The Wolf Spider didn’t get its name because it howls at the moon, disguises as your Grandma, or blows down pig dwellings. Rather, the nocturnal Wolf Spider is an agile hunter, searching out and consuming its prey at night instead of luring it into a web, like other spiders (and yes, like a wolf). Wolf spiders are speedy little spiders; they have been known to move at a speed of two feet per second.
Wolf Spider Identification
The full-grown Wolf Spider ranges in size from ½ inch to over an inch, and up to 4 inches when legs are spread. It is gray to brown in color with bristles on its body and legs. The Wolf Spider has an excellent sense of sight, perhaps related to its nocturnal hunting habits. Wolf Spiders have eight eyes (all the better to see you!) arranged in three rows: the top row contains two medium-sized eyes, the middle row two large eyes, and the bottom row 4 small eyes. The eyes of a Wolf Spider also have reflective properties; if light is shined in their eyes at night they will produce a sort of glow that is easily distinguishable.
Because Wolf Spiders are hunters, they tend to be colors that blend in to their habitat. Camouflaging themselves for protection while on the hunt for prey, Wolf Spiders do not display bright colors like some other spider species. Most Wolf Spiders have white or black markings or lines on the upper side of their bodies.
Wolf Spider Habitat
The habitat of the Wolf Spider ranges from woodlands that are dry and shrubby to wet, coastal forests. Wolf Spiders live in both coastal and inland habitats.
The Wolf Spider is one of the few types of spiders that do not spin a web. Instead, the Wolf Spider dwells on or under the ground, with a burrow as its retreat. Around the home the Wolf Spider will make a burrow in gardens, lining its burrow with silk. Unlike wolves (the kind that howl at the moon and disguise as your Grandma), the Wolf Spider is a solitary creature. It tends to live alone and is nomadic, remaining in one burrow only long enough to hunt its food.
Wolf Spiders feed primarily on insects, but some larger Wolf Spiders may eat small vertebrates. To consume its victim the Wolf Spider will inject its venom, paralyzing or killing it. The Wolf then proceeds to liquefy the contents of its prey (all the better to digest it!).
Wolf Spider Life Cycle
Female Wolf Spiders carry their egg sac on their backs. The egg sac is a globe-shaped specimen made of silk and attaches to the end of the abdomen of the spider; most likely to accommodate the Wolf’s tendency to wander. Once the egg sac is hatched, the spiderlings emerge from the egg sac only to crowd onto her abdomen, hitching a ride there until they are partially grown.
The typical male Wolf Spider will live less than a year; females sometimes live for several.
Are Wolf Spiders Venomous?
Wolf Spiders are venomous in the sense that they will eject venom into their victim with their bite, but a Wolf Spider bite is rarely dangerous and not lethal. The Wolf Spider is aggressive more to insects than to humans, but if provoked will bite humans. Bottom line: don’t dress up in a red hood and ask them questions – they may grow aggravated!
Symptoms of a Wolf Spider bite include swelling, mild to sharp pain, and itching. The bite of a Wolf Spider has been likened to a wasp sting. Necrosis, or tissue damage, has been reported in conjunction with the bites of some South American species of the Wolf Spider. These instances, however, are most likely attributed to misidentification of the species.
Wolf Spider Bites Treatment
First, where possible, catch the little guy and identify it positively as a Wolf Spider. Bites from other spiders could be more serious. Don’t rush to the ER if it is indeed a Wolf Spider that has bitten you: rubbing toothpaste or baking soda on the bite can reduce swelling and pain. Apply an ice pack to help the swelling go down and take a Tylenol if the pain is persistent. If the redness and swelling spread beyond the initial bite, seek medical attention.
Wolf Spider Control
Remember how the Wolf in “The Three Little Pigs” wanted so badly to come inside? Well the Wolf Spider is kind of like that. It lives outside, but will do just about anything to come inside. The Wolf Spider is most commonly found outdoors in garden areas, so control efforts should be concentrated to the exterior of the home and entrance points. Most spiders must be controlled with direct contact; they do not clean themselves like insects and therefore take longer to be affected by the chemicals:
Pesticides should create a barrier around flowerbeds and garden areas; they should be applied until the area is damp. Wolf Spiders tend to reside in mulch and other garden materials.
Spray around potential entrances: A professional will spray around doors, windows, and plumbing lines.
Harborage Sites like rain gutters, tree limbs, retaining walls, and rocks are favorite places for the Wolf Spider. Spraying these areas are sure to target the Wolf.
Think of the Wolf Spider as one of those guys who lives for the deer hunt in October. They are avid hunters, like to be alone, remain outside wherever possible, and use camo to keep themselves hidden from their prey. They’re hairy and fast, and if provoked will react. Keep your garden tidy and entrances sealed to keep the Wolf from blowing your house down.