Do Wolf Spiders Bite? Exploring the Facts and Myths

folder_openArachnida, Araneae
comment5 Comments

Wolf spiders are a common type of spider that many people encounter, often causing curiosity and fear about whether they bite. These spiders are known for their hairy appearance and can range in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches long, typically brown, black, gray, or yellow with various markings source. It’s important to understand their behavior and the potential risks they pose to humans.

Although wolf spiders may appear intimidating due to their size and rapid movements, they are not known to be aggressive towards humans. While they can bite if mishandled or accidentally trapped next to the skin, their bites usually only cause initial pain, redness, and possible swelling source. In most cases, symptoms from a wolf spider bite will subside within 24 hours without any serious medical consequences.

Wolf Spider Overview

Size and Appearance

Wolf spiders are part of the Lycosidae family and can range in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. They usually have a hairy appearance and come in various colors, including brown, black, gray, or tan. Some key features of wolf spiders are:

  • Eight legs
  • Arachnid classification
  • Eight eyes, with a unique arrangement

Here’s a comparison between wolf spiders and common house spiders:

Feature Wolf Spider Common House Spider
Size 1/2 to 2 inches 1/8 to 3/8 inches
Eyes Eight Eight
Leg Span Larger Smaller
Hairy Appearance Yes No

Habitat

Wolf spiders can be found in diverse habitats, such as woodlands, grassy areas, and even gardens. They are common arachnids that can often be found on the ground or hiding under stones.

Behavior and Hunting

These spiders are known for their hunting abilities and do not typically spin webs. They are active hunters that rely on their keen vision and speed to catch their prey, which primarily includes insects and other spiders. Some interesting aspects of wolf spider behavior include:

  • Nocturnal hunting
  • Utilizing their pedipalps as sensory organs
  • Female spiders carrying egg sacs for protection

Wolf spiders are not considered dangerous to humans, but they may bite if mishandled or trapped next to the skin. The bites are usually not harmful but can cause initial pain, redness, and localized swelling. Symptoms generally subside within 24 hours.

Do Wolf Spiders Bite

Circumstances of Biting

Wolf spiders may bite under certain situations, such as when they feel threatened or accidentally trapped against the skin. They are generally not aggressive towards humans and would rather escape than bite. For example, if a wolf spider is mishandled or finds itself cornered with no option to flee, it might resort to biting as a defense mechanism.

Is the Bite Poisonous

Wolf spider bites are not considered poisonous or highly dangerous. However, a bite can still cause some discomfort and mild symptoms in humans. Here’s a quick comparison of a wolf spider bite versus a more venomous spider bite:

Spider Bite Pain Swelling Duration Serious Medical Consequences
Wolf Spider Bite Yes Some ~24 hours No
Venomous Spider Bite Yes Severe Varies Possible

Upon being bitten by a wolf spider, one might experience:

  • Initial pain
  • Redness around the bite area
  • Localized swelling

These symptoms usually subside within 24 hours and do not lead to serious medical consequences1.

Please remember that even though a wolf spider bite is not considered dangerous, it is still essential to clean the bite area and monitor for any unexpected reactions or worsening of symptoms. Consult a medical professional if the symptoms persist or worsen.

Symptoms and Allergic Reactions

Mild Symptoms

Wolf spider bites can cause mild symptoms. These may include:

  • Pain: Initial pain similar to a bee sting 1.
  • Redness: The bite area may become red 1.
  • Localized swelling: Swelling might happen around the bite area 1.

In most cases, symptoms subside within 24 hours1.

Severe Allergic Reaction

Although rare, some individuals may experience a severe allergic reaction to a wolf spider bite. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include:

  • Itching and rash: Intense itchiness and rashes around the bite area.
  • Nausea and vomiting: The venom may cause nausea and vomiting in some people.
  • Fever: A high body temperature (fever) might develop.
  • Headaches and dizziness: Some individuals may experience headaches and dizziness.
  • Sweating, weakness, and shaking: These can also accompany a severe allergic reaction.

