Burrowing Wolf Spider: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

The burrowing wolf spider, part of the Lycosidae family, is a fascinating creature worth exploring. Known for its unique hunting tactics, this spider doesn’t utilize a web to capture its prey.

Instead, it relies on exceptional agility and speed to ambush and chase down targets. The burrowing wolf spider is named after its distinct nesting behavior – digging burrows in the ground to camouflage and protect itself from predators.

Here are some key features of the burrowing wolf spider:

  • Fast and agile hunter
  • Nocturnal, primarily hunts at night
  • Builds burrows for protection and camouflage

In summary, the burrowing wolf spider is an intriguing example of survival adaptation and should not be overlooked in studying arachnid behavior.

Identification of Burrowing Wolf Spiders

Physical Characteristics

Burrowing wolf spiders belong to the Lycosidae family and are known for their distinctive hairy, brown, or gray appearance. These spiders often have dark stripes on their legs and abdomen. Some key features of their physical appearance include:

  • Size: 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
  • Color: Brown to gray with various markings or lines
  • Body: Hairy, with dark stripes on legs and abdomen

Eyesight and Unique Eyes

One of the most unique characteristics of spider species in the Lycosidae family is their eyesight, which is among the best of all spider species. The eight eyes of burrowing wolf spiders are arranged in three rows:

  • Top row: 4 small eyes
  • Middle row: 2 large, forward-facing eyes
  • Bottom row: 2 medium-sized eyes

This arrangement provides them with excellent vision for hunting and navigating their environment.

Habitat and Distribution

Burrowing wolf spiders are commonly found throughout the United States, living in various habitats such as woodlands, grassy areas, and even residential spaces. Their distribution across the U.S. includes:

Region Presence
Eastern U.S. Common
Central U.S. Moderately common
Western U.S. Less common

These spiders are typically found on the ground or under stones, as they are not known for building webs like other spider species. Instead, they burrow into the ground for shelter, hence their name. The burrowing behavior of wolf spiders provides both protection from predators and ideal hunting conditions for catching prey.

Behavior and Ecology

Hunting and Prey

Burrowing wolf spiders are active hunters that rely on their agility and excellent eyesight rather than spinning webs to catch prey. They are typically found in various environments, including meadows, fields, and forests. Their prey usually consists of small insects found on the ground or among leaves, logs, and trees. They are known for their nocturnal hunting habits, using their effective camouflage to blend in with their surroundings as they stalk their targets.

Burrows and Dens

These arachnids are unique among spiders for their burrowing behavior. They create their dens in different ground types, such as grassy areas or woodland habitats. Their burrows can be quite complex and vary in depth, often reaching around 13.2 cm deep. Researchers have noted that burrowing wolf spiders excavate their dens by dislodging, elevating, and throwing known volumes of soil, working tirelessly to create their homes1.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

The reproductive cycle of the burrowing wolf spider includes some fascinating behaviors:

  • Female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs attached to their spinnerets at the bottom rear of their body2.
  • After hatching, the spiderlings cling to their mother’s back for protection and transportation until they are old enough to venture out on their own.
Pros Cons
Effective hunters Limited to ground-dwelling prey
Can adapt to various habitats Requires burrows for protection
Unique burrowing behavior Labor-intensive den construction

Interactions with Humans

Finding Them in Homes and Other Structures

Burrowing wolf spiders (Hogna carolinensis) are ground-dwelling arachnids often found in grassy areas, leaf litter, and abandoned structures. They may enter homes, garages, sheds, and crawl spaces, especially when seeking cover or hunting for prey. These spiders may be found in basements, where they can access cracks in the foundation or use clutter to create hiding spots. They are also attracted to firewood or debris piles outside homes.

Benefits and Pest Control

Wolf spiders play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling populations of insects and small invertebrates. They prey on various pests, such as flies, ants, and beetles, which can be beneficial for homeowners. However, their presence indoors can cause concern for some people. For pest control, consider these preventative measures:

  • Seal cracks in foundations and walls
  • Remove clutter and debris from basements and garages
  • Limit the use of outdoor lighting to reduce insect attraction
  • Store firewood away from the house

Bite and Potential Health Risks

Although not aggressive towards humans, a wolf spider bite can occur if the spider feels threatened or is accidentally trapped against the skin. The bite can cause initial pain and localized swelling, but the symptoms typically subside within 24 hours. Wolf spider bites are not considered serious medical threats, especially when compared to bites from more venomous spiders like the black widow.

