Insect Bites and Stings

In this series of articles we are going to look at some of the creepy crawlies you may meet in a survival/SHTF scenario what you can expect from a bite or sting from one of them and how to deal with it.

Dangerous Insects

Millipedes

Brightly colored millipede.

Brightly colored millipede.

Millipedes are found just about everywhere, the brightly colored ones often secrete compound containing cyanide which can be deadly. Do not let children handle millipedes and make sure that anyone who does washes their hands THOROUGHLY!

Centipedes

5" long centipede.

5″ long centipede.

Centipedes can easily be distinguished from millipedes by counting the number of pairs of legs arising from most body segments: millipedes have two pairs, while centipedes bear one pair per segment, with the first pair of legs being modified into fangs.

Centipedes are generally flattened and have a pair of well-developed antennae on the head. Some centipedes, such as the house centipede, have long legs and are capable of running pretty damn fast! The largest centipedes, may grow to be about 6 inches long.

Signs and Symptoms of Centipede Bite

A centipede bite 15 minutes after initial bite.

A centipede bite 15 minutes after initial bite.

  • Pain in the area of bite (Having been bitten by a centipede while stationed in Hawaii I can tell you it hurts like hell!)
  • Swelling in the area of bite
  • Redness in the area of bite
  • Lymph node swelling (rare)
  • Numbness at the site of the bite (rare)

People who are allergic to centipede venom may also have:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Throat swelling

If you are bitten by a centipede the following treatment is recommended:

Wash the exposed area with plenty of soap and water. DO NOT use alcohol to wash the area. Wash eyes with plenty of water if any toxin gets in them.

Place ice or cold pack on the site of the bite for 10 minutes and then remove for 10 minutes. Repeat this process to control swelling and pain. If the patient has circulatory problems, decrease the time  the ice or cold pack is applied to prevent possible damage to the skin.

If there is an allergic reaction to the venom the patient will need airway and ventilation support, IV fluids, and medication (epinephrine or Benadryl) to counter the reaction.

Arachnids

Spiders are important in the control of pests and only a very small number of species can or will bite humans, even if provoked.  You have a better chance of dying from a bee sting than from a spider bite.

The only spiders that are truly “dangerous” are the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse, other than those, the bite of most spiders are comparable to a bee sting.

Possible symptoms of a spider bite.

Possible symptoms of a spider bite.

If you are ever bitten by any spider, capture and kill it for positive identification as it can be important in determining the course of treatment.

Wolf Spiders

The chances of getting bitten by any species of wolf spider are slim to none, Wolf spiders will bite only if handled or if trapped next to the skin  – Wolf spiders will only bite if provoked! 

wolfspider4 wolfspider3 wolfspider2 wolfspider1 wolf-spider-facts-drawing

Signs and Symptoms of a Wolf Spider Bite

Typical Wolf Spider Bite.

Typical Wolf Spider Bite.

Typical reactions include initial pain and redness subsiding with time. The pain associated with a Wolf Spider bite is more from the trauma caused by the bite than from the spiders venom.

Treatment of a Wolf Spider bite

Anti-Venom is not needed to treat a Wolf Spider bite. The best treatment is to wash the area of the bite thoroughly with soap and water and cover the bite with a bandage. The greatest threat from a Wolf Spider bite is infection.

Sac spiders

Several species of sac spiders are suspected of being responsible for most indoor spider bites to humans. Like most spiders, sac spiders typically do not bite unless they are trapped against the skin or provoked. Sac spiders are nocturnal, therefore bites are most likely to occur at night.

Chiracanthium mildei

Chiracanthium mildei

Trachelas sp.

Trachelas sp.

Trachelas tranquillus

Trachelas tranquillus

 

 

 

 

The Yellow Sac Spider (C. mildei) is an introduced species from Europe. As of 1978, it was found throughout much of the Northeast; however, it is likely that it has greatly increased its range since then.

Signs and Symptoms of Yellow Sac Spider bite

  • intense, stinging pain, similar to the sting of a bee or wasp;
  • localized redness
  • a burning sensation lasting for up to an hour, with rash and blistering occurring during the next 1-10 hours.

There is slight swelling at the site of the bite for a day or two. Sometimes an ulcerated lesion develops at the site of the bite. This ulceration normally heals itself within several weeks.

Treatment

Wash the area of the bite with soap and water and cover with bandage. Keep bite clean to avoid infection.

Black Widow

Female Black Widow spider bottom view.

Female Black Widow spider bottom view.

Typical size female Black Widow.

Typical size female Black Widow.

Typical male and female Black Widow spiders.

Typical male and female Black Widow spiders.

 

 

 

 

 

Black widows are nocturnal. During the day the female will hide in a secluded corner of her web. At night she will hang upside-down in the web which is built close to the ground.

The male black widow is not dangerous. The adult female black widow has a red hourglass (or part of one) on the underside of the abdomen. The female black widow may also have red or white marking on the top of the abdomen.

