Fishing Spider vs Wolf Spider: Battle of the Arachnids

Fishing spiders and wolf spiders are two common types of spiders that are often mistaken for one another. They share similarities in size, shape, and coloration, which can make it difficult for the casual observer to tell them apart. However, these spiders have distinct behaviors and habitats that can help differentiate them.

Fishing spiders, specifically from the genus Dolomedes, are called so because they mostly reside near water and have even been reported to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water as they walk on the surface. On the other hand, wolf spiders are generally ground dwellers and known for their excellent hunting skills.

Both types of spiders are not poisonous, but their bites may cause reactions in certain individuals. These spiders’ presence in buildings is usually accidental, especially common during the fall season, according to Horticulture and Home Pest News.

Fishing Spider and Wolf Spider: An Overview

Fishing Spider (Dolomedes)

Fishing spiders belong to the genus Dolomedes and are known for their unique hunting style. They typically live near water and can catch small fish and aquatic insects by walking on the water surface1. Some recognizable characteristics of fishing spiders include:

  • Large size, similar to wolf spiders
  • Mottled black and brown coloration
  • Dark W-shaped patterns on the abdomen2

Fishing spiders can often be misidentified as wolf spiders due to their similar appearance. However, their habitat and hunting style sets them apart.

Wolf Spider (Lycosidae)

Wolf spiders belong to the family Lycosidae and are common in numerous terrestrial habitats3. They can typically be found near shrubs or tall grass and are known for their active hunting style. Some key features of wolf spiders are:

  • Ground-dwelling and fast-moving
  • Agile hunters that pounce on prey3
  • Carry their young on their backs

Here’s a brief comparison of the two spider types:

Feature Fishing Spider (Dolomedes) Wolf Spider (Lycosidae)
Habitat Near water Terrestrial
Hunting Style Walking on water surface Pouncing
Size and Appearance Large, mottled black/brown Large, various patterns
Unique Characteristics Catches small fish Carries young on back

In summary, fishing spiders and wolf spiders both are large and can be mistaken for each other. However, the key differences between them lie in their habitats, hunting styles, and some unique characteristics.

Habitats and Locations

Fishing Spider Habitats

Fishing spiders, belonging to the genus Dolomedes, primarily reside near water sources such as:

  • Streams
  • Lakes

These spiders can walk on the water’s surface and catch small fish and aquatic insects. Locations where fishing spiders can be found range from Iowa to Canada. They prefer habitats with plenty of:

  • Vegetation
  • Insect supply

Wolf Spider Habitats

Wolf spiders, on the other hand, thrive in a variety of terrestrial habitats. They are commonly found near:

  • Shrubs
  • Tall grass

Wolf spiders often dwell in burrows and actively hunt for prey on the ground or plants. They are also found in locations like Iowa and Canada.

Feature Fishing Spider Wolf Spider
Habitat Near water sources (streams, lakes) Terrestrial habitats
Location Iowa, Canada Iowa, Canada
Preferred Areas Vegetation with ample insect supply Near shrubs or tall grass
Hunting Method Walk on water to catch aquatic prey Active ground or plant hunters

Overall, there are distinctions in the types of habitats and locations for fishing spiders and wolf spiders.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Colors

Fishing spiders and wolf spiders have some similarities when it comes to size and colors, but also a few differences.

  • Fishing spiders: These spiders can be quite large, with the female dark fishing spider’s body reaching about 1″ long. They usually have brownish or blackish coloration and mottled patterns.
  • Wolf spiders: Wolf spiders also come in different sizes and can be similar to fishing spiders in appearance. They also have brown or dark coloration and various banded patterns.

Eyes and Vision

Both spiders have remarkable eyes and vision:

  • Fishing spiders: They have a total of 8 eyes arranged in two rows. Their vision is adapted for nocturnal hunting and detecting prey on the water surface.
  • Wolf spiders: Also have 8 eyes, but with a unique arrangement of 4 small eyes in the lower row, 2 large eyes in the middle row, and 2 medium-sized eyes on top. This configuration allows them excellent vision for hunting during the day and night.

Legs and Speed

The legs and speed of these spiders need to be considered:

  • Fishing spiders: With their long legs, they can walk on the water surface and are capable of catching small fish and aquatic insects. Their legs’ length and strength help to hold their prey and run fast when needed.
  • Wolf spiders: They also have long legs, but with more robust and stout features. Their legs enable them to run quickly on the ground while pursuing prey.

Here’s a comparison table of the physical characteristics of fishing spiders and wolf spiders:

Features Fishing Spiders Wolf Spiders
Size Up to 1″ body length Varies, can be similar to Fishing Spiders
Colors and Patterns Brownish/Blackish, mottled patterns Brown/Dark, banded patterns
Eyes 8 eyes in two rows 8 eyes in unique configuration
Legs Long legs for walking on water Long, robust legs for fast running
Speed Fast on water surface Fast on ground

Prey and Hunting Techniques

Fishing Spider’s Prey and Techniques

Fishing spiders, belonging to the genus Dolomedes, are mostly found near water1. They are known to catch small fish and aquatic insects from the water by walking on the surface1.

