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Spiders are arachnids and feed on living prey. They provide a great benefit to the world by feeding on insects and, thereby, reducing insect populations. Most spiders catch their prey in silk webs, but a few actively hunt them.
Spiders pose certain health risks to humans. They invoke fear, create allergic reactions, and sometimes their bites cause serious medical problems. Fear of spiders is called arachnophobia. Inhalation of spider hairs and scales can cause allergic reactions in people similarly to those found with cockroach allergies. Spiders are predators and use venom to incapacitate their prey. Spiders rarely bite unprovoked, but will bite when trapped against skin or if they feel threatened. It is nearly impossible to determine precisely what type of spider has bitten someone when no spider has been found. A bite victim should seek medical attention, and an attempt should be made to capture the spider for correct identification and treatment. Even though most spider bites do not get professional medical attention, around 10,000 spider bites get reported to poison control centers every year. Here are some spiders common to the Pacific Northwest:
Aggressive House Spider, AKA The Hobo Spider’ (Tegenaria Agrestis)
Females make funnel webs; males typically roam in search of a mate. The male venom contains a powerful toxin which causes necrotic arachnidism, a constriction of blood flow to cells, resulting in skin and/or muscle tissue death, similar to the venom of a Brown Recluse. Flu-like symptoms are also often reported.
Yellow Sac Spider (Cheiracanthium Inclusum)
Sac Spiders construct a silken sac in a protected area, such as within a leaf, under landscape materials or logs, or at the junction of a wall and ceiling, and they use this sac as their daytime retreat. This is how they get their name. These spiders do not build webs. The venom of theYellow Sac Spider contains a cytotoxin, a cell-killing necrotoxin, like the venom of a Hobo Spider or Brown Recluse.
Brown Recluse Spider AKA The ‘Violin Spider’ or ‘Fiddle-back Spider’ (Loxosceles Recluse)
There are several kinds of Recluse spiders, but none that can live and breed in the Northwest climate. Therefore, they would have to be transported in from southern states. Necrotic bites in Oregon thought to be the Brown Recluse are usually confused with the Hobo or Yellow Sac Spiders. Perhaps the most-feared spider, the Brown Recluse is certainly the most famous of the three in North America whose bite causes necrosis. There are documented cases of fatalities from Brown Reclusebites.
Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus Hesperus)
Black Widow Spiders are sensitive to light, so they’re more commonly seen in crawl spaces and at night. The female is jet black and usually has a red “hourglass” design on the underside of the large abdomen. Males are white, yellow, or cocoa brown, often speckled or streaked. The female’s venom, a neurotoxin, is harmful to humans. Most experience localized pain, swelling, and overall nausea. In acute cases, difficulty in breathing and fatality has occurred.
Wolf Spider (Family Lycosidae)
Found around the world, Wolf Spiders are unique in the way that they carry their eggs. The egg sac, a round silken globe, is attached to the spinnerets at the end of the abdomen, allowing the spider to carry her unborn young with her. Immediately after the spiderlings emerge from their protective silken case, they clamber up their mother’s legs and crowd onto her abdomen. The Wolf Spider is poisonous but the bite is not necrotic and generally not considered very harmful to humans. Swelling, redness and mild pain where the bite is occurs for a few days.
Cellar Spider AKA Daddy Long Legs, Vibrating Spider, Skull Spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
Cellar Spiders are one of the most common spiders found inside homes. As their name suggests, they are found in cellars, as well as closets, attics and sheds. Their web is irregular, utilizing wobbly, vibrating movements to confuse predators and attackers. Contrary to popular lore, it is not true that they would be the most toxic spider on the planet if it weren’t for their fangs being too tiny to bite. They actually can bite humans, but their bites are basically harmless.
House and Garden Spiders
Many other spiders are commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. They include: Domestic House Spider, Gigantic House Spider, Crab Spider, Cross Spider, Jumping Spider, Orb Weavers, Callobius Severus, Trap-Door Spider, and more. Although many will bite, it is usually no worse than a bee sting unless one is allergic to their venom. However, when left uncontrolled, they can become a nuisance in and around our homes.