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Re: Re: OT:Spiders ripped my flesh

  • Subject: Re: [iris-talk] Re: OT:Spiders ripped my flesh
  • From: Bill Shear <wshear@hsc.edu>
  • Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 11:53:47 -0400

On 9/24/01 10:34 AM, "melody ross" <melrossmt@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Bill;
> I had to ask this as there seem to be a large amount
> of "hobo" or aggressive house spiders here for the
> last couple of years ( to the point our local paper
> wrote a smell, basicly uninformative, article; stating
> the hobo and possibly brown recluse were here to
> stay). I know the recluse bite is bad, but the paper
> article did'nt talk about the hobo bite except to say
> "it will bite you, hence the subtitle aggressive".
> I have had a couple this year that most certanly are
> not shy! They chased my cat and one chased my dog. Do
> you know just how bad are the "hobo" bites?
> Thank you
> Mel Zone 4 central MT
> --- Bill Shear <wshear@hsc.edu> wrote:

Mel--the "hobo spider" is scientifically Tegeneria agrestis, a European
import to the Pacific NW.  It has now become relatively common from northern
California to Washington, and west to Montanta and Idaho.  There may also be
colonies in Colorado.  Unfortunately, an ignorant entomologist who was in
the business of coining common names dubbed this the "Aggressive House
Spider".  This was based on a mistaken translation, because 'agrestis' does
not mean "aggressive", but is Latin for "rustic, boorish, wild, savage."
One of Plautus' comedies has a rube character named Agrestis.  In Europe the
spider originally was found in rural areas, but has become adapted (like
other Tegenaria species) to life in houses.  Tegenarias are the alarming
spiders that often get trapped in sinks or bathtubs and precipitate panics
about "spiders coming up out of the drains."  Actually, they fall in
accidentally and can't climb the smooth walls of the sinks.

That said, the hobo bites are much over-rated.  The spiders are extremely
reluctant to bite--they're not at all "aggressive."  Spiders chasing cats
and dogs is a new one on me!  With my cat, it's the other way around.  Most
people have no reaction or only  a mild one, but in a very few, a deep,
slow-healing ulcer develops.  This may be in large part an allergic or
hypersensitive reaction.
But because the spider lives in our houses, it is frequently encountered and
the chances of a bite are greater.

Some authorities say that spider bites are as much as 90% over-reported;
any bite, sting or unresolved dermatitis being called a "spider bite."  Fear
of spiders is widespread.  I regret newspaper articles like the one you cite
because a chance for meaningful education has been missed in the interests
of sensationalism.

Bill S.

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