If you suspect an allergic reaction to a wolf spider bite, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

Wolf Spider Bite Bee Sting
Pain Yes Yes
Redness Yes Yes
Swelling Localized Localized
Itching/Rash Allergic Allergic
Nausea/Vomiting Allergic Allergic
Fever Allergic Allergic
Headaches & Dizziness Allergic Allergic
Sweating, Weakness & Shaking Allergic Allergic

Medical professionals can help in treating the symptoms and preventing infection or serious complications. Always keep an eye out for signs of infection like pus, excessive swelling, or significant pain that does not subside.

Treatment of Wolf Spider Bites

Home Remedies

  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling and numb the pain
  • Avoid scratching the bite area to prevent infection
  • Use an over-the-counter antihistamine to alleviate itchiness and reduce inflammation

For example, a quick-acting antihistamine like Benadryl may be helpful. Make sure to follow the package instructions.

When to Seek Medical Attention

However, it is important to recognize the signs when it is time to seek medical attention. Consult a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms after a wolf spider bite:

  1. Severe pain or swelling around the bite area
  2. Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  3. Rapid heartbeat or dizziness

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to prevent potential infection or recommend further treatment options such as:

  • Pain medication for symptom relief
  • Possible allergy testing or use of an EpiPen, depending on the reaction severity

In very rare cases, when complications arise, surgery might be necessary. However, the risk of complications is quite low with wolf spider bites.

To help understand when to seek help, here’s a comparison table of home remedies and medical attention for wolf spider bites:

Home Remedies Medical Attention
Cold compress or ice pack Severe pain or swelling
Avoid scratching Difficulty breathing or swallowing
Over-the-counter antihistamine Rapid heartbeat or dizziness
Doctor may prescribe antibiotics, pain medication, allergy testing, or use of an EpiPen

By following the appropriate treatment steps for a wolf spider bite, you can ensure a timely recovery and minimize discomfort.

Preventing Wolf Spider Encounters

Indoor Tips

  • Keep basements, garages, and windows clutter-free to reduce hiding spots for wolf spiders.
  • Use airtight containers for storage to prevent spiders from getting inside items.
  • Regularly vacuum and clean your house, especially dark corners and underneath furniture.
  • Fill in gaps around doors and windows with weather-stripping to prevent spider entry.
  • Make sure window screens are in good repair and properly fitted.

Outdoor Tips

  • Remove piles of rocks, logs, and firewood, as they provide a habitat for wolf spiders.
  • Trim grass and plants near your home to eliminate hiding areas.
  • Keep a 12-inch buffer of gravel, stones, or mulch between the lawn and the house foundation.
  • Maintain cleanliness in sheds and outdoor storage areas.
  • Inspect and shake out any items you bring indoors from outside, like houseplants or firewood.

Comparing Wolf Spiders to Black Widow Spiders:

Feature Wolf Spider Black Widow Spider
Size 1/2 inch to 2 inches long 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch long
Appearance Hairy, brown to gray with marking or lines Shiny black with red hourglass marking
Habitat Burrows in grass, leaves, and ground Webs in dark corners of sheds, garages
Poisonous to Humans Non-poisonous Venomous, but rarely fatal

Key Features of Wolf Spiders:

  • Non-poisonous
  • Can be identified by their markings or stripes.
  • Camouflage with their surroundings (like leaves and grass).
  • Often found on the ground, burrowing in grass or under rocks.

Characteristics of Their Encounters:

  • Typically found in basements, crawlspaces, or brezeways.
  • May enter homes near ground level.
  • Happen more frequently during warm months.
  • Encounters are usually with a single spider or only a few individuals.