Spider Bites Wolf Spider Black Widow
Pain level Mild to moderate Severe
Swelling Localized Possible, widespread
Medical seriousness Low, subsides in 24 hours High, requires attention

Overall, burrowing wolf spiders pose minimal risks to human health and are a beneficial species for pest control. However, you might wish to take precautions to prevent them from entering your home and ensure a comfortable living environment.

Taxonomy and Classification

The burrowing wolf spider belongs to the Geolycosa genus within the family Lycosidae. These spiders are part of the larger kingdom Animalia and phylum Arthropoda. Wolf spiders are known for their agility and hunting skills, as opposed to web spinning for capturing prey.

Key features of the burrowing wolf spider:

  • Usually gray, brown, black, or tan with dark markings
  • Long legs suited for hunting and burrowing
  • Females carry egg sacs attached to their spinnerets

Comparison of burrowing wolf spider with brown recluse spider:

Feature Burrowing Wolf Spider Brown Recluse Spider
Family Lycosidae Sicariidae
Web Usage Hunts prey actively, doesn’t spin webs Spins irregular webs
Venom Toxicity Bite causes mild pain, not dangerous to humans Bite can cause serious reactions in humans

Burrowing wolf spiders primarily feed on insects and show a strong maternal instinct by carrying their egg sacs with them. Their bites can be painful but are generally not dangerous to humans, unlike the venomous brown recluse spider bites. Both spiders exhibit a defensive reaction when threatened.

Although part of the larger spider family, Lycosidae stands out not just for its size, but also for a unique hunting style that sets it apart from web-spinning spiders. This, coupled with their unique characteristics and features, makes the burrowing wolf spider a fascinating creature to study.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Wolf spiders primarily eat insects and other small invertebrates. A favorite food source for these spiders is crickets. Here are some key characteristics of their feeding habits:

  • Active hunters: Unlike web-building spiders, they actively search for their prey.
  • Opportunistic: Wolf spiders will also eat whatever is available, including other spiders.

These spiders have great adaptations that aid in their hunting and feeding:

  • Hairy body: Their body hair helps them detect vibrations from potential prey.
  • Eyesight: Wolf spiders have exceptional eyesight, ideal for hunting.

It’s interesting to compare wolf spiders with web-building spiders in terms of their feeding habits. Here’s a brief comparison table:

Wolf Spiders Web-Building Spiders
Hunting Technique Active hunting Passive (wait in webs)
Food Detection Hairy body & eyesight Web vibrations
Prey Insects, small invertebrates Insects, small invertebrates

In summary, wolf spiders are active hunters with a preference for crickets. They rely on their hairy body and excellent eyesight to detect and capture their prey.

Footnotes

  1. Mechanics and energetics of excavation by burrowing wolf spiders

  2. Wolf Spiders | Missouri Department of Conservation

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Better pic of wolf (or fishing???) spider with egg sac.
Hey Bugman,
I attached the wrong picture before. I was playing around with color, contrast, etc. with the first one I sent, and that was not the pic I intended to send. This picture of a wolf (or fishing?) spider carrying its egg sac has not been modified except for cropping the pic. A friend’s driver’s license was placed above the spider to show its size. It was cropped to protect the innocent, but I left a small portion of the license in the pic to demonstrate the spider’s size. The spider was seen in a parking lot in Harford County, MD.
Mark

Hi Mark,
This is a Wolf Spider. Female Wolf Spiders drag the egg sac behind them from their spinnerets. The female Fishing Spider carries her egg sac in her chelicerae or by her mouth.

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Spider with Egg Sac
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
October 11, 2011 2:24 pm
I took a photo of a spider about .75” long in Santa Rosa, California, recently and would like to identify it. Can you help? Thanks
Signature: Glenn McCrea

Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

wolf spider

Hi, Daniel –
Thanks so much for your help in identifying these creatures. This is a fabulous service. Do you know any local resource in my area where I could find help with local creatures so I don’t have to bug you (so to speak) on a regular basis? I live in Santa Rosa, CA, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.
Thanks again,
Glenn McCrea

Hi Glenn,
We ran out of time yesterday, and though we wanted to post this photo of a Wolf Spider dragging her Egg Sac from her spinnerets, we had to leave for work.  You are welcomed.  Your photographs were all quite nice.  We would suggest your local natural history museum for assistance. Nearby universities should also have entomology departments.  As long as you are understanding that we cannot answer all of our mail, you are free to continue sending us identification requests.  The Wolf Spider is our featured Bug of the Month for October 2011.