  • Prey includes:
    • Fish
    • Aquatic insects
    • Tadpoles

Fishing spiders use their ability to walk on water to approach and catch their prey1. Their hunting technique involves sensing vibrations on the surface of the water1.

Wolf Spider’s Prey and Techniques

Wolf spiders are outdoor species that actively hunt and pursue prey during the day3. They have good vision and do not usually build webs for capturing prey3.

  • Prey includes:
    • Insects
    • Other spiders

Wolf spiders use their speed and agility to run down and catch their prey3.

Fishing Spiders Wolf Spiders
Habitat Near water1 Outdoors3
Prey Fish, aquatic insects, tadpoles1 Insects, other spiders3
Hunting Technique Walking on water, sensing vibrations1 Running, good vision3

Venom and Bites

Fishing Spider Venom and Bites

Fishing spiders, found primarily near water, have the ability to catch small fish and aquatic insects. These spiders belong to the genus Dolomedes and are not known to be particularly aggressive or venomous to humans. In most cases, bites from fishing spiders are harmless and cause little more than mild discomfort1.

  • Bites from fishing spiders are generally not harmful to humans
  • Fishing spider venom rarely causes significant pain or medical problems

Wolf Spider Venom and Bites

Wolf spiders, on the other hand, can deliver a venomous bite. Though not life-threatening to humans, their venom can cause some pain, swelling, and itchiness3. Bites from wolf spiders usually result in symptoms lasting for a few days, but medical attention is generally not necessary.

  • Wolf spider bites may cause pain and swelling
  • Symptoms usually subside within a few days
Feature Fishing Spider Wolf Spider
Bite Mild discomfort Painful
Venom Non-dangerous Non-life-threatening
Medical concern Low Low

Reproduction and Spiderlings

Fishing Spider Eggs and Spiderlings

Fishing spiders, like the Dolomedes tenebrosus, usually lay their eggs near the water or on human-made structures. They belong to the nursery web spiders group, which build unique “nursery” webs to guard their egg sacs and spiderlings1. Some characteristics of fishing spider reproduction include:

  • Egg sacs are typically black
  • Nursery webs provide extra protection for the eggs and spiderlings
  • Female spiders are known to stand guard over the nursery web
  • Male spiders do not participate in guarding the eggs

Wolf Spider Eggs and Spiderlings

Wolf spiders, on the other hand, carry their egg sacs with them3. The mothers are known for their caring behavior, as they carry their spiderlings on their back until they are partially grown. Some features of wolf spider reproduction are:

  • Mothers carry egg sacs with them on the go
  • Spiderlings ride on the mother’s back for added protection
  • No need for a separate nursery web structure

Here is a comparison table between both types of spiders:

Aspect Fishing Spider Wolf Spider
Egg Sac Location Near water or on human-made structures1 Attached to mothers3
Nursery Web Present Absent
Parental Care Female guards nursery web Mother carries spiderlings
Spiderling Protection Inside nursery web On mother’s back

Fishing Spiders and Wolf Spiders as Pets

Fishing spiders and wolf spiders are both fascinating creatures that can be kept as pets. Some people are attracted to their unique appearance and hunting behaviors.

Fishing spiders are large spiders often found near water. They can walk on water and catch small fish or aquatic insects (source). They tend to have longer legs compared to wolf spiders and feature brown-black bands on their legs (source).

Wolf spiders are terrestrial hunters with great eyesight (source). They are known for carrying their young on their backs. Wolf spiders are usually smaller than fishing spiders, but they are still impressive in size.

Here is a comparison table highlighting some key differences between fishing spiders and wolf spiders:

Feature Fishing Spiders Wolf Spiders
Habitat Near water Terrestrial
Prey Small fish, aquatic insects Insects
Leg Length Longer relative to body Shorter relative to body
Coloration Brown-black bands on legs Varies, usually brownish-gray
Reproduction Eggs in sac Eggs on back of female

When keeping these spiders as pets, it’s crucial to accommodate their unique habits and requirements. Some key points to remember:

  • Provide appropriate environments to replicate their natural habitats.
  • Ensure a constant supply of preferred food items, such as live insects.
  • Fishing spiders need constant access to water for hunting, while wolf spiders require water for drinking.

Both fishing and wolf spiders can make fascinating pets for those interested in observing their hunting and nurturing behaviors. However, it’s important to make sure that these captivating creatures are well taken care of, considering their distinct needs and preferences.

