Hobo Spider vs Wolf Spider: Unraveling the Differences & Myths

Hobo spiders and wolf spiders are two common arachnid species that often get confused due to their similar appearance. Both can be found in North America, with wolf spiders being more widespread across the continent, while hobo spiders are primarily found in the Pacific Northwest region. Understanding the differences between these two species is essential, especially for those living in areas where they frequently coexist.

Wolf spiders are larger, ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in length, with a hairy appearance and brown to gray coloring. On the other hand, hobo spiders usually have a slightly smaller size and display some distinct markings on their abdomen. Notably, wolf spiders are free-roaming hunters, while hobo spiders construct funnel-shaped webs to trap their prey.

Despite their somewhat fearsome appearance, neither of these spider species is truly dangerous to humans. Wolf spider bites, though possible if mishandled, are generally non-poisonous and cause mild discomfort. Although there has been some controversy about hobo spider venom, recent research indicates that the venom’s toxicity is minimal and does not pose a significant threat to humans.

Identifying Hobo Spiders and Wolf Spiders

Physical Appearance and Markings

Hobo Spiders:

  • Chevron-shaped markings on the abdomen
  • Less hairy compared to wolf spiders

Wolf Spiders:

  • Hairy appearance
  • Various markings or lines on the body

Color and Size

Comparing color and size:

Spider Color Size
Hobo Spider Brown 7-14 mm
Wolf Spider Brown/Gray 13-50 mm

Eyesight

One key difference between hobo spiders and wolf spiders is the arrangement of their eyes.

Hobo Spiders:

  • 8 eyes in two nearly straight rows

Wolf Spiders:

  • 8 eyes in three rows (4-2-2 arrangement)

Examples

Comparison Table

Feature/Characteristic Hobo Spider Wolf Spider
Markings Chevron Various lines
Hair Less More
Size 7-14 mm 13-50 mm
Eye Arrangement 2 Rows 3 Rows
Environment Indoors Outdoors
Danger to Humans Controversial Low

Habitat and Behavior

Preferred Environments

Hobo spiders are primarily found in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. They prefer dark, moist areas and are most often found in basements, window wells, and around the ground level, as they are poor climbers.

On the other hand, wolf spiders are common throughout North America and can be found in grasslands, forests, and even in homes. They prefer dry environments and can be found under rocks, logs, and plant debris.

  • Hobo spider environment preferences:

    • Dark and moist areas
    • Basements and window wells
  • Wolf spider environment preferences:

    • Dry environments
    • Grassy areas, under rocks and logs

Hunting Styles

Hobo spiders are part of the agelenidae family and construct funnel-shaped webs near the ground level. They use these webs to catch their prey, waiting at the entrance of the funnel for an insect to get trapped.

Wolf spiders, belonging to the lycosidae family, do not rely on webs for hunting. They are active hunters that ambush their prey and sometimes chase it down. They are also nocturnal and can jump to capture insects.

  • Hobo spiders:

    • Funnel-shaped web for hunting
    • Lies in wait for prey
  • Wolf spiders:

    • Active hunters
    • Nocturnal and jumping predators

Web Weaving

Hobo spiders build non-sticky, funnel webs with a retreat at the back of the funnel. They are typically found outdoors in various habitats, including grass and holes.

Wolf spiders, however, do not spin webs. Instead, they create burrows to use as a hideaway when they’re not hunting. Some wolf spiders carry their large egg sacs with them and even provide care for their young by letting the spiderlings ride on their back until partially grown.

Feature Hobo Spider Wolf Spider
Web Weaving Funnel webs No webs
Hunting Location Near ground level Various habitats
Parental Care No known care Carry young on back

In conclusion, hobo spiders and wolf spiders have some similarities and differences in their preferred environments, hunting styles, and web-weaving behavior. By understanding these distinctions, one can identify and appreciate these unique arachnids better.

Venom and Bites

Comparing Venom Potency

The venom of both hobo spiders and wolf spiders is not considered life-threatening to humans. However, there are differences in their venom potency:

  • Hobo spider: The venom from a hobo spider can cause skin necrosis, but this is a rare occurrence.
  • Wolf spider: The venom of a wolf spider is less potent and usually only causes mild pain and redness.

