The poisonous spider most commonly encountered in Franklin County is now the brown widow, Latrodectus geometricus. They are an invasive species from Asia that appeared here only a few years ago, but are now common everywhere.

I have written about this spider before, but, I want to remind people to be careful. Because of the extremely mild winter, brown widows are already active and laying eggs.

Cars, trucks, and RVs have probably helped to distribute this spider far and wide.   Rod Gasche of Carrabelle disassembled the brake drums on his RV for servicing last week and found them full of active spiders and eggs.

Adult brown widows vary from light tan to dark brown or almost black, with variable markings of black, white, yellow, orange, or brown on the back of their abdomens. Brown widows are not as easy to recognize as black widows.  The underside of the abdomen, if you can see it, often contains the characteristic hourglass marking which is orange to yellow orange in color. The legs are thickened at each joint.

The brown widow is also slightly smaller than the black widow. The spiders are reclusive and may hide in tiny crevices but the egg sack is visible and very different from those of the other spiders.  Instead of the smooth white to tan surface, the outside of the egg sac is covered with pointed projections giving it the appearance of a globe with many pointed protuberances on its surface.  It has also been described as tufted or fluffy looking or resembling a medieval mace.

Bites usually occur when a spider becomes accidentally pressed against the skin of a person when putting on clothes or sticking their hands in recessed areas or dark corners.  The symptoms of a bite can include pain, rigidity in the muscles of the abdomen and legs, swelling, nausea, vomiting and in severe cases a sharp rise in blood pressure. If you believe you have been bitten, seek medical attention.

These spiders nest inside and outside in architectural features, mailboxes, vehicles, plants and furniture. Be very careful when doing spring clean-up. When in doubt, wear gloves and cover up.My friend Glynda Ratliff found a huge cluster of eggs in an ornamental shell hanging on the wall of her home last year. I have discovered them under pet dishes. They are frequently found in outdoor showers, empty flowerpots, breezeways, stacked wood and the handles of plastic garbage cans.

Sanitation is the most important strategy in reducing widow spider infestations around the home.  Routine cleaning is the best way to eliminate spiders and discourage their return. Reducing clutter makes an area less attractive to spiders. Inside a home or garage, a thorough cleaning with a vacuum cleaner is an effective way to removes spiders, egg sacs, and webbing.  When vacuuming, the vacuum bag should be removed when you are finished and placed in a sealed plastic bag for disposal. Any cracks, holes, or spaces around windows and doors should be sealed or fitted with weather stripping.

Live spiders can be sprayed with almost any over-the-counter pesticide. Insecticidal dusts provide some residual control. When eggs are located, spraying them will usually flush and adult female from a nearby harborage.  Be careful and the female can remain active for some minutes after contact with the pesticide.

Educate yourself and family about the appearance of this dangerous invasive species and be careful.