Do Wolf Spiders Eat Brown Recluse? Unveiling the Spider Diet Mystery

Wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders are two common types of spiders found in many parts of the world. While both spiders share some similarities, they also have distinct differences, particularly in their hunting and feeding habits. A commonly asked question is whether wolf spiders eat brown recluse spiders.

Wolf spiders are known for their agile hunting skills, as they do not spin webs to catch prey like other spiders. Instead, they use their speed and stealth to capture insects and other small creatures. Brown recluse spiders, on the other hand, are more reclusive and prefer to hide in dark, undisturbed areas, often setting up their irregular webs to catch prey.

Both spiders have different preferences when it comes to their meals. Wolf spiders primarily feed on insects like crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. Brown recluse spiders, however, capture smaller insects and other arthropods in their webs. Although they are not the primary prey, it is possible for a wolf spider to eat a brown recluse spider if they happen to cross paths. Overall, it is an uncommon interaction, but the predatory nature of wolf spiders may lead to them consuming brown recluse spiders when the opportunity arises.

Wolf Spiders Vs Brown Recluse Spiders

Appearance

Wolf spiders are characterized by their hairy bodies, which are typically brown or gray, with markings or lines. They range in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches long.

On the other hand, brown recluse spiders are tan to dark brown with a distinctive dark violin-shaped marking on top of their cephalothorax, which is near where their legs attach.

Feature Wolf Spider Brown Recluse
Size 1/2 inch-2 inches Around 1 inch
Color Brown or Gray Tan to dark brown
Markings Various lines Violin-shaped
Eyes Eight eyes Six eyes

Range and Habitat

Wolf spiders can be found across North America, while brown recluse spiders are typically found in the Midwestern and southern states of the United States, such as Kentucky, Texas, and others.

Both spider species prefer dark, secluded areas like:

  • Garages
  • Basements
  • Woodpiles
  • Storage spaces

Venom and Danger to Humans

While wolf spiders can bite, their venom is usually not harmful to humans.

Brown recluse spiders’ venom, in contrast, can cause necrotic lesions and other severe medical conditions, making them potentially dangerous to humans. However, bites are rare, and fatalities are even rarer.

Behavior

Wolf spiders are active hunters and do not build webs, while brown recluse spiders spin irregular, sticky webs in their hiding spots.

Regarding their diet, wolf spiders eat various smaller insects, while brown recluse spiders have a more specific prey range, including insects like cockroaches or crickets. Given that wolf spiders are hunters and brown recluse spiders can be part of their prey, it’s likely that wolf spiders would eat brown recluse spiders in certain situations.

Diet and Hunting Techniques

Prey and Predators

Wolf spiders primarily feed on insects such as:

  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Cockroaches

Their diet occasionally includes other spiders like house spiders, and some wolf spiders might even prey on brown recluses or black widows. However, wolf spiders themselves face dangers from various predators, such as ants and some birds.

Hunting Strategies

Unlike web-building spiders, wolf spiders hunt for prey without relying on webs. Their primary hunting techniques are:

  1. Jumping: Wolf spiders can cover significant distances by leaping toward their prey.
  2. Burrowing: These spiders create burrows to trap and ambush their targets.
Spider Diet Hunting Technique Dangerous
Wolf Spider Insects & Spiders Jumping, Burrowing Mostly Safe
Brown Recluse Insects & Spiders Ambushing Potentially Harmful

While wolf spiders, both males and females, are skilled hunters, they’re generally not considered dangerous to humans. Their bites might be painful, but medical consequences are rare and usually mild.

In summary, wolf spiders are hunters that primarily feast on various insects and occasionally other spiders, like brown recluses. They’re not as dangerous as some other spider species and help by controlling insect populations.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Mating and Egg Sacs

Wolf spiders have a unique mating process. During the mating season, males perform complex courtship rituals to attract females. After successful mating, female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs with them.

  • Males perform intricate courtship rituals.
  • Females carry their egg sacs.

