Wolf spiders are a common type of spider found in many parts of the world, including the United States. These hairy, brown to gray spiders can range in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches long and are known for their unique behavior of carrying their egg sacs with them and allowing their young spiderlings to ride on their back until partially grown. Though wolf spiders are not poisonous, they may bite if mishandled or trapped next to the skin, causing initial pain, redness, and potential localized swelling.
To effectively get rid of wolf spiders in and around your home, there are several methods you can employ. One simple way is to catch a wolf spider that has ventured indoors using a container and then release it outside. Additionally, reducing clutter in areas like closets, garages, basements, and attics will make the spaces less attractive to these arachnids. Furthermore, eliminating their outdoor habitats by moving firewood, stacked items, and debris away from your home’s foundation can help prevent their migration indoors.
Understanding Wolf Spiders
Wolf spiders are typically:
- Size: 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
- Color: Brown to gray with various markings or lines
- Body: Hairy
Notable features include:
- Eyes: They have excellent eyesight with 8 eyes arranged in 3 rows
- Legs: Powerful legs for fast movement
Habitat and Behavior
Wolf spiders can be found in various environments such as:
Key behaviors include:
- Hunting: They actively hunt their prey instead of using webs
- Maternal care: Mothers carry their egg sacs with them, and young spiderlings ride on their mother’s back until partially grown
Venom and Bites
Wolf spider bites may cause:
- Initial pain
- Localized swelling
However, it’s important to note that:
- Bites are usually a result of mishandling or accidental contact
- Symptoms generally subside within 24 hours
- No serious medical consequences have been noted for their bites
Identifying wolf spider infestations begins with knowing the common areas they inhabit. Wolf spiders mostly enter houses near ground level and are frequently found in:
- Basements: Dark, damp areas provide ideal conditions for wolf spiders.
- Crawlspaces: These tight spaces offer plenty of hiding spots.
- Breezeways: Connecting areas between rooms or buildings can serve as entrances for spiders.
Signs to Look For
To accurately identify a wolf spider infestation, look for the following signs:
- Holes: Wolf spiders dig burrows or use existing holes as their homes.
- Webs: Unlike other spiders, wolf spiders don’t spin webs for catching prey; nevertheless, they leave behind web trails as they move around.
- Glue traps: Placing glue traps near suspected infestation areas will help confirm their presence if caught.
It’s essential to inspect furniture, closets, and other areas where pests might hide or where they have easy access to food sources. Regularly checking these areas can help you identify wolf spider infestations early and prevent them from becoming a significant issue in your home.
Preventing Wolf Spider Entry
Sealing Cracks and Holes
One way to prevent wolf spiders from entering your home is to inspect the exterior and seal any cracks or holes. This is especially important around doors and windows, as well as near the foundation. Some simple but effective options for sealing these entry points include:
- Using caulk or sealant to fill small gaps
- Applying weather stripping around doors and windows
For example, if you notice black or brown recluse spiders in your region, sealing entry points can be an important preventive measure.
Using Window Screens
Another essential step in keeping wolf spiders out of your house is installing and maintaining window screens. Here are some benefits of using screens:
- Prevent spiders and other insects from entering through windows
- Allow for ventilation while keeping pests out
A comparison of different window screen materials is provided below:
|Aluminum||Durable, more resistant to corrosion||May be more expensive|
|Fiberglass||Cheaper, flexible, and easy to install||Less durable than aluminum|
Keep in mind that installing tight-fitting door sweeps and using sodium vapor bulbs for exterior lighting can also help reduce spider entry by minimizing hiding places and sources of food.
Eliminating Wolf Spiders
Removing Food Source
Wolf spiders, being part of the Lycosidae family, primarily hunt and prey on insects. To get rid of them, start by eliminating their food source:
- Keep home clean and free of pests
- Use pest control methods for insects they feed on
- Reduce other insects that serve as food
To tackle these spiders without harming them or the environment, here are some non-toxic methods:
- Scent: Use peppermint oil as a deterrent, as they dislike this scent
- Physical removal: Use a vacuum cleaner or broom to remove spiders, webs, and egg sacs
|Scent||Environment-friendly, repels spiders||Requires regular application|
|Physical removal||Effective, immediate results||Time-consuming, manual effort|
If the infestation is serious, consider using pesticides or calling an exterminator:
- Boric acid: A common pesticide that is toxic to spiders
- Exterminator: Professional pest control service
However, remember that wolf spiders can be beneficial, as they help control other pests. So, consider the pros and cons before deciding on a pesticide treatment:
- Pros: Quick, effective
- Cons: Expensive, harmful to beneficial species
In conclusion, eliminating wolf spiders can be achieved in multiple ways, including addressing their food source, using non-toxic methods, and resorting to pesticides as a last resort.
