This page covers an overview of wolf spiders, habitat & feeding details, how dangerous are these spiders, details of different types and species, life cycle & reproduction, some interesting facts, and a few frequently asked questions.
The Wolf spider is not a single type of spider; instead, it consists of multiple species. Going after their prey has earned them the “Wolf” surname.
These species of spiders are very active and will chase their prey, unlike other spiders, which set out a web trap for hunting, or tarantulas which wait for prey to arrive at the doorstep before they attack it to make it their meal.
There are more than 2500 species of wolf spiders further subdivided into ~125 genera (In layman’s terms, 125 different types have close resemblance).
What Does a Wolf Spider Look Like?
There are multiple unique traits of wolf spiders that can help you identify them. These spiders are not extensively giant but big enough to grab attention. If you do not spot spiders frequently, you will find a wolf spider quite large. Following are a few unique traits of a wolf spider that can help you identify one.
- Wolf spiders are giant and hairy spiders, but unlike tarantulas with excess hairs. They have a size ranging from 0.5 to 2 inches.
- The eyes of a wolf spider will shine in the light.
- Wolf spiders have 8 dark eyes on its head (Refer to Image 1.1 for eyes formation). A single row of four small eyes is at the front, right above its mouth. 2 large eyes are above these small four eyes, one on each side, like we humans have. Two small eyes are above these 2, more like on the back of the head.
- Different species of wolf spiders have different colors, so it’s a little hard to identify them via looking at their color; however, you can identify specific species with their color. These spiders mainly have black, brown, tan, and grey color with dark highlights.
- Wolf spider bodies are long and broad. Their bodies are a little fattish and have long legs.
- Wolf spiders are excellent runners and they will even go out to chase their prey.
Popular Species of Wolf Spiders
There are around 125 types (Genera) of wolf spiders in the United States, each type having subspecies.
I will briefly mention the most popular species of wolf spiders here.
1. Rabid Wolf Spider
The scientific name of the Rabid Wolf Spider is Rabidosa Rabida. It’s the most common species of wolf spider and is often referred to as the Wandering Spider.
This specie of wolf spider is almost found in all parts of the United States. According to Jackman 1997, it has been traced as far east as Maine and as far south as Florida.
The base color of a rabid wolf spider is kind of a beige light grey. This color goes across its body, including its legs. However, the first two legs of a male rabid wolf spider are a bit dark in color.
The most distinguishable feature of a rabid wolf spider is the dark brown color strips. There are two strips on the head & thorax region. And there is one strip on the back section. Additional thin strips are also visible, which can be noticed on close observation.
The eyes of a rabid wolf spider are just like all other species of wolf spiders.
Female Rabid Wolf Spiders are around 16-22 mm long, and male spiders are smaller with an average length of 13 mm.
2. Carolina wolf spider
Carolina Wolf Spider’s scientific name is Hogna Carolinensis. This is one of the largest species of wolf spiders in North America, and females can grow up to 35-40 mm. Learn more about wolf spider size here.
Like other species of wolf spiders, these are commonly found in all parts of the united states. This species of a wolf spider is also a burrowing spider that digs holes up to 8 inches deep to lay eggs and keep itself hidden from predators.
Many species of spiders have a similar look and feel to Carolina Wolf Spiders, and they can easily be confused. Hogna Antelucana is such an example that can resemble a Carolina wolf spider.
The base color of a Carolina wolf spider is Grey, but the hairs on its body can show multiple hues with another dominant dark brown color.
The most distinguishable feature of a Carolina Wolf Spider is the ventral leg patterning. A male spider can be completely black from the underside.
Carolina Wolf Spider has an identifiable head shape and markings, but other spiders share these markings in the same genre. It has a flat circular type head with markings like a landing falcon. A bright strip runs at the center. The back has chevron patterns. The underside of a Carolina Wolf Spider is dark.
The eyes of a Carolina wolf spider are like all other wolf spiders.
Female Carolina Wolf Spiders are around 22-35 mm long, and male spiders are smaller, with an average length of 18-22 mm.
3. Dotted Wolf Spider
The scientific name of the Dotted Wolf Spider is Rabidosa Punctulata. This species of a wolf spider is also quite common in the USA.
