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Identifying dangerous spiders

Most spiders are harmless, but there are some you should avoid

We have huge wolf spiders around our deck and they give me the heebie-jeebies. At least they're not poisonous.

However, there are a couple of venomous ones that you don't want to cross paths with. Cornell University Entomologist Linda Rayor says one is the Brown Recluse, which lives in the Midwest and along the Gulf Coast.  As its name implies, it's rather shy and likes to cuddle up undisturbed in closets, in your shoes, and in clothes laying on the floor. Rayor says they're pretty tiny.  

"Even with legs spread out, they're something less than the size of a quarter. It's tan-colored and relatively translucent," says Rayor. "But on the first body part that has the head and the thorax, it's got what looks like an upside-down fiddle. This is why they're sometimes called "fiddle" or "violin spiders".

Another creepy-crawly to watch out for loves woodpiles, stone walls, and any place where its web is protected from the elements. The Black Widow is the size of a dime or smaller, but this spider is very distinctive.

"They have a big, round, black abdomen. It's only black, and on the belly side, they have a red hourglass shape that's really obvious," says Rayor. "And basically because the spiders hang upside down in their cobwebs, it's really easy to see the red. It's not something that you miss."

Nearly all spiders have fangs and venom, and will leave two puncture holes in your skin if they bite you. But, that's rare, and it's usually not harmful to humans. However, if you're bitten by a Black Widow or a Brown Recluse, find a doctor.

Brown recluse, black widow, and other common spiders: Learn more about these potentially dangerous spiders, their habitats, and what to do if you are bitten by one of them.

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