Wolf Spiders vs Other Spiders
- Appearance: Brown recluse spiders are small, typically 1/4 to 3/4 inch long, and have a distinct violin-shaped marking on their cephalothorax1.
- Bites: Unlike wolf spiders, brown recluse spider bites can be quite dangerous and may require medical attention2.
Example: A distinguishing feature of brown recluse spiders is their six eyes arranged in pairs, whereas wolf spiders have eight eyes arranged in three rows3.
- Color: Black widow spiders are glossy black with a distinctive red hourglass marking on their abdomen4.
- Poisonous: Black widows are more venomous than wolf spiders, and their bites may require immediate medical attention5.
Comparison Table between Wolf Spiders, Brown Recluse, and Black Widow
|Feature||Wolf Spiders||Brown Recluse||Black Widow|
|Size||1/2 – 2 inches6||1/4 – 3/4 inch1||1.5 inches7|
|Color||Brown – Gray6||Light – Dark brown1||Black4|
|Venom||Not dangerous6||Dangerous2||Highly venomous5|
|Distinct Markings||Various6||Violin-shaped1||Red hourglass4|
Creating an Unfavorable Environment
Decluttering and Cleaning
Removing debris and clutter can discourage wolf spiders from settling in your home. They prefer undisturbed areas such as:
By reducing these accumulations, you make those spaces less appealing to spiders. Keep outside areas clean by:
- Moving firewood
- Stacked items
- Debris away from the foundation
Additionally, regularly vacuuming spider webs and removing them from corners helps eliminate spiders around homes and buildings.
Using Light and Scents
Optimizing your outdoor lights can help deter wolf spiders. Modify your exterior lighting setup like this:
- Replace standard bulbs with sodium vapor lights
- Position lights away from windows and doors
Sodium vapor lights are less attractive to insects and, in turn, spiders.
Example of lighting comparison:
|Lighting Type||Attraction to Insects|
|Sodium Vapor Lights||Low|
Sealing holes and gaps with caulk prevents spiders from finding hiding places. Tight-fitting door sweeps and screens on windows are also helpful in keeping spiders out.
Although some scents like peppermint and lavender are believed to repel spiders, their effectiveness is not guaranteed. However, they can make your home smell fresh and pleasant.
Beneficial Aspects of Wolf Spiders
- Harmless: Wolf spiders seldom bite humans and pose no significant health threat.
- Beneficial: They help control insect populations, acting as a natural form of pest control.
These spiders are adept at hunting and rely on their excellent speed and vision for catching prey. Wolf spiders are part of a large family of species, with many types existing in various environments worldwide. They differ in terms of size, color, and markings, making them a diverse group.
Changing your outdoor lights to sodium vapor bulbs can be helpful in attracting fewer insects, which in turn reduces the number of wolf spiders in the area. By minimizing the spider’s primary food source, you can discourage their presence.
Overall, wolf spiders play a crucial role in the ecosystem, offering a valuable means of defense against insects that are considered pests. Remembering their positive contributions can help to better tolerate their presence.
Protecting Your Home and Garden
Start by examining your home’s outside walls and perimeter. Look for cracks and crevices that may serve as hiding spots for wolf spiders. Check the following areas for spider signs:
- Burrows in soil or under debris
- Webs in low-lying vegetation
- Egg sacs on female wolf spiders
Here’s a comparison of two common wolf spider hiding places:
|Fields||Rich in insects, tall grasses, and leaves|
|Burrows||Dark, protected, and located in soil or under rocks or debris|
Establish a barrier to prevent wolf spiders from entering your home. Take these steps to maintain your home and garden:
- Seal exterior cracks and crevices.
- Install tight-fitting door sweeps and window screens.
- Keep your home and garden clutter-free.
- Inspect and vacuum indoor areas regularly.
Don’t forget about your pets! Some precautionary measures for your pets include:
- Regular grooming
- Cleaning pet bedding
- Monitoring outdoor play areas for spider presence
These maintenance practices help reduce the spiderlings’ habitat and the chances of female wolf spiders finding a suitable place for their egg sacs. By carrying out regular inspections and continued maintenance, you can help keep wolf spiders at bay, protecting your home and garden in the United States and beyond.
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 – Thin Legged Wolf Spider
Is this a fishing spider?
April 3, 2010
This is a very common spider in Nova Scotia often seen in rocky areas. The picture is of a spider about 3 cm long. It was sighted April2,2010.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
WE believe this is a Wolf Spider, quite possibly the Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis. The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History has a nice page on this species which is found throughout North America. It is the largest Wolf Spider on the continent. You can also check out BugGuide‘s page on this species.