Rabid Wolf Spiders and Dotted wolf spiders are pretty similar in look, except for dots at the bottom.
Like Rabid Wolf Spiders, Dotted Wolf Spiders also have a beige-light grey as their base color. It has two dark straps on its head and one on its abdomen.
The primary difference and distinguishable feature are under its belly. There are clear dots that help identify a dotted wolf spider.
Dotted wolf spiders are tiny and smaller than rabid wolf spiders. Male dotted wolf spiders are around 13-15 mm in length, and female spiders are around 15-20mm.
4. Hogna Antelucana
Hogna Antelucana is a species of wolf spider and high resembles Carolina Wolf Spider in shape and features. Hogna Antelucana is the scientific name of this spider and it’s not known by a common name.
The most identifiable feature of a Hogna Antelucana is its underside. It has an entirely black ventral body.
Other features are just like a Carolina wolf spider with a bright beige khaki line on its head and a landing falcon brown strips.
At patterns on the abdomen is hard to define in words as its quite complex, but you can see them below in the images.
Like other wolf spider species, it has a set of 8 eyes, with four in the first row, two large in the center row, and two medium-sized at the back of its head.
5. Tigrosa Helluo
Tigrisa Helluo is a specie of wolf spider with quite a rounded body. This spider is also not known by a common name and is mostly referred to by its scientific name Tigrosa Helluo.
It’s a smaller species of wolf spider.
If you look at a Tigrosa Helluo, you will quickly realize that it’s a darker version of a normal Hogna Antelucana.
Tigrosa Helluo has a distinct yellow stripe starting which starts at the middle of the main two eyes and extends till the start of its abdomen. The yellow-orange color fades out as it proceeds toward the abdomen.
Its head’s markings resemble a Hogna Antelucana, but it’s quite dark. The abdomen is also dark grey in color with fewer marks and texture. A series of dots are also marked in an oval shape across its abdomen.
From the underside, Tigrosa Helluo has a dark at the joining section of its legs. The leg tips gradually become dark.
Just like other species of spiders, the abdomen of a female Tigrosa Helluo is quite round and large in size. While a male Tigrosa Helluo has a slim abdomen. These spiders are also found across the united states.
A female Tigrosa Helluo is around 18-21 mm and a male 10-12 mm body length.
6. Ground Wolf Spider
The scientific name of the Ground wolf spider is Trochosa Terricola. It belongs to the Trochosa genus of wolf spiders and is known for praying pompilid wasps.
An inexperienced eye can easily confuse a Trochosa Terricola for a Tigrosa Helluo. They are more similar looking with dark grey colors, and females have round bodies with tiny hairs.
The main difference lies in the patterns on its bodies. Ground wolf spiders have a rich pattern on its head instead of a straight line. Chelceras are also dark brown without any substantial color variation.
The abdomen of a ground wolf spider has random bright spots, which make them different from Tigrosa Helluo.
The body length of a Male Trochosa Terricola is around 7-9 mm and females are 7-14 mm long.
Other Popular Species of Wolf Spiders
The following species of wolf spiders are also widely known, but for now, I am not going to share more details on them and will rely on mentioning their names.
- Pardosa Milvina (Shore Wolf Spider)
- Lycosa Tarantula Wolf Spider
- Pardosa Amentata (Spotted Wolf Spider)
- Tasmanicosa Godeffroyi
- Alopecosa kochi
- Geolycosa Missouriensis
- Schizocosa Mccooki
- Allocosa Brasiliensis
- Pardosa Vancouveri
- The Arctic wolf spider
- Venatrix Furcillata
Habitat of a Wolf Spider
Unlike other species of spiders, these spiders don’t hang up near the ceiling or trees; rather they spend most of their life on the ground. However, they can climb trees, walls, and other objects if needed.
A few species of wolf spiders are clever to dig holes in the ground, more like burrows, to live inside them. Their dark brown colors help them camouflage from predators and prey.
Generally, they will seek a hiding spot like under a rock or logs to live in. However, as far as location is concerned, these spiders are found across the globe in all sorts of environments.
