The wolf spider is a perfectly camouflaged, hairy, and wickedly fast pursuer of its prey. Just like the wolf it is named after. However, as scary as they look, the wolf spider does not pack as dangerous a bite as once believed.
Let’s take a close-up look at the wolf spider, learn how to identify it, and discover some interesting facts about how it manages to live just about everywhere in the world.
Related: How to identify the black widow spider.
Related: How to identify the Brazilian wandering spider.
Wolf spider: Description.
Currently, there are 128 genera and over 2,800 species of wolf spiders. Amongst all those species, the body size of individual wolf spiders ranges from 1/25 to 1.5 inches.
For the record: The largest wolf spider species is the Hogna ingens, the Deserta Grande wolf spider. The female of this critically endangered spider has a leg span of nearly 5 inches.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the wolf spider is its face. This spider has three rows of eyes, four small ones on the bottom, two medium-sized ones on the top, and two much larger eyes in the middle. Wolf spiders are known to have excellent vision for spotting and tracking prey.
Wolf spider eyes have reflective tissue like canids such as wolves and coyotes. This tissue, tapetum lucidum reflects visible light back through the retina and increases the light available to the photoreceptors—significantly increasing the wolf spider’s night vision.
And just like wolves and coyotes, you can use a flashlight at night to locate wolf spiders by scanning an area and spotting the reflected “glow” from the light’s beam.
The wolf spider has slightly inferior night vision to the jumping spider, which in turn is bested by the huntsman spider.
The wolf spider also has an impressive set of fangs.
Related: Tarantula bites.
Related: Tarantulas: Appearance, diet, and mating.
Are bites from wolf spiders dangerous?
Like the hobo spider, the wolf spider was thought to have had a dangerous bite for many years. However, the venom of a wolf spider is not a serious medical problem for most people. Indeed, these spiders have bites that produce only slight redness and swelling.
However, the lack of a venomous bite should not lead you to believe they are safe to pick up or mishandle. The wolf spider will bite if threatened, and that bite is painful enough to serve as a reminder to leave future wolf spiders alone.
Now, if you are reading this because a brown spider bit you, I have one caution. While a simple wash and treat with first aid might be all you need for a wolf spider bite, that does not mean it was the spider that bit you.
If you cannot positively identify that the bite came from a wolf spider, recover the (dead) spider and consult with a doctor. The doctor can use the dead spider (please don’t use enough for killing for the corpse to be classified as “remains unviewable”) to identify the spider for you.
Why speak with a doctor and bring the dead spider? A giant brown recluse spider looks a hell of a lot like a brown wolf spider. If you are bit by a brown recluse spider, you should get prompt medical treatment.
So, unsure which spider bit you? Then if it can be easily captured or killed, place it in a clear, tightly closed container so it may be identified—and get thee to a physician.
Related: How long do ants live?
Related: What do ants eat?
Wolf spider: Mating and reproduction.
With no web or home to call their own, male wolf spiders must detect and follow the scent trails available, willing to mate with females left on the ground behind them. After he finds her, a male wolf spider will court her by waving his legs around and displaying his pedipalps.
How high the male signaling frequency is may determine his acceptance by the female wolf spider. In this study, it was noted:
“Males that eventually mate may have higher rates of signaling behaviors than those that do not because of higher levels of arousal in response to communication (of receptivity) from the female (Patricelli et al. 2002).
However, in the case of this wolf spider species, communication between male and female before mating is not prolonged; receptive females perform display behaviors that usually lead immediately to copulation, while unreceptive females may respond aggressively or not at all (Stratton and Uetz 1981; Scheffer et al. 1996; Persons and Uetz 2005). Thus, we can assume that higher rates of male signaling behaviors influence male mating success.”
If she accepts him, he will leave his sperm in her reproductive opening on her abdomen and then get away as fast as possible (like all spider species, the female is larger than the male) to avoid being eaten.
How female wolf spiders care for their eggs and spiderlings.
After mating, the female will lay a few dozen eggs, wrap them in a woven silk egg sac, and secure them to her spinnerets. These eggs will be attached to her until they hatch unless she must dump them to escape a predator. Unlike other female spiders, she does not just guard them in one location; she carries her eggs everywhere.
From the moment the eggs are secured until her spiderlings grow large enough to leave and live on their own, the female wolf spider will defend them and act aggressively against any threat to them.