Eric Eaton makes a correction
April 19, 2010
The spider is indeed a wolf spider, but in the genus Pardosa (“thin-legged wolf spiders”). They are often abundant on rocks near (or in) the water, especially along streambeds. Nice picture!
Ed. Note: See BugGuide
Letter 2 – Carolina Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
May 23, 2010
Hi Bugman, This giant spider was on my front porch one evening. My initial thought was “what an ugly, huge, lumpy, hairy spider.” I then realized part of her hugeness, lumpiness and hairiness was due to the fact that her body was COMPLETELY COVERED by baby spiders! I left her alone, realizing that she and her brood would be most helpful in controlling the local insects. Her body was about 1 1/2 inches long (not counting legs or baby spiders.) Any idea what kind she might be? Thanks for your help!
Friend to Spider Families
Gainesville, FL, USA
This maternal behavior is distinctive to Wolf Spiders in the family Lycosidae. The orange chelicera are barely visible in your photo, and that distinguishing feature coupled with the large size indicates that this is the Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis, which BugGuide indicates is: “Considered to be the largest wolf spider in North America.“
Letter 3 – Carolina Wolf Spider, we believe
Big spiders on my patio
April 24, 2010
I keep running into these spiders. All winter long they wait outside the door for a chance to get in. I have a huge fear of bugs, especially spiders. What is this one and is it harmful? I have children that like to play with bugs and I don’t want them getting hurt.
Scared of Spiders
Dear Scared of Spiders,
While many spiders are scary, very few are actually dangerous to humans or pets, unless your pets are cockroaches. This looks to us like a Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis, based on comparison to a photo posted to BugGuide, though it does not have the orange chelicera that are mentioned as an identifying feature on the BugGuide information page for the species. Perhaps one of our readers with more skill in the identification of Wolf Spiders will assist in the confirmation of this identification.
Letter 4 – Drowned Wolf Spider is life raft for her Spiderlings
Is this a wolf spider with spiderlings?
August 31, 2009
I was wondering what kind of spider this is. You don’t have very many wolf spiders and I can’t seem to find one that looks like this. We found her in our pool. We see two or three of these spiders a week in our inground pool. She was still alive when I took the picture and the babies were too. I tried to compare the spider with other wolf spiders, but they do not look like this. Is she floating on her back with her babies on the bottom of her abdomen?
This is a female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings. Sadly, she appears to have drowned in the swimming pool, but luckily, her body is providing a raft for her Spiderlings, so she is still caring for them after death. We actually have numerous images of Wolf Spiders on our site, but they have not been subclassified since our site migration almost a year ago. Just last weekend we completed the subcategorization of the archived Caterpillar images, and that took hours. We need to go through all of our Spider archived postings and further subcategorize them into Fishing Spiders, Orbweavers, Jumping Spiders, Wolf Spiders and others. For now, you can view them using our awesome in site search engine or you may just view the uncategorized Spiders. We hope our reply reached you in time, or that your rescued the living Spiderlings before getting our response. Unfortunately, the backyard swimming pool is a death trap for countless insects. In Southern California, we frequently receive images of drowned male California Trapdoor Spiders that have stumbled into the pool in search of a mate.
Letter 5 – Carolina Wolf Spider we believe
My little sisters said I should ask you
Location: Denver Colorado
August 31, 2010 1:01 am
about this spider I found at work, we were wondering what kind it is. We looked through your spider pictures and didn’t see anything that resembled it. It looks bigger in the picture, the actual size is about 3 inches total and just the body is about an inch. If you have time to identify it for us that would be great. My little sisters use your site a lot for school and for fun. They are really excited!
Nick, Kailee and Miranda Johnson
Your spider looks to us like it is a Wolf Spider, probably in the genus Hogna. It might be Hogna carolinensis (see BugGuide which states: “Considered to be the largest wolf spider in North America” in support of the information you have provided regarding size) or possibly Hogna coloradensis (see BugGuide). BugGuide provides this description of Hogna coloradensis: “Hogna coloradensis – PDF from The Journal of Arachnology – An 8 page paper with drawings, descriptions, and range. ‘Hogna coloradensis can be separated from all other Hogna and Lycosidae by a dark area immediately anterior to the epigastric furrow as well as a small dark area just anterior to the spinnerets, the rest of the venter is light with spots.’” Should you care to read the entire Journal or Arachnology paper, it is also posted online.