Development and Spiderlings

Wolf spider development is fascinating. When spiderlings hatch, they climb onto the mother’s back and ride around until partially grown. This behavior is unique to wolf spiders.

  • Spiderlings ride on mother’s back.
  • They stay there until partially grown.

Here’s a comparison table for key aspects of wolf spider reproduction:

Aspect Wolf Spiders
Mating Season Complex rituals by males
Egg Sacs Carried by females
Development Spiderlings ride on mother’s back

In conclusion, the life cycle and reproduction of wolf spiders involve unique behaviors such as their complex courtship rituals and the way females carry their egg sacs. The spiderlings also exhibit interesting behaviors, like riding on the mother’s back until they are partially grown.

Prevention and Control Measures

Identification and Inspection

Identifying wolf spiders is crucial in preventing and controlling their population. They are part of the Lycosidae family, with unique characteristics:

  • Size: 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
  • Appearance: Hairy, brown to gray
  • Markings: Various lines or markings
  • Legs: 8 long legs
  • Sight: Good eyesight for hunting

On the other hand, brown recluse spiders are known for their violin-shaped marking on their back. Inspect common hiding spots to identify potential infestations:

  • Woodpiles
  • Leaf litter
  • Cluttered storage areas

Extermination and Managing Infestations

To exterminate and manage infestations, consider the following methods:

  1. Sticky traps: Place sticky traps along walls to passively capture spiders.
  2. Vacuum: Suck them up using a vacuum cleaner.
  3. Reduce clutter: Eliminate potential hiding spots by reducing clutter and leaf litter.
  4. Introduce natural predators: Encourage the presence of wasps, birds, and lizards in your yard to minimize wolf spider populations.

Pros and Cons of Methods

Method Pros Cons
Sticky traps Non-toxic, easy, and efficient May catch other beneficial insects
Vacuum Instant removal, no contact with the spider Limited reach for high or tight areas
Reduce clutter Discourages infestations, promotes cleanliness Requires time and effort
Natural predators Eco-friendly, reduces spider population passively Predation control could be slow

Keep the mentioned prevention and control measures in mind to effectively manage wolf spider and brown recluse infestations. Remember that collaborating with a department of entomology or a certified exterminator is recommended for large-scale infestations.

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 – Spider from Zambia, possibly Wolf Spider

 

Spider (Huntsman?) in Lusaka, Zambia
Location: Lusaka, Zambia
October 21, 2010 4:11 am
Dear Bugman,
last night (around 8pm., 2 hours after sunset) I almost stepped on this spider (body size appr. 3.5 cm / 1.4 inches), which was sitting on the grass in our garden. We are located in the city of Lusaka, Zambia (Southern Africa). Currently it is dry season with the rainy season approaching.
The spider did not move for the entire time I took from discovering it to fetching the camera and taking some photos (with flash). Also placing my slipper next to it for size comparison did not make it move.
Any hints are greatly appreciated. Thank you very much in advance!
Signature: Spider-Illiterate

Possibly Wolf Spider

Dear Spider-Illiterate,
In our opinion, this appears to be a Wolf Spider, but we are not certain.

Letter 2 – Thin-Legged Wolf Spider with Spiderlings and without

 

Spider query
Hi,
We found a pair of these spiders hanging out on our patio out in the back yard. They were approximately 1 1/8" long in including legs. Just curious what kind of spiders they are. We live in Tucson, Arizona. I did notice that one has egg sacks on it body (??).
Thanks in advance,
Stuart

Hi Stuart,
What marvelous images of Thin-Legged Wolf Spiders in the genus Pardosa. One of them is carrying her spiderlings on her back. Soon the young spiders will disperse.