Letter 3 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Thought u may like this…
Location: Cleveland, GA
May 9, 2013 3:43 pm
Wolf spider with egg sac? Picture taken in northeast Georgia last night. 🙂
Signature: Frog

Wolf Spider with Egg Sac
Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

Dear Frog,
Thank you for your photo.  We often get photos of female Wolf Spiders covered with spiderlings, but we don’t have many photos of them with their egg sacs.  The female Wolf Spider cares for her eggs and hatclings until they begin to disperse.

Letter 4 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Wolf Spider
Location: Ohio, United States
April 30, 2015 1:16 am
I came across this beauty today that I believe to be an H. lenta. She was carrying an egg sack with her. I’m very curious to see the spiderlings and the mother’s care, so I set up a large escape proof terrarium to watch her in for a bit. Confirmation on her species would be well appreciated.
Signature: SillyToadGirl (Lexi)

Wolf Spider with Egg Sac
Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Lexi,
The manner with which the female Wolf Spider transports her egg sac is quite characteristic, dragging it about from her spinnerets, so your family identification is definitely correct.  According to BugGuide,
Hogna lenta is found in Ohio, so the species is a possibility, but we cannot be certain.  Perhaps one of our readers can confirm the species identity for you.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Better pic of wolf (or fishing???) spider with egg sac.
Hey Bugman,
I attached the wrong picture before. I was playing around with color, contrast, etc. with the first one I sent, and that was not the pic I intended to send. This picture of a wolf (or fishing?) spider carrying its egg sac has not been modified except for cropping the pic. A friend’s driver’s license was placed above the spider to show its size. It was cropped to protect the innocent, but I left a small portion of the license in the pic to demonstrate the spider’s size. The spider was seen in a parking lot in Harford County, MD.
Mark

Hi Mark,
This is a Wolf Spider. Female Wolf Spiders drag the egg sac behind them from their spinnerets. The female Fishing Spider carries her egg sac in her chelicerae or by her mouth.

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Spider with Egg Sac
Location: Santa Rosa, CA
October 11, 2011 2:24 pm
I took a photo of a spider about .75” long in Santa Rosa, California, recently and would like to identify it. Can you help? Thanks
Signature: Glenn McCrea

Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

wolf spider

Hi, Daniel –
Thanks so much for your help in identifying these creatures. This is a fabulous service. Do you know any local resource in my area where I could find help with local creatures so I don’t have to bug you (so to speak) on a regular basis? I live in Santa Rosa, CA, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.
Thanks again,
Glenn McCrea

Hi Glenn,
We ran out of time yesterday, and though we wanted to post this photo of a Wolf Spider dragging her Egg Sac from her spinnerets, we had to leave for work.  You are welcomed.  Your photographs were all quite nice.  We would suggest your local natural history museum for assistance. Nearby universities should also have entomology departments.  As long as you are understanding that we cannot answer all of our mail, you are free to continue sending us identification requests.  The Wolf Spider is our featured Bug of the Month for October 2011.

Letter 3 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Thought u may like this…
Location: Cleveland, GA
May 9, 2013 3:43 pm
Wolf spider with egg sac? Picture taken in northeast Georgia last night. 🙂
Signature: Frog

Wolf Spider with Egg Sac
Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

Dear Frog,
Thank you for your photo.  We often get photos of female Wolf Spiders covered with spiderlings, but we don’t have many photos of them with their egg sacs.  The female Wolf Spider cares for her eggs and hatclings until they begin to disperse.

Letter 4 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

 

Subject: Wolf Spider
Location: Ohio, United States
April 30, 2015 1:16 am
I came across this beauty today that I believe to be an H. lenta. She was carrying an egg sack with her. I’m very curious to see the spiderlings and the mother’s care, so I set up a large escape proof terrarium to watch her in for a bit. Confirmation on her species would be well appreciated.
Signature: SillyToadGirl (Lexi)

Wolf Spider with Egg Sac
Wolf Spider with Egg Sac

Hi Lexi,
The manner with which the female Wolf Spider transports her egg sac is quite characteristic, dragging it about from her spinnerets, so your family identification is definitely correct.  According to BugGuide,
Hogna lenta is found in Ohio, so the species is a possibility, but we cannot be certain.  Perhaps one of our readers can confirm the species identity for you.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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