Bite Reactions

Here are the typical bite reactions from both spider species:

  • Hobo spider:

    • Initial pain
    • Redness and swelling
    • Possible skin necrosis (rare)
  • Wolf spider:

    • Pain and redness
    • Localized swelling
    • No skin necrosis

It’s essential to note individual reactions can vary due to factors such as an allergic response or the spider’s age and health. In any case, it’s crucial to seek medical attention if you’ve been bitten by either of these spiders.

Treatment

Immediate action is necessary once bitten by a hobo or wolf spider:

  1. Clean the wound with soap and water.
  2. Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.
  3. Elevate the bitten area.
  4. Take over-the-counter pain relievers if needed.

For hobo spider bites, medical professionals may also recommend other treatments, such as a tetanus shot. In the case of an allergic reaction or severe pain, consult a healthcare professional right away.

Comparison Table

Feature Hobo Spider Wolf Spider
Venom Potency Can cause skin necrosis (rare) Less potent
Bite Reaction Pain, redness, swelling Pain, redness, swelling
Skin Necrosis Possible (rare) No
Treatment Clean, ice, elevate, pain relief Clean, ice, elevate, pain relief

Prevention and Control

Protection and Deterrents

To protect your home from hobo spiders and wolf spiders, focus on their habitat and habits. These spiders prefer dark, moist areas such as:

  • Basements
  • Window wells
  • Cracks and crevices

Seal any exterior cracks and crevices to prevent spiders from entering your home^(4^). Install tight-fitting door sweeps at the base of all exterior doors^(5^). Change exterior lighting to sodium vapor bulbs to attract fewer insects, which will consequently reduce spiders’ food sources^(5^).

Removal Techniques

If you find hobo spiders or wolf spiders inside your home, try these removal techniques:

  • Vacuum individual spiders
  • Step on or smash spiders
  • Catch and release spiders using a glass jar^(5^)

Using sticky traps can also help to capture invading spiders^(5^).

Hobo spider Wolf spider
Agelenidae family Lycosidae family
Dark, moist environments Hairy, often found outside
Rarely found above ground level Can climb surfaces, but usually ground dwellers
More common in the U.S. Worldwide distribution

Both species have egg sacs carried by the mother. Hobo spiders are more commonly found indoors, while wolf spiders are usually found outside^(1^)^(4^). Wolf spiders are harmless and cause mild bites^(2^); hobo spiders are also considered mostly harmless but may cause painful bites in some cases.

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 – Bug of the Month October 2011: Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

 

Big ol’ spider
Location:  Florida Panhandle
October 1, 2011 11:39 AM
In other spider news, this is floating on a ball in our pool as we speak.  Even though it looks like a purple tennis ball, it is the size of a basketball, so this is a big spider.  If I’m not mistaken, those are baby spiders on a mother’s back.  Please correct me if I’m wrong.
Jeff, in the panhandle of Florida

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Hi Jeff,
You are absolutely correct in thinking those are spiderlings on the back of the mother spider.  This is a Wolf Spider and Wolf Spiders are known for their maternal care.  The female drags an egg case behind her from silken threads attached to her spinnerets.  When the eggs hatch, the young spiderlings will ride around on the mother’s back for several days, eventually dispersing as they drop off or jump off.  This behavior affords them some additional protection from predators as well as ensuring that all the spiderlings do not deplete the available food supply in a specific area, ensuring that they do not compete with one another for the food supply.  We wanted a nice photo of a spider to use as our Bug of the Month for October and your letter arrived in such a timely manner that we selected the Wolf Spider as our October Bug of the Month.

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Letter 2 – Burrowing Wolf Spider

 

Subject: Sexton beetle and phoretic mites; Geolycosa; Western Spotted Orbweaver
Location: Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
August 11, 2012 7:55 pm
I love going around this area after dark and finding all sorts of local arthropods; I’m from Ohio, so even though I’ve lived in this state for almost ten years now, I still find the native bug populations to be exceptionally interesting. Most everything I’ve found I’ve been able to identify thanks to this site, but a few of these images I felt like sharing. The first, I encountered the beetle outside my home and wasn’t sure what the little brown nodules were until I saw one of them move. They were all over its body beneath its wing covers, and plentiful enough that it couldn’t get off the ground. The second image is a Geolycosa female, also located immediately outside my house. I’ve been keeping tabs on her for over a month because of her size; that hole is slightly larger than a US quarter, and you can just make out her abdomen behind her head. The final image is of what I believe is a Western Spotted Orbweaver; she’s been m aking her web every night in roughly the same spot, and I rarely catch her without food.
Signature: Grady

Burrowing Wolf Spider

Dear Grady,
We find your enthusiasm very refreshing.  Enthusiasts who do nighttime exploration often encounter many species that are absent during diurnal explorations.  We are especially interested in your photo of the Burrowing Wolf Spider in the genus
Geolycosa and readers who want to learn more about Burrowing Wolf Spiders can find information on Bugguide.

