SPIDERS **this page contains images of spiders, snakes, and ticks**


While it is a good idea to leave all wildlife alone, there are some that should be especially weary of.  Spiders, ticks and snakes are of particular concern


Black Widow and the Brown Recluse are the spiders are found in Virginia and the neighboring states/commonwealths.  While rare, we are in environments that these spiders are found.


The Black widow is most noted for the brightly colored hour-glass marking on the abdomen, but not all species have this marking.  This spider's bite is much feared because its venom is reported to be 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake's. In humans, bites affect the body neurologically, and produce muscle aches, nausea, and a paralysis of the diaphragm that can make breathing difficult; however, contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage—let alone death. But bites can be fatal—usually to small children, the elderly, or the infirm. Fortunately, fatalities are fairly rare; the spiders are nonaggressive and bite only in self-defense, such as when someone accidentally sits on them.


TThe treatment for the bite of a black widow should require immediate transport to the hospital.  It will be a physician’s decision to treat the patient by letting the patient “ride out” the poison or administer antivenin.  (If treated with antivenin, a person’s information is downloaded to a national database.  Because of the difficulty to produce the antivenin, a person can only receive this treatment once in their lifetime.)


The recluse spider or violin spider is approx. ¼ - ½ inches long.  The color is generally brown. Its body shows a peculiar head with a dark brown violin-shaped spot; the legs are light brown and the oval-shaped abdomen is dark brown, yellow, or greenish yellow. The most important characteristic is the presence of 3 pairs of eyes. Normally, all spiders have 4 pairs (8 altogether).

 The Brown Recluse Spider compared to the size of a US mint Washington Quarter


The spider has a powerful poison and if bitten will cause physiological damage.  The bite will cause skin lesions and sometimes more common symptoms. These symptoms depend on the amount of the poison and the sensitivity of each individual. Initially, the bite is painless to such an extent that the victim is completely unaware of it, but soon it begins to become evident after a few hours with a variety of symptoms.  The poison causes the necrosis (death) of the soft tissue that starts as a local inflammation with reddening, hard swelling and pain. General symptoms are: fever, shivering, nausea, vomits, itching, restlessness and state of shock. The injury is usually of 1 to 2 3/4 inches and it becomes evident with the appearance of an ulcer, which can take several months to heal and generally leaves unattractive scars.


The specific antidote for the Brown Recluse Spider is not available yet.  Immediate hospital care is needed.  If left untreated, (worst case) the victim will develop an infected necrotic ulcer that will only worsen.  It can leave a severe deformity, and plastic surgery/skin grafting may be necessary for the affected area to be healed.


There are some preventative measures to avoid the unpleasantness of a poison spider bite when reenactor camping.  Don’t stick your hands in dark places and wear gloves when rummaging through brush or picking up sticks and logs for a campfire. Be aware of where you are sitting, especially around the campfire.  You’ll know instantly if you’ve been bitten by a black widow, but it may be a few hours before you feel the affects of a brown recluse bite. Check your tent and bedding before bunking down for the night, and shake your boots and brogans before you put them on. 

 You cannot guard your tent 24/7 everywhere.  You can spray the ground inside and surrounding area with expensive repellant to deter spiders from becoming your roommate.  There are a few repellant ideas that are scientifically unproven, but are said to work for spiders.  Spiders avoid a wide number of natural oils extracted from plants, herbs and fruits, including citrus fruits, lavender, peppermint, citronella, cinnamon, tea trees and cloves. Pure forms of these oils may be purchased at health food stores, and most are inexpensive. Place a few drops of any of these oils, in any combination, into a spray bottle. Add a squirt of liquid detergent and fill the bottle with water and spray the interior of you tent, and the threshold.  This is aromatically pleasing, and safe around children and pets.  Smoking your pipes and cigars can be helpful also as it saturates the canvas of your tent.