The shape of the female black widow is distinctive and the spider has a smooth, hairless appearance.

Female black widows are only aggressive when they are protecting an egg sac, otherwise they will try to flee.

The female black widow has a notorious habit of eating the male after mating, hence the name, but there are exceptions if the female is already well fed.

This is the most venomous spider in North America, but almost all healthy people who are bitten will recover in a few days. Very few deaths from black widow spider bites are reported in the U.S., but the risk of death from a bite remains.

Signs and Symptoms of a Black Widow Spider bite

Black Widow spider bite about 1 hour after bite.

Black Widow spider bite about 1 hour after bite.

  • The bite of a black widow may feel like a pin prick or the victim may feel nothing at all
  • Two red marks may appear where bitten
  • minor swelling
  • Pain will become intense within 1 to 3 hours, continuing for up to 2 days
  • Pain can spread from a bitten limb into the abdomen or back
  • Severe cramping or rigidity may occur in the abdominal muscles

The victim may also exhibit other symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • shaking
  • profuse perspiration
  • labored speech
  • labored breathing
  • weak pulse
  • clammy skin
  • unconsciousness
  • convulsions (seizures)

Symptoms often diminish after about a day and are gone after several days. Serious long-term complications or death from a black widow bite are very rare.

Treatment of a Black Widow Spider bite

  • Wash the bite with soap and water
  • If you have one use a snake bite kit or Sawyer Extractor as soon as you realize you are bitten
  • Wrap the bite in cold compresses or ice
  • Seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
  •  Black Widow bites will most likely REQUIRE treatment with anti-venom to avoid long-term disability or death

In a survival/SHTF scenario it is vital that you receive medical care as soon as possible after a Black Widow bite! 

Brown Recluse Spider

Typical sized Brown Recluse spider.

Typical sized Brown Recluse spider.

Several species of recluse spiders are found in the U.S.; best known
is the infamous Brown Recluse

If you do not live in any of the colored areas on the maps below, then it is quite unlikely that you have a recluse spider. Recluse spiders are only rarely transported outside of their range on or in furniture, boxes, and plants.

Recluse spider habitat.

Recluse spider habitat.

Area of Brown Recluse habitat.

Area of Brown Recluse habitat.

The Brown Recluse has uniformly colored legs covered with fine hairs. The legs have no stripes, banding, or spines on them. The abdomen is also uniformly colored.

The body of the Brown Recluse is under half an inch in length.
Some species of recluse spiders have a well-defined dark violin-shaped marking on the “head” region of the spider with the neck of the violin pointing toward the abdomen; however this is not a conclusive way to identify a recluse spider. All recluse spiders have six eyes where most spiders have eight (this can only be determined with the use of a microscope.)

Recluse spiders are nocturnal, therefore most likely encountered at night when they are foraging for food. During the day recluse spiders hide in secluded places.

Little is known about the venom and bite of the lesser-known species of recluse spiders. “Although there are suspected variations in virulence among the species, all Loxosceles (recluse) spiders should be considered potentially capable of producing dermonecrosis (skin necrosis) to some extent.” (Vetter, R. S. Arachnids Submitted as Suspected Brown Recluse Spiders)

Most Brown Recluse bites result in only a small red mark and heal without serious complications. An interesting fact is the Brown Recluse cannot bite through clothing because of its small fangs.

Signs and Symptoms of Brown Recluse bite

Progression of a Brown Recluse spider bite.

Progression of a Brown Recluse spider bite.

When the spider bites you, you may feel a sharp sting or nothing at all. Pain usually develops within the first several hours after being bitten, and may become severe. Children may have more serious reactions.

Symptoms may include:

  • Chills
  • Itching
  • General ill-feeling or discomfort
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Reddish or purplish color in a circle around bite
  • Sweating
  • Ulcer in the area of the bite

In rare cases:

  • Coma
  • Blood in urine
  • Jaundice
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures

Treatment

  • Wash the bite with soap and water
  • Ice the wound: Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Put ice in a plastic bag. Wrap the bag with a towel and put it on the site of the spider bite for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Elevate the wound: Keep the bite area above the level of your heart to help decrease redness and swelling. If you were bitten on the arm or leg, prop it on pillows to keep the area elevated comfortably.
  • Compress the wound: A compression bandage around the wound can reduce pain and swelling.
  • Seek medical attention as quickly as possible

Deaths from brown recluse spider bites are more common in children. With proper medical attention, survival past 48 hours is usually a sign that recovery will follow. An ulcer may take up to 6 weeks to heal, with proper care.

Wear protective clothing whenever possible when traveling through terrain which is known to harbor these spiders. Do not stick your hands or feet in their nests or in their preferred habitats, namely, under logs or underbrush, or other damp, moist areas.

 

In Part 2 of our series, Insect Bites and Stings we will cover some of the flying insects you may encounter and how to deal with them.

I look forward to seeing your comments and as always, Train to Survive!

Tom

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