Letter 3 – Baby Wolf Spider

 

help!
Hi! We have a swampy yard that we are trying to remedy (in south eastern West Virginia) and have put in a drainage system of pipes and gravel throughout the entire back yard. Now, in the winter/spring, we are INFESTED with these spiders (attached). They are really small and with every step you take in the grass, about 50-100 move with you. What are they and how do we get them to leave????
Thank you!!!!
Christi

Hi Christi,
You have baby Wolf Spiders. They are hunting spiders and do not build webs. The young are sometimes extremely plentiful in the spring as you well know. Soon natural selection and survival of the fittest will occur and they will feed on one another. The population will then be in check.

Letter 4 – Wolf Spider walks on water in Palm Desert

 

Subject: Swimming Pool Spider
Location: Palm Desert, CA, backyard pool
November 13, 2013 6:00 pm
Hi Daniel,
Yesterday, I was sitting on the edge of a swimming pool with 2 friends in Palm Desert, when one of the dogs jumped in the pool. A very large spider washed out from under the gray concrete ledge of the pool, right beneath my legs. We all jumped up immediately!
The spider was about 3” diameter across its legs. It was the exact color of the gray concrete. Its body was quite substantial. It seemed to be very comfortable floating around and walking on the water.
We watched for a while, as I took photos on my phone. This was the best (close up was cropped from the wide shot). When threatened, it would pull its legs in looking just like a seed pod floating on the water. I had to marvel at its clever adaptations to this pool. On a look around the pool there were good size crevices between the concrete deck & the mottled blue-gray tile where it could lie in wait for its prey. I suspect it’s an ambush predator. There was also a Ficus-like hedge that would produce beans nearby. It was a typical grass and trees So Cal Suburban backyard – not desert landscaping.
Since dogs and people were in the pool, the homeowner rescued the spider and placed it in the nearby hedge. I’m sure it would find its way back to the pool by nightfall.
Signature: Diane E

P.S.  Almost forgot – one more thing it was a saltwater swimming pool.

Possibly Fishing Spider
Wolf Spider

Nov 12
Hi Daniel,
Same color as the pool deck was lying in wait under the ledge of deck.    With legs it had a 3″ diameter & seemed perfectly happy swimming floating in friend”s pool in Palm Desert.
Attached
Diane Edwardson

or more generally a Nursery Web Spider
Wolf Spider [our crop]
Hi Diane,
Please resubmit using our standard form:  ask-whats-that-bug/
We want to post this photo but we would like any additional information you are able to provide.
Thanks
Daniel

Hi again Diane,
Thanks so much for resending your identification request with such a detailed account of this spider sighting in Palm Desert, California.  This sure looks to us like a Fishing Spider, but we can’t help but to wonder if it is
Trechalea gertschi, so we are copying Mandy Howe, an editor at BugGuide, to get her opinion.  We had already cropped the image you sent originally while we waited for you to resend your request.

Ed. Note:  Mandy Howe was kind enough to identify this Wolf Spider as Arctosa littoralis.

 

Letter 5 – Another maternal Rabid Wolf Spider

 

Female Wolf Spider with Babies!
Thought you’d like to see a happy mother Wolf Spider with her babies traversing our back patio. We LOVE your site! My daughter and I are constantly finding bugs and looking them up on your site. Dozens of Wheel Bugs, Conifer Seed Bugs, Spiders, and many others have been spared certain death because now we know what they are. Please keep up the fantastic amount of work you do. Much thanks!
The Oxenreiders (south central Pennsylvania)

Dear Oxenreiders,
Letters like yours are worth so much to us. We are please that you use the site as a research tool. Thank you for sharing your fantastic photo as well.

