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Hobo spider sickens Sequim woman

Lorene Rittenmyer is going to think twice about heading back into her herb garden anytime soon.

The Bell Hill resident still is ailing from a three-week old bite from what doctors and gardeners say was a hobo spider.

The hobo spider, often confused with the more venomous brown recluse spider, is common throughout the Pacific Northwest. A large brown spider commonly found with yellow markings on its abdomen, hobos catch their prey in funnel-like webs they build in holes, cracks and recesses.

Rittenmyer found hers on a warm summer day near a retaining wall while trimming plants in her herb garden. Apparently the spider bit her on the leg and crawled off without being spotted.



From sore to swollen

While she says she didn't even feel the bite right away, Rittenmyer did notice the mark. It started as a little sore spot and eventually developed into severe swelling in her lower leg, a knot on her calf and eventually pain all the way to her hip.

She couldn't walk for days.

"I was never so sick in my life," she said. "The main thing to do is get to the doctor right away."

Rittenmyer says she went to doctors three times in that first week and they worried she might have a blood clot. But it was a worker for a local pest control company who suggested it might be the work of a hobo spider.

Sure enough, Rittenmyer, a Sequim resident since 1990, found evidence of such a neighbor: a funnel-like web.

Rittenmyer had a pest control business spray to wipe out some of her garden's spiders.

Guy Richardson of Angeles Pest Control says the hobo spider isn't rare - but bites are.

"They hide and they only bite defensively," Richardson says.

"This time of year, they're looking for mates."

The hobo spider, or Tegenaria agrestis, may be found in outdoor workplaces, in foundations, window wells, and stacks of firewood and bricks.

Indoors, they can nest between boxes or other storage items, on window sills, under baseboard heaters or radiators, behind furniture and in closets.

Richardson says he tells his clients to shake out their outdoor and gardening boots and gloves and to wear long-sleeved shirts when possible. He and his co-workers put on full suits before working below houses and decks to ward off bites from spiders and other pests.

Hobo spiders do not climb like most spiders but are fast runners. These spiders are much more likely to attack if provoked or threatened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Richardson says he's noticed an increase in spider populations this fall.

"It may have something to do with the dry weather we've had this summer," he says.

For some, that's bad news - particularly local insects and other bugs that spiders feed on.

"People have phobias

about (spiders, but) the amount of good they do far outweighs anything else," Richardson says.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.





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