Wolf Spider vs. Other Spider Species

Brown Recluse Spider

The Brown Recluse spider is known for its distinguishing features:

  • Dark brown color
  • Violin-shaped marking on its cephalothorax
  • Six eyes arranged in pairs

Wolf spiders, on the other hand, possess:

  • Hairy, brown to gray bodies
  • Various markings or lines
  • Eight eyes, with two large ones in front and two smaller groups on the sides1

Here’s a comparison table to illustrate the differences:

Feature Brown Recluse Spider Wolf Spider
Color Dark brown Brown to gray
Markings Violin-shaped Various marks or lines
Eyes Six (arranged in pairs) Eight (two large in front, two groups)

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow spiders are quite different from both Brown Recluse and Wolf spiders. Some key characteristics include:

  • Shiny black color
  • Red hourglass shape on the underside
  • Mere 1.5 inches long when fully grown2

Wolf spiders don’t share these features and tend to be less dangerous3.

To summarize:

  • Brown Recluse spiders can be differentiated from Wolf spiders by their dark brown color, violin-shaped marking, and six eyes.
  • Black Widow spiders are easily distinguishable by their shiny black color and red hourglass marking, making them distinct from Wolf spiders.

Fascinating Wolf Spider Facts

Eyesight and Vision

  • Wolf spiders have excellent eyesight and vision which sets them apart from other spiders.
  • They possess eight eyes arranged in three rows, allowing them to spot prey and predators with ease.

Maternal Instincts

  • These spiders exhibit strong maternal instincts, as wolf spider mothers carry their large egg sacs around with them.
  • After hatching, the spiderlings climb onto their mother’s back and ride around until partly grown.

In comparison to other spiders, wolf spiders:

Feature Wolf Spiders Other Spiders
Eyesight and vision Exceptional Varies, often poor
Size 1/2 inch to 2 inches long Range from small to very large
Web spinning Do not typically spin webs Spin webs for hunting and nesting
Hunting behavior Active hunters, similar to wolves Passive hunters, using webs to catch prey
Maternal instincts Carry egg sacs and care for young Varies, often minimal care or cannibalism
Insect bites Rarely bite, not dangerous Vary in severity, some can be painful or dangerous

Wolf spiders play a significant role in pest control by hunting and feeding on:

  • Large insects
  • Other spiders

Despite their size and strong hunter demeanor, wolf spiders are not known to be a serious threat to humans. If they do bite, it is typically due to mishandling or being trapped against the skin. Their bites may cause:

  • Initial pain
  • Redness
  • Localized swelling

However, symptoms usually subside within 24 hours, and there are no known serious medical consequences from their bites.

In conclusion, wolf spiders are fascinating creatures with notable eyesight and maternal instincts. As excellent hunters, they provide natural pest control and pose little to no danger to humans.

Footnotes

  1. Penn State Extension – Wolf Spiders 2 3 4 5 6

  2. Black Widow Spider | National Wildlife Federation

  3. Wolf Spiders – Penn State Extension

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

 

Yucky Ugly Spider !!!! Can We Be Friends???
I found this creepy guy under my kitchen sink! He completely freaked me out and yet I can’t bring myself to kill him (what if he just wants to be friends?). He seems a little aggressive but maybe he’s just bold. Anyway, I have him in a container now but would like to let him go outside. I just want to make sure he’s not dangerous. If he comes back, I need to know what to do.
BTW, I live in East Texas.
Thanks!
PS: My 7 year old is completely obsessed with spiders and wants to make a career out of it, so I’d really rather not kill his buddy.

Hi Karen,
You have a Wolf Spider. They have excellent eyesight and hunt prey rather than building a web. They might bite, but are not dangerous.

Wow! That was a fast response!!! Thanks a lot. We let him go in the backyard but for some reason, even though he took off really fast, he just decided to hang out on the fallen tree I put him on. So later that night my husband moved him to a nearby field. My son is feeling pretty smug right now because he was right. He had a great time pointing out all of Mr. Creepy’s lovely features and gave me a great speech about the greatness of spiders. Thanks again.