Even if she must temporarily leave them behind, she will return and make every effort to recollect and secure her babies and eggs
After the wolf spider eggs hatch, the young spiderlings will crawl onto their mother’s back and spend the next few days being carried around by her. Once they leave her, the males may live for up to 18 months, the females for several years.
Wolf spider diet and habitat.
The wolf spider is a loner, unless mating. It lives almost entirely on the ground and out in the open. And, without a home of its own, it must rely on its vision and speed to take prey and avoid becoming prey.
Wolf spiders prefer areas that are more open (in order to be able to look around). Areas such as farm fields, meadows, stream bed edges, and grasslands.
When you find a male wolf spider in your home, it probably came in looking for a female. If it stays, it will likely take up a spot in your basement, ground level closets, or crawls space.
Wolf spiders are carnivores. The majority of their diet consists of other spiders, insects, insects eggs, ants and grasshoppers. All prey are injected with a venom that breaks the victims bodies down into a fluid the spiders suck out.
Taxonomic hierarchy of the wolf spider.
Taxonomic hierarchy of the wolf spider.
All links in open in a separate tab.
Information provided by Integrated Taxonomic Information System – Report
|Kingdom||Animalia – Animal, animaux, animals|
|Phylum||Arthropoda – Artrópode, arthropodes, arthropods|
|Subphylum||Chelicerata – cheliceriformes, quelicerado, queliceriforme|
|Subclass||Arachnida – araignées, aracnídeo, arachnids, arácnidos|
|Order||Araneae – spiders, aranhas, araignées, arañas|
|Family||Lycosidae Sundevall, 1833 – wolf spiders|
|Genus||Acantholycosa Dahl, 1908|
|Genus||Adelocosa Gertsch, 1973|
|Genus||Agalenocosa Mello-Leitão, 1944|
|Genus||Aglaoctenus Tullgren, 1905|
|Genus||Algidus Simon, 1898|
|Genus||Allocosa Banks, 1900|
|Genus||Allotrochosina Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Alopecosa Simon, 1885|
|Genus||Amblyothele Simon, 1910|
|Genus||Anomalomma Simon, 1890|
|Genus||Anomalosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Anoteropsis L. Koch, 1878|
|Genus||Arctosa C. L. Koch, 1847|
|Genus||Arctosippa Roewer, 1955|
|Genus||Arctosomma Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Artoria Thorell, 1877|
|Genus||Artoriellula Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Artoriopsis Framenau, 2007|
|Genus||Aulonia C. L. Koch, 1847|
|Genus||Auloniella Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Birabenia Mello-Leitão, 1941|
|Genus||Bogdocosa Ponomarev & Belosludtsev, 2008|
|Genus||Brevilabus Strand, 1908|
|Genus||Bristowiella Saaristo, 1980|
|Genus||Camptocosa Dondale, Jiménez & Nieto, 2005|
|Genus||Caporiaccosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Caspicosa Ponomarev, 2007|
|Genus||Costacosa Framenau & Leung, 2013|
|Genus||Crocodilosa Caporiacco, 1947|
|Genus||Cynosa Caporiacco, 1933|
|Genus||Dejerosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Deliriosa Kovblyuk, 2009|
|Genus||Diahogna Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Diapontia Keyserling, 1876|
|Genus||Dingosa Roewer, 1955|
|Genus||Dolocosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Donacosa Alderweireldt & Jocqué, 1991|
|Genus||Dorjulopirata Buchar, 1997|
|Genus||Draposa Kronestedt, 2010|
|Genus||Dzhungarocosa Fomichev & Marusik, 2017|
|Genus||Edenticosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Evippa Simon, 1882|
|Genus||Evippomma Roewer, 1959|
|Genus||Foveosa Russell-Smith, Alderweireldt & Jocqué, 2007|
|Genus||Geolycosa Montgomery, 1904 – burrowing wolf spiders|
|Genus||Gladicosa Brady, 1987|
|Genus||Gnatholycosa Mello-Leitão, 1940|
