Managing Concerns About Creepy, Crawling Critters

Hobo SpiderWestern black widow spiders relish the dark corners of utility rooms and crawl spaces, but they’re just as likely to be found under rocks, low bushes or woodpiles in Idaho yards. Hobo spiders frequent household floors from mid-July to the first killing frost, but if there’s a spider on your ceiling or high on your wall, it’s probably not a hobo.

No human deaths have ever been attributed to spiders in Idaho, said Ed Bechinski, University of Idaho entomology professor, but the captivating critters often top the list of humans’ everyday fears.

“They’re people’s worst nightmare,” said Bechinski, lead author of University of Idaho Extension’s publication, “Homeowner Guide to Spiders around the Home and Yard.”

“People’s reactions to spiders are grossly exaggerated in terms of the potential harm they can cause,” he said. Yes, do wear gloves when gardening or cleaning the garage and “if you’re ever bitten by a black widow or hobo spider” seek immediate medical attention to minimize the effects. But declaring “all-out” war on everything with eight legs is “totally unnecessary, for the most part.”

You can download the UI Extension spider publication for free. The publication includes life-size diagrams and color photographs of the overwhelmingly harmless “even beneficial spiders that inhabit Idaho’s homes and gardens. It also includes detailed information on black widow spiders, hobo spiders, and yellow sac spiders, whose bites are likely less symptomatic but far more frequent than hobo or black widow bites. It even discusses brown recluse spiders, which Bechinski says don’t occur in Idaho at all.

The spider publication is part of a family of University of Idaho Extension publications on spiders and their relatives. Three other “Homeowner Guides” are available on pillbugs and sowbugs, centipedes and millipedes, and scorpions.

Readers can download the “Homeowner’s Guides” here. While there, download other “Homeowner Guides” to bees, minor stinging insects, yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps.

In addition to downloading the spider publication for free, readers can order a hard copy by visiting the Web site or by calling (208) 885-7982, faxing (208) 885-4648 or writing The order cost is $5, plus shipping and handling, with Idaho residents adding 6 percent sales tax.

Adapted from an article by Marlene Fritz, UI Extension Professor Emeritus.