Is this normal?

Hello, I am new to this gardening newsgroup and I thought that I would ask a serious question. My husband and I live in the western part of Tennessee and recently while working out in the yard in the gardens we're building together, we have come across not one, but three very large black widow spiders. Being benevolent and not apt to freak out in spite of the fact that these spiders ARE poisonous, I looked it up on the internet and found out that they're not aggressive. My husband is European and unfamiliar with these things, and he managed to put the first one we found into a half gallon glass pickle jar he'd rinsed out for other things. I poked a hole into it, and put some leaves and a twig for her to hide (she did) and later a piece of screen door screen just to make sure, and eventually she died. But later, while I was planting some hemerocalis rhizomes, I happened across yet another one, this one larger than the last one, hiding in the rhizomes in the soil of the pot I had these growing in. She slipped me. And yesterday, hidden in some rhizomes of iris, my husband, Henry found yet another one of these things! Is this normal? I mean, I realize that they are not aggressive, or at least the article about them says they're not, and yesterday it unsettled me enough that I squashed her good. But the second one is now unaccounted for in the garden that I will be working in come spring time. This area has had a large amount of rain, by the way, and I just thought maybe it was the wet weather. Or am I kidding myself and these are indigenous to this area? We moved here in late spring and I didn't come across any at all at that time, but now, not one but three?
I have lots more questions for anyone willing to answer me about them. I see this newsgroup is pretty informative and there are some who are very helpful with legitimate questions regarding gardening problems. By the way, how do I find out what garden zone I am in? I am very frustrated with the local extension agents here because it's predominately a farming area on a large and commercial scale. Mostly corn, soybeans, millet and cotton. I haven't seen much in the way of unique plantings, yet. But now that we've moved here, I hope to break that common thread I see in every yard. Nandina, crape myrtles, all seemingly the watermelon color or white ones, mums, celosia (a local woman called them cocks combs) lots of boxwood, Banana plants of all things, canna's, elephant ears and lantana that apparently comes back. So I need to find out how to find the gardening limit zone for growing. Any ideas?
Thank you in advance.
always, Eva Shovelful
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On Sun, 18 Oct 2009 21:58:33 -0700 (PDT), eva shovelful

I have found three black widow spiders in 17 years. They are common in this area, scorpions too. I'm in east TN, zone 7. Always watch wear you put your hands and feet. You can quickly find a zone map using Google.
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that's not too many. But I have found three in less than two weeks. I lived for awhile in east TN, and never saw scorpions, but that's not to say they weren't there. And I saw black widow spiders more than usual before we moved in the early spring. Maybe the damp has encouraged them to be more prolific? I am now resigned to wear thin goat garden gloves which are the best I can find for now until I can do better. I don't like heavy gloves unless I plan on working with spines and thorns. But I understand there is a good garden glove company called Woman's Work? I am looking that up later. I am now into socks and sneakers as the weather has turned seasonal. Sandals and bare feet are my usual unless I find good thick flip flops, which are out of fashion. But with this raised bed I am gardening in, and the new found spider, I have decided to be more weary of them as I slow down and take more notice of what I am reaching my hands and fingers into (my husband too). Having lived in TN for awhile, I've noticed that the zones have warmed up a bit. someone sent me a map that showed how much the whole country has warmed up lately. and I'm not talking global warming. I just remember TN being more zone 6 a or 6b. But I am eager to learn about what does well here. The locals all warned us that it wasn't nearly as hot and humid as it normally is during the late spring and summer. My poor husband suffered more with the massive attacks of mosquito's. They adored him. we quickly found that not deep woods but cutters was the best to lather on him to keep him from looking like a minor leprosy victim. He loves this weather now. No "skeeters" ! thanks for the feedback. eva shovelful
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On Tue, 20 Oct 2009 00:08:18 -0700 (PDT), against all advice,
say:

Damp does it for me.
--

Howdya like that... we started playing guitar to impress the chicks and wind
up talkin' fingernails with old men.
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On Sun, 18 Oct 2009 21:58:33 -0700 (PDT), eva shovelful

They can be very common, certainly are where I am in Los Angeles, but they cause minimal problems. They have no interest in you, they can't eat you while you can squash them on purpose or accidentally. Actual bites are quite rare and not usually fatal unless you're allergic or have other serious conditions - you can google for symptoms and treatment. If I see some of their uneven corner webs I will usually remove the web, just to encourage them to move on. But other styles of spiders also make corner webs - we seem to be having an abundance of long-legged spiders with corner webs this year, which seem to have longer, less random patterns. But I remove those too, just in case, even though AFAIK they don't have a hazardous bite for humans.
J.
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Good point, J. All three times we happened across them, they were in their "homes" surrounded by their webs, and had I taken the time to get a really good look, I'd have noticed the irregular corner webs. Each place we uncovered them (the key phrase here is UNCOVERED) the first was she was tucked up against the side of the bricks where there was plenty of food in the form of crickets and other such insects in a raised bed that was overgrown with crabgrass, the second was dumping out the five gallon nursery pot that was holding the day lilies and there she was...... and the third was dumping out a split open three gallon pot I'd used to toss dug up clumps of iris roots that had sat undisturbed in one spot for two months. Knowing those places, will make me more alert. (especially when the deck off the back of the house is high enough for an adult woman to bend over and rake all the way up to the house to get the leaves out from underneath it. So finding another black widow isn't out of the question. that second one was buried, and unless she died under ground being unable to dig herself out, she's out there still........time will tell. thanks for alerting me, though. and I will check out more information regarding their bites. I know their bite mimics heart attacks, and since I have a slight touch of asthma, I have to be wary. I don't go around all overly careful, I just get on with life. great imput though. eva
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