not moving to Portland.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:06 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is he carrying a stick with a sack at the end of it

Arachnologists have such cute names for razor-sharp stingers and poison sacs!
posted by a lungful of dragon at 6:12 PM on September 27, 2014


Yes I will certainly flip this spider upside down to verify if it has spots on its sternum. That sounds like a great idea.
posted by ymgve at 6:14 PM on September 27, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm still trying to understand the suggested method to identify a living spider: you put it in a plastic bag and somehow flatten it to get the legs out of the way so you can see the bits you need to, and then you can release it.

How exactly do you herd a live spider into a plastic bag? Entice it in with a fly? And how do you not break their itty bitty legs while they're (presumably) not terribly thrilled with a) being in a plastic bag, and b) being manipulated like a new yoga student with an enthusiastic instructor?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:26 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


I assume having an indentured servant who job it is to be bitten by spiders and then observed for necrosis is frowned upon?
posted by maxwelton at 6:46 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm quite happy letting the hobo spider mosey on to wherever it wants to, as long as it's nowhere near me.
posted by arcticseal at 6:47 PM on September 27, 2014


The part I liked was "Submerge the spider in alcohol." I can get behind that.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:40 PM on September 27, 2014


> see the bits

It's naughty bits!
posted by morganw at 10:40 PM on September 27, 2014


TL;DR: To a first approximation, it's not a hobo spider.

Most of the big spiders we have around here are giant house spiders, not hobo spiders. The one exception I know of was Charlotte I*, who shared my first post-college apartment with me and my friend Elana, and whom we thought of as a very small roommate (or, alternately, "She's not a bug! She's a feature!") because she ate the hell out of the bugs that inevitably make it into a basement apartment. I loved her and defended her against all detractors until the morning when I woke up with a sudden pain in my foot that proved to be Charlotte biting the shit out of me, resulting in an ugly bite with a black necrotic crater the size of my pinky nail in the middle that left a a scar which was still clearly visible 12 years later. (I didn't have health insurance at the time, so when it started to get red and hot, I dunked a Q-tip soaked in straight bleach in the wound. I felt that all the way to the top of my head.) Now if I can't clearly identify them as giant house spiders, they go outside.

* all resident spiders large enough to get names are named Charlotte
posted by KathrynT at 10:45 PM on September 27, 2014 [9 favorites]


Came for the spider identification, stayed for the seriously hard core spider bite treatment.
posted by smidgen at 11:23 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ugh. I would SO like to be one of those fine people who like spiders, but they give me the shuddering creeps. I lived in Tucson for nearly 30 years and had many, many run-ins with black widows - I've even combed them out of my hair - and I abandoned a small storage room full of old treasures to the blasted black widows. But I just don't like spiders, period. Most of them I let live and if I can I get them to the outdoors and tell them to stay there, but I've squashed many a spider IN my house where they don't belong and I do.

We do have hobo spiders here. This description is informative, but it's definitely biased toward the critter you're dealing with being a good-natured, harmless brown spider and I find that a little unfair since hobo bites really are no joke.

The garage where I used to live had a whole bunch of trampoline-type webs in the corners - they looked like small shelves - and mostly we just got in and out of there without bothering any of them. I had a small flowerbed by my front door and a porch light over it so there were lots of spiders and other small things that hung out there looking for a meal. It was very common for one or more of them to invite themselves in when I opened the door but I usually just "broomed" them back out. Then one night as I was getting into bed, with the only light in the house coming from the lamp on my bedside table, this big round-backed spider came running out of my closet toward the bed. Let me tell you THAT was not nice! I couldn't catch him or kill him or anything else that night but the next day I tore the closet apart and found one of those corner-shelf type webs. I worked all day at the closet but never found the spider.

That night I turned on the lamp and very shortly here he came - scooting right at the light. I put my feet down on the floor in front of him this time instead of yanking them up onto the bed and the damn spider ran right up onto my slipper. I had stupidly thought I was going to turn him around with my big slipper - wrong! After the little spell I had then, the spider had disappeared again and the night was miserable as I slept on my lumpy couch in the living room.