Letter 3 – Rabid Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

 

wolf or grass spider?
Location: Southeastern Pennsylvania
November 9, 2010 11:56 am
Hi Bugman,
I’m trying to get a definitive ID on this spider with spiderlings. I took it this summer (2010) at the Nature Center where I work. I’d like to include it in a presentation I’m working on.
It matches some photos I’ve seen of wolf spiders, and I know that wolf spiders carry their spiderlings, but it doesn’t have the really big eyes that I think of as typical for them. Maybe it’s a grass spider? Or something else?
I love your site–I look at it every day!
Thanks for all you do!
Signature: Curious spider fan

Rabid Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Hi Curious spider fan,
This maternal behavior is consistent with Wolf Spiders and not Grass Spiders which look somewhat similar.  We believe this is a female Rabid Wolf Spider,
Rabidosa rabida, and you can compare your specimen with the images posted to Bugguide.

Letter 4 – Scorpion with Brood devours Wolf Spider

 

Subject: Scorpion with brood consumes wolf spider
Location: Toledo District , Belize
August 17, 2014 8:32 pm
After looking at your scorpion photos, I thought you might be interested in this image.
Signature: Tanya

Scorpion with Brood devours Spider
Scorpion with Brood devours Wolf Spider

Dear Tanya,
You are our new hero.  These Food Chain images are awesome, but we have some questions.  Please tell us more about this Scorpion that appears to have been feeding indoors.  Was it living inside your home?  Also, the lighting is very different on the two images, with the redder image having more critical focus.  Why are the lighting conditions different?  We found a very similar looking Scorpion on The Flying Kiwi, but it is listed as unidentified.  Since the head of the spider has already been devoured, we didn’t think we would be able to identify your Wolf Spider, but we found an image on Scott Leslie’s site that looks very similar to the Wolf Spider in your images.  Alas, it is not identified beyond the family.  We love that you have supplied images to our site that document the maternal behavior of Scorpions.

Scorpion with Brood devours Wolf Spider
Scorpion with Brood devours Wolf Spider

Letter 5 – Rescued Wolf Spider

 

Subject: Spider Warrior
Location: Texas
August 21, 2014 12:58 pm
this is just a pic i took that i thought i would share the story behind it is my mom poured soapy water to get rid of some ants outside near our melons in the process this big spider got washed out i picked it up with a stick to get it out and brushed the suds off with a leaf i left it for 20 minutes alone under a pot plant hoping it would be okay. but it wasn’t moving and its legs started to curl. i saw my nephews toys and thought well its dead i could take a nice pic, 10 minutes after the pic it jumped to life and scurried away i was shocked but happy it did not die
Signature: Coyote

Wolf Spider saved from Drowning
Wolf Spider saved from Drowning

Dear Coyote,
We love your story and accompanying image of this Wolf Spider rescued from drowning.  We have heard other accounts of drowned Wolf Spiders rescued from swimming pools that also revived and survived.  We are also tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

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.

5 thoughts on “Do Wolf Spiders Eat Brown Recluse? Unveiling the Spider Diet Mystery”

  1. I’m curious as to how you are positive it isn’t a Dotted Wolf Spider. My understanding was that the pattern in the black stripe on the abdomen of a dotted wolf (or lack of pattern on Dotted) was the only discernible difference between the two. That portion is blocked by the spiderlings in this photo so I’m curious as to how you ID’d this as a Rabid.

    Reply
  2. Well, it’s not often I’m a hero. Encouraging words indeed. The lighting is different because the brighter photo was taken with flash and the other without. She was on the ceiling of a work building which is enclosed on the upper level but only has half walls on the lower level where she was settled. I have a total of ten photos, with and without flash, from a couple different angles; the later ones were taken about 80 minutes after the first ones; by that time there was very little left of the spider. The scorpion was not at all disturbed by the photo sessions. If you’d like me to send some more photos, I’ll gladly do that.

    Reply
    • We would love to see any images before the ones you sent that show the Wolf Spider better, or any images you have with the young Scorpions feeding with mama Scorpion. Thanks for the explanation regarding color. It is pretty much what we expected.

      Reply
  3. Hello I found a pregnant wolf spider and want to make sure that is what it is , how can I send you a picture of it? I love in Mesa, Arizona

    Reply

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