Two of the most common questions about hobo spiders are: what does a hobo spider look like? And is a hobo spider poisonous? Keep reading and we’ll answer both questions as well as several others.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- What a Hobo Spider Is
- What Hobo Spiders Eat
- How To Handle Your Hobo Spider Problems
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
What is a Hobo Spider?
Hobo spiders are arachnids in the class Arachnida, order Araneae, in the family agelenidae, meaning funnel web builders. Funnel-web spiders build funnel-shaped webs around wood piles and rocks, in tall grass, and the crevices and borders of retaining walls and house foundations.
The funnel is shaped like a tornado with an exceptionally wide mouth. The narrow end of the funnel is back down in a hole or hidden by the grass, logs, rocks, or other obstruction. When an insect becomes entangled in the web, the spider darts out of the narrow end and bites its prey to envenomate it, then pulls it back down to feed at its leisure.
The hobo spider was introduced into the United States in the Pacific Northwest, in the 1930s by accident. In North America, it is mainly limited to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, along with a scattering of sightings in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana.
A female hobo spider may live as long as 2-3 years but the males generally die after mating. During the summer the males will seek out the females, mate with them, then die before October arrives. They are nocturnal so most of their activity will be at night.
The females will lay their eggs in September, producing 1-4 egg sacks over a period of about 4 weeks. After laying their eggs, most females will die in late autumn but some may survive the winter to mate again the following year.
In the spring, the eggs will begin hatching to start the cycle all over again.
Interestingly, hobo spiders are poor climbers. Flat painted surfaces, smooth metal, porcelain, glass, fine-sanded or lacquered wood will defeat them if they try to climb them. They can only climb rough surfaces such as stone, brick, fabric furniture, and drapes.
Are Hobo Spiders Known by Any Other Names?
The primary names used for hobo spiders are aggressive house spiders and funnel weaver.
Check out this video for more information on getting rid of hobo spiders in your home and on your property.
What Does a Hobo Spider Look Like?
A hobo spider is a brown, long-legged, fast-moving spider. It has a brown cephalothorax, the front part of the body, that is wider than the longer and narrower abdomen. The cephalothorax is where the legs attach to spiders.
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Are Hobo Spiders Poisonous or Dangerous?
This is one of the common questions about hobo spiders and the source of much of the confusion surrounding them. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, toxinologist Darwin Vest at Washington State University in Pullman did some research that led him to believe that hobo spider bites created necrotic lesions on people they bit.
This would put them in the same class as brown recluse spiders and black widow spiders as venomous spiders whose bite required medical attention. This catapulted the hobo into the small group of spider species classified as dangerous to humans.
However, Vest was not an arachnologist and biologist Greta Binford of Lewis and Clark College, as well as others at the University of Michigan, encountered difficulty replicating his results when they performed the same tests he did.
Rick Vetter, an arachnologist at the University of California, noted that one of the subjects in Vest’s research was a woman who suffered from phlebitis, a circulatory problem that can cause necrotic lesions.
Vetter also noted that an Australian spider, the white-tailed spider, that had once been classified as venomous, upon further study had been found to be completely harmless, the victim of misidentification and accidental proximity.
Unless the victim sees the spider bite them and captures that particular spider for identification and study, seeing a random spider in the room later, doesn’t implicate that spider. It may not even be the same species.
Furthermore, many of the victims in Vest’s research reported being asleep at the time they were bitten, making any subsequent identification of the spider that bit them problematic, to say the least.
Hobo spider venom from Europe was compared with those in America and found to be identical yet there was no history in Europe that hobo spider bites caused necrotic lesions on people or even a blister. A bite from a brown recluse, by contrast, definitely causes necrotic lesions.
The current web site for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) only lists two venomous spiders for North America, the brown recluse and the black widow. An older version of the CDC’s web site from 1996, reports some of the cases that Vest worked on and labels the hobo spider as a venomous spider.
This leaves us with two different CDC web sites; an older one that says the hobo spider is venomous and a more recent one that doesn’t even mention it.
So, is a hobo spider poisonous? Given the inherent problems in Vest’s research methodology and the inability of other researchers to duplicate his results, the existing consensus is that hobo spiders are not poisonous.
Furthermore, there are no confirmed reports of a person being bitten by a hobo spider. That being the case, there is no way to answer the commonly asked question, what does a hobo spider bite look like? The fact is, no one knows.
Read More: How to Keep Spiders Away
What Do Hobo Spiders Look Like & How Do I Identify Hobo Spiders?