Footnotes

  1. Fishing Spider – Penn State Extension 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

  2. Dark Fishing Spider | Missouri Department of Conservation

  3. Wolf and Fishing Spiders | Horticulture and Home Pest News 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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 – Desert Wolf Spider from Australia

 

Black and yellow spider
March 7, 2010
Myself and Haylee went spider hunting during an overnight stay in the bush near Cocklebiddy in WA, Australia . We found a few of these spiders and Haylee managed to get some good pictures of one of the few that didn’t dissapear down its burrow when we approached. We can’t seem to identify it despite searching online. Any ideas? Many Thanks.
Charlie and Haylee
Cocklebiddy, WA, Australia

Desert Wolf Spider

Hi Charlie and Haylee,
This is possibly the most gorgeous Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae we have ever seen.  The arrangement of the eyes is an identifying factor, and the explanation “These spider have eight dark eyes of unequal size arranged in three rows, the first having four eyes
” and a diagram are available on BugGuide.

We have not had any luck with a species identification, which surprises us as this is such a unique spider.  Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck and assist us with the identification.

Karl finds the answer again
It is a beauty!  The closest I could find was Hoggicosa (=Lycosa) bicolor, the Two-coloured or Desert Wolf Spider. There are several photos on the internet which look very similar, except that the colour is not such a vivid yellow. This may be a case of odd light conditions, regional colour variability or sexual dimorphism. It could also be a case of changing appearance with successive moults. In H. bicolor, the males apparently go from a striking two-tone appearance to totally cryptic in their final moult. I couldn’t determine if males and females look different. Here are a few links:
http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/australian/Spidaus.html
http://www.ozimages.com.au/stock/AustralianSpiders.asp
http://flickriver.com/photos/australianspiders/4100778476/
http://flickriver.com/photos/australianspiders/4100041011/
Karl

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider

 

Spider ID…
Greetings,
Here’s an arachnid found in the upstairs of a home near Gooderham, ON (about 120 miles northeast of Toronto).  It was crawling on the floor, no obvious web.  Wolf spider of some sort?  Pictures of specimen attached. Any help appreciated.  Thanks in advance!
Ed

Hi Ed,
In our estimation, this is a Trapdoor Spider, but we cannot find a convincing match on BugGuide. We will see if Eric Eaton can assist.  Eric responded with this:  “Hi, Daniel:

The specimen from Oregon is actually a wolf spider in the family Lycosidae, some of which get to be the size of trapdoor spiders.  There are “foldingdoor tarantulas” throughout Oregon that are quite large as well, in the genus Antrodiaetus, family Antrodiaetidae, so people may find the large males wandering around in search of mates at this time of year. Eric”

Letter 3 – Female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings and possibly Fishing Spider with Prey

 

Subject: Large Spinder
Location: Alvin, Texas
March 23, 2017 8:40 pm
We found this large spider on the front porch eating dinner. Then shortly found what we belive to be the father carrying the eggs on his back. Not sure what it is… if you could please help us identify them that would be cool.
Gulf Coast region
March – early spring
Warm outside
Signature: Robin Kralovetz

Female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Dear Robin,
The second Spider is a female Wolf Spider and she is carrying Spiderlings, not eggs.  Thanks so much for including the penny for scale as it provides a sense of the difference between the sizes of these two spiders.  The Spider with its prey is a much larger individual.  The carapace looks to us to resemble that of a Fishing Spider (see this BugGuide image) in the genus
Dolomedes rather than a Wolf Spider and Fishing Spiders are larger.  Wolf Spiders in the family Lycosidae and Fishing Spiders in the family Pisauridae are both hunting spiders that do not build webs to snare prey.  We may be wrong, bug we believe the larger spider is a Fishing Spider in the genus Dolomedes.  The prey appears to be a Scarab Beetle.

Fishing Spider eats Scarab Beetle

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.

4 thoughts on “Fishing Spider vs Wolf Spider: Battle of the Arachnids”

  1. It is a beauty! The closest I could find was Hoggicosa (=Lycosa) bicolor, the Two-coloured or Desert Wolf Spider. There are several photos on the internet which look very similar, except that the colour is not such a vivid yellow. This may be a case of odd light conditions, regional colour variability or sexual dimorphism. It could also be a case of changing appearance with successive moults. In H. bicolor, the males apparently go from a striking two-tone appearance to totally cryptic in their final moult. I couldn’t determine if males and females look different. Here are a few links:

    http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/australian/Spidaus.html
    http://www.ozimages.com.au/stock/AustralianSpiders.asp
    http://flickriver.com/photos/australianspiders/4100778476/
    http://flickriver.com/photos/australianspiders/4100041011/

    Reply
  2. three of these wolf spiders in three days is 3 too many. how do i get rid of them or find out where they are coming from? charlene

    Reply

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