Letter 6 – Burrowing Wolf Spider

 

Trapdoor spider in Maryland?
Hi – can you please identify this spider for me? We live in Maryland, and a large spider has recently dug a burrow under our path in which, or near which, it spends time lurking. The burrow is about an inch or more in diameter. I’d assumed it was a trapdoor spider, but there as there is no actual door to the burrow I’m not 100% sure. Beautiful spider though – it seems to have surprising good vision (for a spider) as it noticed me even though I was several feet away and keeping still waiting for it to come out for its picture. Thanks in advance,
cheers,
Dave.

Hi Dave,
We are relatively certain this is a Burrowing Wolf Spider in the genus Geolycosa. These spiders dig vertical burrows up to several feet deep in sandy soil.

Letter 7 – Burrowing Wolf Spider

 

spider
Can you tell me what kind of spider this is..and does it live in a hole..my Grandaughter was digging for cradads and found it,,,,,,Thank you,
Sue Moore in Silsbee,Texas

Hi Sue,
We believe this is a Burrowing Wolf Spider in the genus Geolycosa, but decided to contact Susan Hewitt who has been identifying many spiders for us. Here is what she humbly writes: “Hi Daniel, You guys know a lot more than I do, you really do, but from the little bit I have learned just now today, I think you are probably right that it is a burrowing wolf spider, genus Geolycosa. The thing is, that apparently there are five species of Geolycosa in Texas: fatifera, latifrons, missouriensis, riograndae and sepulchralis. I don?t know which one of those is the most commonly-found species in Texas, and I also don?t know where exactly, and under what circumstances, this particular spider was found. (Who knows how different those 5 species are to the naked eye/camera anyway — I can?t find images on the web to compare them all. In any case, it may quite likely not really possible to put a species ID on this spider using just one photo like this…. I think the genitalia are what officially differentiate them.) Best, Susan “

Letter 8 – Aquatic Wolf Spider? or Nursery Web Spider?

 

Swimming Wolf Spiders
July 15, 2010
We have three large wolf spiders which hang out at pool’s edge during the day (in the shade), but at night are frequently on top of the water. They can travel rather quickly, and actually “hop” across the surface when they really want to move. I know you are usually reluctant to ID genus, but I was curious about the water activities of these Lycosids, and thought you might give it a shot.
Thanks,
Moose
Las Vegas, NV

Aquatic Wolf Spider or Nursery Web Spider

Hi Moose,
As you have indicated, we do not feel comfortable identifying many spiders, including Wolf Spiders, to the genus level.  We hope that posting your letter and excellent photos will prompt any spider experts in our reading audience to give it a shot.

Aquatic Wolf Spider or Nursery Web Spider

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.

7 thoughts on “Hobo Spider vs Wolf Spider: Unraveling the Differences & Myths”

    • Thanks so much for your input Karl. I thought this might be a Nursery Web Spider, but the Nevada location did not really make sense.

      Reply
  1. Hi Daniel & Diane,
    The Palm Desert spider found on the surface of the pool is actually a large species of “wolf spider” by the name Arctosa littoralis. This one is a female. That species is normally found in sandy areas and they often blend right in to their surroundings. Some are even completely white to match white sand. They aren’t normally associated with water (aside from living on beaches sometimes), so I think this one just fell in and was doing the best it could to stay above water. Most kinds of spider can use the water’s surface tension to stay afloat for a while, but if their belly gets stuck to the water surface for too long, they will eventually drown (their lungs are on the underside of their abdomen). They can go a pretty long time without oxygen, but I’m glad to hear she was rescued! =)
    -Mandy

    Reply
  2. Hi Daniel & Diane,
    The Palm Desert spider found on the surface of the pool is actually a large species of “wolf spider” by the name Arctosa littoralis. This one is a female. That species is normally found in sandy areas and they often blend right in to their surroundings. Some are even completely white to match white sand. They aren’t normally associated with water (aside from living on beaches sometimes), so I think this one just fell in and was doing the best it could to stay above water. Most kinds of spider can use the water’s surface tension to stay afloat for a while, but if their belly gets stuck to the water surface for too long, they will eventually drown (their lungs are on the underside of their abdomen). They can go a pretty long time without oxygen, but I’m glad to hear she was rescued! =)
    -Mandy

    Reply

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