Extension seeks to educate, calm the public's fear of spidersThey'll be crossing your kitchen floor. You'll find them in gardens and slipping down bathtub walls. They're looking for eight loving arms to hold them - and the lucky ones will survive the mating process to live through another season.

For some spider suitors, searching for a leggy lady arachnid may pose certain health hazards, such as an encounter with a human foot.

The western black widow male faces another challenge. He must scurry away quickly after he mates in case the female, who is eating for about 150, has a sudden craving. She'll devour her beau, finding that he's a very good provider for her young - his flesh will supply nutrients.

Justin Williams, Oregon State University Extension faculty member for Clatsop County, said arachnaphobics should cut spiders a break - they're beneficial to gardens and keep bugs in check. He said people should be aware that more spiders will be out in the open this fall during the mating season, but that doesn't mean their numbers have increased.

Williams identifies spider varieties at Extension for those who are worried they may have a dangerous species in their home or garden. He usually deals with about one spider a week, but during the mating season he expects an increase of up to three.

There are only two dangerously poisonous spiders in Oregon: the western black widow and the aggressive house spider, also known as the hobo, which is one of the fastest spiders known.

However, people bring in all varieties for Williams to inspect out of concern they may be harmful.

"Ninety percent of the time, it's not even close to what the two poisonous spiders are," Williams said.

Those who believe they've seen or been bitten by a brown recluse are caught in a web of misinformation. That spider is nowhere west of the Rockies, Williams said. Often people mistake house spiders, gigantic house spiders and hobos - all three look very similar - for brown recluses.

"It's literally anything they bring in is a brown recluse," he said.

And while popular media may spin tales of deadly spider attacks, bites from the hobo and black widow are rarely fatal, though bites are especially dangerous to small children and the elderly.

The black widow can inject venom into its victim, causing little immediate pain. In fact, the bite may go unnoticed by the victim. Later, he or she may experience muscle and abdominal pain, weakness and tremor. Nausea, vomiting, faintness, chest pain and difficulty breathing may follow.

Hobo venom can cause immediate redness, a severe headache and sometimes nausea, weakness, fatigue, temporary memory loss and impaired vision. The bite causes an ulcer that can take months to heal and can result in a permanent scar.

Courtesy of Washington State University Cooperative Extension.

The aggressive house spider, also known as the hobo, weaves a funnel-shaped web to catch prey.The hobo can be identified by two swollen front appendages resembling boxing gloves. Including its legs, it is about the size of a silver dollar.

Williams is able to identify whether a spider is poisonous or not. In his three years at Extension he has seen around three black widows and six to eight hobos. He says it doesn't usually creep him out, but even he has his limits. Williams recently found a black widow hiding in a blanket at his home.

"I could have put that on," he shuddered. Though usually an arachnid advocate, he flushed it.

Extension destroys poisonous spiders when they are identified, but releases the others into the bushes outside the Extension building.

Williams recommends vacuuming and clearing out spider webs to keep the bugs at bay. Also, move woodpiles away from your home. You don't need to spray your home if you only find one spider.

Extension wants to educate about spiders to lower the fear many people have of the creature. Master gardeners are available to answer questions Mondays from noon to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 325-8573.


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