Hobo spiders are brown, long-legged, fast-moving spiders. It has a brown cephalothorax, the front part of the body, that is wider than the longer and narrower abdomen. The cephalothorax is where the legs attach to spiders.
According to the Burke Museum, identifying a hobo spider without a microscope is very difficult.
The abdomen has yellowish markings on a gray background, but without a microscope, it just looks yellowish-brown in appearance. They don’t have any bands or dark stripes, so if you see a brown spider that has stripes of any kind, you know its not a hobo spider.
If the legs have dark bands around them, that’s also not a hobo spider. Also, if the legs and cephalothorax are shiny or have a dark orange color to them, that’s not a hobo spider either.
A hobo spider’s body length is under three-quarters of an inch and the female is slightly larger than the male. Unfortunately, any species-specific identifying marks are too small to see with the naked eye. The only way to reliably identify them is with a microscope.
As noted earlier, they’re fast. They can move at speeds of 17 inches per second up to 40 inches per second. That’s over 3 feet per second. Good luck catching one to ID it!
What Are Hobo Spiders Commonly Mistaken For?
Due to their lack of noticeable markings, hobo spiders can easily be mistaken for other species of spiders. According to Vetter, coloration alone is the “least reliable” method of identifying a hobo spider. Here are just a few of the other species they look like.
Hobo Spider Vs. Giant House Spider (Eratigena duellica)
The giant house spider is virtually identical to the hobo spider. There is some evidence they may even mate with each other from time to time. The only difference between them is their size. The giant house spider is somewhat larger than the hobo spider.
However, this won’t always help because spiders grow continually throughout their lives, so a young giant house spider may be physically smaller than an older hobo spider.
Hobo Spider Vs. Grass Spider (Agelenopsis hololena)
Grass spiders are also funnel-web spiders who, as the name implies, live mostly in the grass. They’re normally found out in the yard rather than in the house. They’re nearly identical to hobo spiders except for the prominent bands on their cephalothorax.
Like hobo spiders and wolf spiders (also a member of the funnel-web spider family), grass spiders are very fast. Unless you can catch a glimpse of the dark bands on the cephalothorax, you could easily mistake them for a hobo spider.
Hobo Spider Vs. Barn Funnel Weaver (Tegenaria domestica)
Another spider commonly mistaken for a hobo spider is the barn funnel weaver spider. These spiders are normally found in Ohio in basements, barns, sheds, and other buildings. They are also known as house funnel weavers.
They are medium to large in size, like hobo spiders, and with light brown coloration. They have two dark lines that start at the eyes and continue down their back. There is also a light “chevron” pattern on the abdomen.
The most noticeable difference between barn funnel weavers and hobo spiders is simply their physical location. Hobo spiders are confined almost entirely to the Pacific Northwest. They have never been found in Ohio.
What Do Hobo Spiders Eat?
Like most spiders, hobo spiders will eat insects and in this way, they are actually beneficial. Hobo spiders will eat any insect that becomes trapped in its web. There are no reports of them refusing any insect that is offered to them.
How to Handle Your Hobo Spider Problem
We’ll start by admitting that most insecticides won’t touch many spiders. This is especially true for hobo spiders due to their speed. They simply don’t stay in contact with any pesticide long enough to absorb a lethal dose.
However, because they are poor climbers, they normally enter a house at ground level through the cracks under doors, so weather striping is the answer.
Installing a solid floor sweep that completely closes the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor is the only reliable way to keep them out. Seal around all the windows if your house has a rough exterior that they can cling to.
How to Get Rid of Hobo Spiders (Most Popular)
The most popular way to get rid of hobo spiders that have moved into your house is to use Delta Dust in all the tight cracks and crevices where they might be hiding. You’ll need a bulb duster to apply it.
If you see their funnel web, don’t remove it. Instead, give it a light coating of Delta Dust and every time they run across the web they’ll get more of it on them and eventually pick up a lethal dose that will kill them.
Best Trap to Catch Hobo Spiders
The best trap to use for catching hobo spiders is one that has been used by pest control professionals for decades – sticky boards. These insect traps are folding cardboard strips with a tacky glue on one side. They come in boxes of 90 traps.
Peel off the protective plastic, fold the trap along the dotted until it’s in the shape of a triangle. Put them out where you suspect the hobo spiders are nesting or foraging, then check the traps each morning. Once the traps are full, throw them away and put out new ones.