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Beware the brown widow

It's not the black widow; it's not the brown recluse. It's a species all to itself _ and it could be hiding under the lip of your garbage can or between the boards of your privacy fence. The brown widow, one of five venomous spiders in Florida, has turned up in the Tampa Bay area for a second year. Its venom is just as toxic as the black widow's and it has the same distinctive hourglass on its underside, but the brown widow is light gray to light brown and its hourglass is more orange than red. Signs to look for: a tough web that's harder to break than the normal spider web and tan egg sacs with tiny spikes. Brown widows aren't aggressive, but they hide out in places you're likely to stick a hand into _ beneath wheelbarrows, among garden tools, under lawn furniture. So wear gloves when working in the yard. Pesticide sprays are a waste of time with spiders. Kill them with a broom or stick, then destroy any egg sacs you find. For more information on spiders call the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension at 582-2100. If you're bitten or suspect a bite, call the Poison Control hotline at (800) 282-3171.

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