Where ever there are insects to feed one, wolf spiders will thrive in that location. These spiders are spotted in:
- Volcanic Lava Tubes
- Gardens and Lawns
- Crop fields
- Stream Edges
- Low Vegetation
Wolf spiders are solitary and nocturnal. They don’t live in the form of a colony or a nest. Every adult spider is its own, male or female. They usually hunt at night and stay hidden in the daytime.
Wolf spiders can find their way into a house via gaps, breezeways, or other openings searching for food and a location to hide.
Life Cycle of a Wolf Spider
Mating of a Wolf Spider
Like other species of spiders, sexual cannibalism is common in wolf spiders. If a male wolf spider is too weak, old, or small in size, a female wolf spider can eat it after copulation (Mating).
In some cases, it can become quite extreme where a female wolf spider will consume a male during or before mating, but it has adverse effects on successful fertilization.
According to some studies, female spiders fond of eating more are relatively more aggressive. The studies also concluded that a female spider would kill a male if it’s weak or appeared so.
Wolf Spiders don’t mate using their sexual organs; rather, a male wolf spider will transfer its sperms using its palp after spraying it on a web into female genitals.
Check this amazing video of how a wolf spider mates.
Wolf Spider Eggs
A female wolf spider typically lays down about 100 eggs in a single go (can vary from one specie to another). The quantity of eggs also depends on the health of the individual mother. On average, there are 48 eggs per sac.
Once a female lays the eggs, it will encase them in her web silk to make a sac. A female wolf spider will carry the egg case attached to its spinnerets (The organ a wolf spider uses to produce its silk).
All species of spiders don’t carry their eggs with them; rather, they place them in a secure place.
See this detailed video of how a wolf spider will lay its egg, build a sac, and carry it.
Wolf Spider Babies
So as mentioned, a female wolf spider keeps the egg sac attached to its body while it continues its daily business. The mom will also make sure the egg sack does not touch the ground. In addition, study shows that the mother spider will make sure the egg sac gets some light each day to enhance incubation.
The female spider will also make sure the egg sac remains in pristine condition and cover it in more silk to ensure it’s intact.
Individual eggs will hatch in one to two weeks. However, the baby spiderlings will remain in the sac before further development. After 4-22 days, the mother will open the sac while rotating it upwards.
The individual spiderlings will climb over the mother spider and remain there for a few weeks before they spread out.
The baby spiders will grow with the help of egg yolk attached to their bodies before they leave the mother spider.
Have a look at this video of how the baby spiders hop on the back of the mother spider after the mom opens the egg sac.
Wolf Spider Molting
While the wolf spiders grow, they will shed their exoskeleton a couple of times. There are two-stage molting in wolf spiders. One before they reach adulthood which can be 5-10 molts, and one after they are fully grown adults.
Wolf spiders don’t live for long, so they will molt for 2-3 times max after growing big.
Check this beautiful video of a wolf spider molting.
Adult, the Sexually Mature Stage
This is the last stage of a wolf spider. Then, when a wolf spider grows and reaches adulthood, it’s ready to mate to start the life cycle once again.
The male spiders don’t live for long and often die after mating. The death can be natural or cannibalistic by the female spider. A few good healthy ones can live from 6-12 months and mate a couple of times.
Female wolf spiders also live for a year, but ideal conditions can extend that to a max of two years.
What does a Wolf Spider Eat?
Wolf spiders are carnivores, and they mainly eat other insects & invertebrates. A large wolf spider may eat a small vertebrate like a reptile or amphibian. It’s more about the opportunity and what comes their way.
Wolf spiders are mainly large, and they like to hunt down their prey. This capability of hunting down prey has earned them the surname of “Wolf.”
Unlike other species of spiders, wolf spiders don’t build webs; instead, they chase them down. Wolf spiders are even seen attacking and eating tiny frogs, reptiles, and palmetto bugs. Wolf spiders generally build burrows in the ground to nest and hunt.
People often feed red runner roaches to pet wolf spiders which they fondly enjoy. A wild wolf spider is often found preying following insects:
- Other Spiders. A female spider will even eat a male spider after mating. In extreme food shortage, a mother wolf spider can even eat its spiderlings. Attacking other species of spiders is very common and widely reported.
- All types of beetles. Beetles are typically found in grasslands, and they keep crawling on the ground, making them the main food source for wolf spiders.