Letter 6 – Exuvia of a Wolf Spider, we believe
Location: Kona coast Hawai’i
February 11, 2011 10:24 pm
I found this spider molt in Hawaii on the dry Kona side of the island. Very cool as the molt was anchored by webbing in a nook of lava rock. I’ll send the one picture but others I have show the ’hatch’ the spider must have backed out of as it shed this old skin.
Signature: Scott Hilsmann- Occidental, Ca
We are sorry we did not get back to you immediately, but we have a very small staff and we are unable to respond to every request that we receive. We are very excited to post your image of the Exuvia of a Spider. Exuviae are the cast off exoskeletons of creatures like insects, arachnids and crustaceans. There is some controversy regarding the proper usage of the singular and plural forms of the term, and Doug Yanega of UC Riverside does a very nice job of tracing the roots to the term Exuvia on this Taxacom posting. Different families of spiders can be distinguished by the arrangement of the eyes, and we believe this is a Wolf Spider, though we would not rule out the possibility that it is the Exuvia of a Nursery Web Spider based on the diagrams of Spider Eye Arrangement on BugGuide. There are numerous nice close-ups of Wolf Spider faces on BugGuide including this example from Ohio.
Letter 7 – Carolina Wolf Spider we believe
Subject: Michigan Funnel Web Spider
Location: Millington Michigan
October 4, 2014 1:54 pm
Will you please help me identify this spider for my sister? She was pulling tall-ish (around 2′ tall) weeds when this spider jumped at her. She told me that a thick, funnel web was located close to where the spider came from. I would like to be able to give her more information than “It’s a funnel-web spider sis.” . Especially since spiders have the ability to scare the bejeebers out of her! No one should have to go through life without their bejeebers. Thanks for your help.
With all due respect, we find it somewhat odd that your sister had the bejeebers scared out of her, but the spider appears to have died because of the encounter. We actually think this looks more like a Wolf Spider than a Funnel Web Spider, and in trying to research its identity on BugGuide, we are struck with the similarity of its appearance to members of the genus Sosippus, the Funnel Web Wolf Spiders. BugGuide only has reports of the genus Sosippus from Florida and California, so we don’t really believe this spider is a Funnel Web Wolf Spider. Our money is on this being a Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis, based on this image posted to BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “Orange paturons (chelicera) and black around the the “knees” ventrally are characteristics of the species.(Jeff Hollenbeck)” and your individual does appear to have the orange chelicerae or fangs. BugGuide also notes: “Considered to be the largest wolf spider in North America.” Large Wolf Spiders may bite, but they are considered harmless. Somehow, no matter what we have to say about the harmless and beneficial attributes of spiders, we would not be able to convince your sister to attempt peaceful cohabitation. If our suspicions about how this individual met its fate are correct, our Unnecessary Carnage tag is duly warranted. If we are wrong and this spider met with a natural death, let us know and we will remove the tag.
This was definitely an “Unnecessary Carnage” incident. My sister has been excessively frightened by spiders her whole life. Thank-you for the I.D. I have let her know what the result was and that she should not kill them in the future. Hopefully she will just run away if she encounters any other creepy crawlies.
Letter 8 – False Wolf Spider
Subject: Titiotus? Not sure exactly.
Geographic location of the bug: Santa Cruz, CA
Time: 11:26 PM EDT
I’m working st a job site and these Jing are in all the woodpiles on the property, pretty sure it’s Titiotus and not a Recluse or something. I would love to know what it is because they are pretty fascinating and their grip is insanely strong. Thanks.
How you want your letter signed: Nikky
Based on this BugGuide posting, we agree with you that this is a False Wolf Spider in the genus Titiotus. According to BugGuide: “All species in the family Tengellidae and Zorocratidae were moved to Zoropsidae by Polotow, Carmichael, & Griswold, 2015.”
Letter 9 – Carolina Wolf Spider
Subject: Large black and white spider
Geographic location of the bug: Salt Lake City foothills, ~5200′
Time: 03:26 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Almost stepped on this guy and he reared up to let me know not to mess with him. Maybe 3″ across. He held that pose the whole time I was looking at him, turning to face me. He was on a dry trail in a scrub oak forest interspersed with grass. I can’t anything similar online and am curious who he is.
How you want your letter signed: Dan R
This is an awesome image of a Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis, in a threat position. Here is a BugGuide image for comparison. According to BugGuide: “Orange paturons (chelicera) and black around the the ‘knees’ ventrally are characteristics of the species” which your image nicely illustrates, and “Considered to be the largest wolf spider in North America.” Despite the threat position, Wolf Spiders are not considered dangerous to humans, and despite the common name, the Carolina Wolf Spider has a range well beyond the Carolinas.