|Genus||Gulocosa Marusik, Omelko & Koponen, 2015|
|Genus||Halocosa Azarkina & Trilikauskas, 2019|
|Genus||Hesperocosa Gertsch & Wallace, 1937|
|Genus||Hippasa Simon, 1885|
|Genus||Hippasella Mello-Leitão, 1944|
|Genus||Hoggicosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Hogna Simon, 1885|
|Genus||Hognoides Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Hyaenosa Caporiacco, 1940|
|Genus||Hygrolycosa Dahl, 1908|
|Genus||Kangarosa Framenau, 2010|
|Genus||Katableps Jocqué, Russell-Smith & Alderweireldt, 2011|
|Genus||Knoelle Framenau, 2006|
|Genus||Lobizon Piacentini & Grismado, 2009|
|Genus||Loculla Simon, 1910|
|Genus||Lycosa Latreille, 1804|
|Genus||Lycosella Thorell, 1890|
|Genus||Lysania Thorell, 1890|
|Genus||Mainosa Framenau, 2006|
|Genus||Malimbosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Margonia Hippa & Lehtinen, 1983|
|Genus||Megarctosa Caporiacco, 1948|
|Genus||Melecosa Marusik, Omelko & Koponen, 2015|
|Genus||Melocosa Gertsch, 1937|
|Genus||Minicosa Alderweireldt & Jocqué, 2007|
|Genus||Molitorosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Mongolicosa Marusik, Azarkina & Koponen, 2004|
|Genus||Mustelicosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Navira Piacentini & Grismado, 2009|
|Genus||Notocosa Vink, 2002|
|Genus||Nukuhiva Berland, 1935|
|Genus||Oculicosa Zyuzin, 1993|
|Genus||Ocyale Audouin, 1826|
|Genus||Orinocosa Chamberlin, 1916|
|Genus||Ovia Sankaran, Malamel & Sebastian, 2017|
|Genus||Paratrochosina Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Pardosa C. L. Koch, 1847 – thinlegged wolf spiders|
|Genus||Pardosella Caporiacco, 1939|
|Genus||Passiena Thorell, 1890|
|Genus||Pavocosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Phonophilus Ehrenberg, 1831|
|Genus||Pirata Sundevall, 1833 – pirate wolf spiders|
|Genus||Piratula Sundevall, 1833|
|Genus||Portacosa Framenau, 2017|
|Genus||Proevippa Purcell, 1903|
|Genus||Prolycosides Mello-Leitão, 1942|
|Genus||Pseudevippa Simon, 1910|
|Genus||Pterartoria Purcell, 1903|
|Genus||Pyrenecosa Marusik, Azarkina & Koponen, 2004|
|Genus||Rabidosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Satta Lehtinen & Hippa, 1979|
|Genus||Schizocosa Chamberlin, 1904|
|Genus||Shapna Hippa & Lehtinen, 1983|
|Genus||Sibirocosa Marusik, Azarkina & Koponen, 2004|
|Genus||Sosippus Simon, 1888|
|Genus||Syroloma Simon, 1900|
|Genus||Tapetosa Framenau, 2009|
|Genus||Tasmanicosa Roewer, 1959|
|Genus||Tetralycosa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Tigrosa Brady, 2012|
|Genus||Trabea Simon, 1876|
|Genus||Trabeops Roewer, 1959|
|Genus||Trebacosa Dondale & Redner, 1981|
|Genus||Tricassa Simon, 1910|
|Genus||Trochosa C. L. Koch, 1847|
|Genus||Trochosippa Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Tuberculosa Framenau & Yoo, 2006|
|Genus||Varacosa Chamberlin & Ivie, 1942|
|Genus||Venator Hogg, 1900|
|Genus||Venatrix Roewer, 1960|
|Genus||Venonia Thorell, 1894|
|Genus||Vesubia Simon, 1909|
|Genus||Wadicosa Zyuzin, 1985|
|Genus||Xerolycosa Dahl, 1908|
|Genus||Zantheres Thorell, 1887|
|Genus||Zenonina Simon, 1898|
|Genus||Zoica Simon, 1898|
|Genus||Zyuzicosa Logunov, 2010|
Spider pages: Learn how to identify and avoid these spiders.
Brown widow spider: How to identify and avoid the false widow.
Redback spiders how to identify them and prevent bites
Funnel weaver spiders vs funnel-web
Cellar spiders how to identify and get rid of them
How to identify the wolf spider
How to identify the hobo spider
Brazilian wandering spider how to identify and avoid
Huntsman spider how to identify the eight legged freak
Jumping spiders how to identify these harmless hunters
Black widow spiders how to identify and avoid
Tarantulas appearance diet and mating