- Crickets are also among the top source of food for wolf spiders.
- Other insects include Ants, earwigs, worms, roaches, etc.
A wolf spider normally jumps on top of its prey and bites it to paralyze its prey.
Does a Wolf Spider Bite?
Wolf spiders are not aggressive, but they do have the capability to bite. They generally don’t threaten people but can bite if they feel attacked or in danger.
Their bite is not poisonous but painful. The venom can be allergic to certain people. A wolf spider bite may result in mild pain, swelling, or itchiness. The pain will go away quickly, but the swelling and itchiness can take a few days to heal.
Will wolf spiders chase you?
Wolf spiders are nocturnal insects, and they generally stay hidden during the daytime and come out at night. This generally highlights their nature to stay away from threats rather than having an attacking nature.
Wolf spiders chase their prey, but they try to remain away from a threat. For example, a wolf spider won’t bite humans unless they feel unsafe and are provoked.
However, if you have a pet wolf spider and feel safe around people, you may find it chasing you.
What attracts wolf spiders in the house?
Wolf spiders don’t live in groups or infest homes as a colony. They will mainly end up in your homes while they keep searching for insects.
If you are home, provide them that found a source in your home or around + a quiet and undisturbed place, and they will stay there. Waste food in your home, like scattered crums, will also attract spiders.
Is a wolf spider good to have around?
Wolf spiders are harmless to humans, and they do provide valuable pest control around your home as they actively hunt their prey. Wolf spiders don’t make web nets, so they create less of a mess than other species of spiders. Wolf spiders fondly eat cockroaches, but a larger number of spiders are also a problem of its own.
Can wolf spiders be friendly?
Wolf spiders are harmless to humans and can be handheld. However, you will need to train them patiently before they become friendly and climb on your hands. They can bite if provoked, but they are not poisonous. Wolf Spider is fast, so it will be hard to catch it again if it runs away.
Unlike tarantulas, you can’t tame them. Generally, wolf spiders like being alone and not disturbed. Unfortunately, a Wolf spider is also non-friendly to other wolf spider, and one of them will end up dead if kept in a single enclosure. Still, wolf spiders are pretty interesting and commonly kept as exotic pets. I will recommend giving them a try.
Should I kill a wolf spider if I see it?
Wolf spiders generally live for a year or two, and they don’t create colonies like cockroaches or other pests. So there is already a natural balance in our ecosystem on the numbers of wolf spiders as they are themself attacked by other predators.
So, you should not kill a wolf spider if you see it; instead, leave it alone if spotted outside. If you spot it inside your home, you can pick it up in a net and leave it outside. Thorough cleaning of the place where you have spotted it while not harming it will generally make it leave that place.
What eats a wolf spider?
Wolf spiders provide protein-rich food to multiple animals, including spider-eating birds, reptiles, rodents, shrews, coyotes, amphibians, and wasps.
Other pert animals like cats and dogs will also eat a wolf spider which is safe for your pet.
Can wolf spiders jump?
Wolf spiders have long muscular legs that help them jump, especially when catching prey. But, in general, wolf spiders don’t keep jumping from place to place as a form of mobility like a Jumping Spider.
If a wolf spider is at a height and needs to come down quickly, it will jump.
Where do wolf spiders live in your house?
Wolf spiders like to remain untouched and in a quiet place. Further, these spiders are very flexible and hide in tight spots like around doors and windows, under houseplants, closets, cellars, garages, above cabinets, under or behind furniture, etc. You will also find them in storerooms, basements, or dark and humid spots.
Do wolf spiders travel in packs?
Despite the surname “Wolf,” these spiders don’t hunt or travel in packs as wolves do. Instead, they like to remain and hunt alone.
Even they don’t live in pairs. A female wolf spider will eat a male spider after mating, also known as sexual cannibalization. So if you keep two wolf spiders in a single enclosure, you will soon find one of them dead.
However, you can find them coexisting in an open place like a storeroom, garden, etc. They don’t chase each other like other animals marking their territory.
How long do wolf spiders live in a house?
Wolf spiders have a life span of one to two years, but if there is an ideal spot inside your house that supports wolf spiders, it will be refilled by another offspring. However, it will never be overfilled by spiders as they don’t like to coexhist.