The next night I had him figured out so I sat in a chair in the bedroom with a flyswat in one hand and my big slipper in the other hand. I turned out all the lights in the house and put my bedside lamp on the floor with the light on. It took him only a moment to come flying out into the light and I squashed him with the flyswat. There was enough left to identify him as a true hobo on the spider identification website from the college.

I'm sorry to be so mean and lack understanding about the poor hobo who only wanted to gorge on mosquitoes and other evil things ... no, I'm not, either. Ugh.
posted by aryma at 11:35 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]


How exactly do you herd a live spider into a plastic bag? Entice it in with a fly?

Chalk a singal on a post outside the bag indicating "a good woman lives here"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:37 AM on September 28, 2014 [8 favorites]


As I was riding home the other night, I looked down at my speedometer and saw I had a little spider buddy. Unfortunately I did not have a helmet for him, so we had to hope for the best. I said "hang on little friend!" and we continued on, past texting drivers, unpredictable cabbies, the dreaded #9 bus of yore, and people yelling crazy shit. There were high winds on the bridge but my pal hunkered down, it almost looked like his eyes were squinted shut against the exposure. Finally, we made it to the safety of home and the garage, where I invited my little friend to take up residence somewhere slightly less exciting, like my neighbor's golf shoes.


I was able to determine it was not a hobo spider, since I ride a scooter, not a train.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:17 AM on September 28, 2014 [11 favorites]


The part I liked was "Submerge the spider in alcohol." I can get behind that

As long as it’s not my alcohol you’re submerging it in...

(And I’m glad I live in London, where you don’t have to worry about whether the spiders are poisonous. Or as big as your hand. Or whether there are snakes in the garden. Or bears.)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 4:05 AM on September 28, 2014


As long as it’s not my alcohol you’re submerging it in...

Mezcal is for the weak.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 5:28 AM on September 28, 2014


Or whether there are snakes in the garden. Or bears.)

You know things have gotten bad when you have to worry about there being snakes in the bears. Bears are bad enough on their own. Actually, so are many gardens.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:34 AM on September 28, 2014


This might be one of those cases where correlation and causation have become quantum entangled, and we await the inevitable appearance of the cat, at least if you believe Wikipedia:
The CDC and other U.S. government agencies have also used this same study as the basis for a report claiming that the hobo spider bite causes necrosis in humans, despite the absence of any confirmed cases. Subsequent attempts to replicate the study by injecting sufficient venom to ensure envenomation have failed to produce necrotic lesions, and there is even question as to whether the lesions observed in the original study were necrotic.
[shrugs] People are afraid of spiders.
posted by sneebler at 7:56 AM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's definitely possible that something else caused the shitty black crater on my foot -- I was not taking great care of myself at the time, it could have been a staph infection or cutaneous strep or something else similarly yucky. The presence of the spider on my foot makes me suspicious tho.
posted by KathrynT at 4:53 PM on September 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I couldn't make it through all the ruthless chastising about how dumb I am about spiders.
posted by univac at 1:01 AM on September 29, 2014


My tablet chokes on pdfs, so I apologize for not reading the link, but I did want to share that I'm reading the thread while a golden orb weaver bigger than my hand weaves a truck-tire size web about 3 feet away. She's awesome. Every garden should have one. Well, and a bear.
posted by dejah420 at 6:50 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought it was charming and fascinating. I was trying to figure out if the vast collection of enormous spiders that have appeared around our new house is dangerous (they're not, they're golden orb spiders and they're gorgeous), and it turns out black widows and brown recluses aren't around here, but hobo spiders are. My take was that these guys haven't seen proof they're dangerous and are a bit bemused by all the queries about hobo spiders. So they wrote this up to take those requests seriously, but they're probably all around and not dangerous, so there's some gentle chiding about what it really takes to identify one.

That it reminded me just how fractal nature is, that's a bonus. That there are so many kinds of spiders all around each other, sharing the same niche yet unable to mate and even their junk is shaped different in ways we can't see without a microscope. And just how long it takes to get that many kinds of spiders. And how if spiders could adapt like humans they wouldn't need so many species, and how that thought need not keep me up at night, really, not at all, because spiders with culture are nothing to be afraid of. Nope.
posted by bigbigdog at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


In conclusion, spider genitalia is a land of very small contrasts.
posted by bigbigdog at 12:26 PM on October 4, 2014


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