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider

 

Picture of what I believe to be a california wolf spider!
March 26, 2010
This is a picture I took in my backyard in Livermore, CA in the san francisco bay area. I believe it is a wolf spider and was about 3 inches from limb to limb. I hope this is a good example for your website!
Mike from Livermore, CA
Livermore, California

Wolf Spider

Hi Mike,
Usually, with Wolf Spiders, we are very reluctant to try to identify the species, but in the case of your spider, we believe it looks like Schizocosa mccooki, a species BugGuide reports from California.

Letter 3 – Wolf Spider

 

Wolf Spider – Att: Daniel
Location: Mid-Missouri
November 2, 2010 10:41 am
I found this wolf spider this weekend in my yard. It was fairly large and I would guess the body length to be about an inch with overall length (with legs) to be in the 2 inch range. He was very friendly (as most all wolf spiders I come across are). One of these days I’m going to get the nerve to let one walk on my hand….yesterday wasn’t that day though.
I have searched and searched for an ID and can not get farther than the Lycosidae Family. I have not seen this species before and most I come accross are Rabidosa or Pardosa. Hopefully you can give me some help to nail it down to a species or even genus.
Signature: Nathanael Siders

Wolf Spider

Hi Nathanael,
We scanned through the Wolf Spider images on BugGuide, and we believe your lovely Wolf Spider might be
Gladicosa pulchra.  The markings resemble the markings on this image on BugGuide, and the face is a dead ringer for this image on BugGuide.

Wolf Spider

Letter 4 – Wolf Spider

 

what is this
Location: maryland
October 24, 2011 5:04 pm
we have tons of these spiders all over our house some with the leg span mind you can get up to the size of a soft ball, they are all in our garage and now finding them in the house. can you please help? are the venomous? i have little kids. so just wondering
Signature: mary shoemaker

Wolf Spider, Hogna baltimoriana we believe

Dear Mary,
Wolf Spiders like your specimen are not considered to be harmful spiders.  Nearly all spiders have venom, but very few spiders have venom that is dangerous to humans.  We believe we have identified your spider as
Hogna baltimoriana based on photos posted to BugGuide, though we would not rule out that it is another member of the genus.  We hope we can convince you to allow these spiders to cohabitate with you because the advantages they provide as predators that will keep undesireable creatures from prowling around your home far outweigh your arachnophobia about them.  Perhaps if we name them the Baltimore Wolf Spider after the scientific name might convince you to see them in a more positive light.

The "Baltimore" Wolf Spider

Letter 5 – Wolf Spider

 

Subject: Huge…wolf spider?
Location: Central California foothills
July 30, 2012 8:33 pm
We came across this ”little thing” while camping this weekend at a lake in central CA. It almost crawled on my brothers foot sitting around the camp. We managed to catch it to show the kids but it had escaped by morning. I think it’s some type of wolf spider but I can’t seem to match it. Any insight? Thanks for your help.
Signature: George

Wolf Spider

Hi George,
This is a beautiful Wolf Spider, and most likely a female, but we are not certain of the species.

Letter 6 – Wolf Spider

 

Subject: Spider classification, please
Location: Columbia, SC
March 3, 2014 7:50 pm
Hi. Spotted a ground-dwelling spider in the yard today (see attached photo) and am curious as to what type.
Closest I can tell it could be a Funnel Weaver, Fishing Spider, or possibly in the Wolf Spider family.
Looking forward to your insightful findings.
Thanks!
Signature: C. Neil Scott

Wolf Spider
Wolf Spider

Dear C. Neil Scott,
We believe this is a Wolf Spider, but our second guess would be Nursery Web Spider which allows for the possibility of it being a Fishing Spider.  Your spider bears a resemblance to the
Gladicosa gulosa that is pictured on BugGuide.  We are going to contact Mandy Howe to see if she can assist in the identification.

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Wolf Spiders

Related Posts

5 Comments. Leave new

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

keyboard_arrow_up