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A hobo didn’t just find a giant hobo spider!

July 18, 2015

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What my homeless buddy tapped me with on the back, early Friday evening, was clearly a distressingly large and long-legged spider that he’d earlier trapped in a clear plastic container.

He naturally thought that he’d captured something potentially dangerous and/or exotic — perhaps a hobo spider — which many rough-sleeping homeless people seem to have a thing about. He spoke of taking it up to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to have it identified.

However, what he thought was a hobo spider, instead appears to be a close (but completely harmless) relative of the hobo, known as a giant house spider (Eratigena atrica); a common, albeit shy, Vancouver arachnid.

If looks could kill

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Any large spider touches the fear in most people and the giant house spider that my friend caught had a leg span, front-to-back, approaching that of a medium sized human hand — a truly arresting sight!

As we were taking photographs of it on West Broadway Avenue, many passers-by stopped to gape or emitted bleats of distress as they hurried past.

Beside the formidable body size and the long legs, it was the pointy pedipalps — too easily mistaken for fangs — that elicited the most concern (they’re actually sensory and sexual organs).

But, as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you also can’t blame a spider for its fear factor.

A harmless and helpful spider that sees us as big and scary too

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According to a post on the Spiderbytes blog entitled “The real house spiders of Vancouver“, giant house spiders are not only harmless to people, they are actually pretty wonderful house guests.

Once you get used to their size and their incredible speed and get it through the prehistoric part of your brain that they can’t and won’t hurt you, you can trust these spiders to quietly keep your home free of all manner of arthropodic pests.

Our hard-wired fear of spiders makes us see things

The author of Spiderbytes, Catherine Scott, writes that she believes, far too often in Vancouver, supposed sightings of feared wolf spiders are actually innocuous giant house spiders.

Wolf spiders (Lycosidae) grow big with a body length up to 35¬†milimetres (much larger than the giant house spider’s 18.5 millimetres). The wolf spider has become notorious in the public imagination for causing necrotizing (tissue-destroying) bite wounds.

Hobo spiders are another large species feared (at least in North America) for producing venom that causes necrotizing skin lesions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists the hobo as one of the three venomous spiders found in the United States — the other two being the black widow and the brown recluse.

While the black widow and the brown recluse really do have potentially serious bites there is 30 years of scientific research showing that the deadliness of the brown recluse’s bite is far more myth than reality.

There is also growing doubt about the toxicity of the hobo spider’s bite and absolutely no scientific evidence that either hobo or wolf spider venom can kill human skin tissue.

British Columbia may not have brown recluse spiders but the province, especially the southwestern part, is home to many large spiders, including the western black widow, the hobo spider, the wolf spider and of course, the wonderful and loveable giant house spider! Click the images to enlarge them.

From → Fairview, Spiders

2 Comments
  1. Slowcrow permalink

    Nice post. Thanks for spider blog link. I look forward to reading her neat take on the spidey world.

  2. Clicked on one of the images to enlarge it and suddenly had the strong urge to run away screaming. Thanks for all the info! Very interesting.

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