Spiders That Look Like Wolf Spiders: A Fascinating Guide

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Wolf spiders are fascinating creatures that can often be confused with other spider species due to their size and markings. Ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in length, they are typically brown to gray in color with various markings or lines 1. As a spider enthusiast, you might have encountered spiders that look similar to wolf spiders and wondered about their differences.

In your journey to learn more about spiders, it’s essential to not only recognize wolf spiders but also be able to identify the other species that share striking resemblances with them. A key identifier of wolf spiders is their maternal behavior where female wolf spiders carry their large egg sacs around, and after hatching, the spiderlings ride on her back until partially grown 1. By paying close attention to these unique traits, you can better distinguish wolf spiders from their look-alikes.

Understanding the world of spiders that resemble wolf spiders can be fascinating and useful for both enthusiasts and those who simply want to avoid any dangerous encounters. By familiarizing yourself with the various species and their unique characteristics, you’ll be better equipped to identify and appreciate these incredible creatures.

Identifying Wolf Spiders

Eye Arrangement

Wolf spiders have a distinctive eye arrangement that sets them apart from other spiders. They have four smaller eyes in a row at the front, and two larger eyes above them, with a final set of two more eyes further back on their head. This unique arrangement can help you identify a wolf spider.

Body Color

The body color of wolf spiders usually ranges from brown to gray, and they often have various markings or lines on their body. For example, the Speckled Wolf Spider has an overall darkish color with a narrow pale yellowish line running between the eyes.

Size Comparison

Wolf spiders can vary in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches in length. Comparing the size of the spider you see to this range can help determine if it is a wolf spider or another species.

Hairiness and Abdomen Detail

Wolf spiders have a hairy body, which adds to their distinctive appearance. Additionally, they possess a more pronounced and detailed abdomen compared to some other spiders.

When observing a spider, keep the following features in mind to identify a wolf spider:

  • Unique eye arrangement
  • Brown to gray body color with various markings
  • Size between 1/2 inch and 2 inches in length
  • Hairy body and detailed abdomen

Comparing these characteristics to the spider you are observing can help in properly identifying a wolf spider. Remember to be cautious when handling and observing any spider, as some individuals might bite when mishandled or trapped against your skin.

Habitat and Behavior

Natural Habitat

Wolf spiders and their lookalikes can be found in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, meadows, and rocks. They often prefer areas with plenty of leaves and grass to hide in. You might encounter them in:

  • Forest edges
  • Gardens
  • Fields

These spiders usually stay close to the ground, making it easy for them to hunt and take cover.

Intrusion in Human Spaces

In their search for food and shelter, wolf spiders and similar species may wander into your house or other human spaces. Spiders like these often find their way inside because of cracks in walls or openings around doors and windows. To keep them away from your living areas, you can:

  • Seal gaps and cracks
  • Keep the house clean and clutter-free
  • Vacuum regularly to remove any insects they prey on

Hunting and Feeding Pattern

Wolf spiders don’t spin webs to catch their prey. Instead, they actively hunt for their food, mainly consisting of insects. Their hunting behavior includes:

  • Ambushing prey while hiding in foliage or under rocks
  • Chasing and pouncing on insects
  • Using their excellent vision to detect movement from a distance

When they spot potential prey, they climb if necessary and use their fast reflexes to capture it.

Mating Rituals

The mating rituals of wolf spiders and similar species can be fascinating to observe. Male spiders attract females by performing intricate dances or sending out vibrational signals. Here are some highlights of the process:

  • Males wave their front legs or body to court a potential mate
  • They may also tap their abdomen on the ground to create vibrations
  • If the female is receptive, they mate and the male leaves shortly after

During the breeding season, it’s common to see an increase in spider activity as they search for partners in their habitat.

Remember, keeping your surroundings clean and maintaining a healthy distance from spider-prone areas can help reduce encounters with wolf spiders and their lookalikes. By respecting their natural habitats, you can coexist peacefully and appreciate their valuable role in maintaining the environment.

Similar Spider Species

Brown Recluse Spider

The brown recluse spider is often mistaken for a wolf spider due to its similar size and coloration. However, you can identify a brown recluse by:

  • Its violin-shaped mark on its back
  • Six eyes arranged in three pairs, which differs from the wolf spider’s eight eyes

Hogna

Hogna spiders, a type of wolf spider, might look similar but have distinct characteristics:

  • Larger size, with some species reaching up to 1.5 inches
  • Often found in grassy areas, fields or gardens
  • They typically have a black or brown appearance with stripes or patterns

Grass Spiders

Grass spiders are another species frequently mistaken for wolf spiders:

  • They have a similar size, color, and hairy appearance
  • Their webs are found in grassy areas, which differentiate them from wolf spiders who do not use webs for hunting
  • Long spinnerets at the end of their abdomen help with web construction

Jumping Spiders

Jumping spiders share some similarities with wolf spiders:

  • Both are active hunters without using webs
  • Both have eight eyes, but jumping spiders have one pair much larger than the others
  • Jumping spiders are typically smaller and display various colors and patterns

Huntsman Spiders

Huntsman spiders exhibit some similarities with wolf spiders:

  • They also hunt without building webs
  • The coloration can vary from brown, gray, or yellowish
  • They have long legs, allowing fast, agile movements like wolf spiders
  • The main difference is that huntsman spiders have flattened and elongated bodies

Hobo Spiders

Hobo spiders might be mistaken for wolf spiders due to their similar size and coloration:

  • Distinctive herringbone pattern on their abdomen sets them apart
  • Their legs have no distinctive bands like wolf spiders
  • They are funnel-web builders, unlike wolf spiders who actively hunt their prey

Keep in mind all these spider species when exploring and use their unique features for accurate identification.

Human Interaction with Wolf Spiders

Venom and Bites

Wolf spiders can be intimidating due to their size and appearance, but they are not considered dangerous to humans. If you happen to be bitten by one, you may experience initial pain and redness, as well as some localized swelling. However, these symptoms usually subside within 24 hours, and there are no known serious medical consequences.

Pest Control Methods

While wolf spiders are not considered pests, you may still prefer to keep them away from your home. Here are a few pest control methods:

  • Seal cracks and gaps: Prevent the spiders from entering your home by sealing openings around doors, windows, and basements.
  • Reduce clutter: Keep your home clean and free of clutter to eliminate hiding spots for spiders.
  • Natural repellents: Use essential oils like peppermint, lemon, or lavender to repel spiders, as they don’t like the smell.

Coexistence with Wolf Spiders

It’s important to remember that wolf spiders can actually be beneficial, as they help control insect populations. If you can learn to coexist with them, it will be good both for you and the environment. Here are a few tips:

  • Maintain a healthy ecosystem: Encourage a diverse ecosystem in your garden to keep the insect populations in check, which in turn will attract fewer spiders.
  • Know their habits: Wolf spiders are nocturnal, so they usually remain hidden during the day and hunt at night. If you can avoid disturbing their habitat, they will likely keep to themselves.
  • Keep a safe distance: If you see a wolf spider, simply let it be and avoid direct contact. They are less likely to bite if they don’t feel threatened.

By understanding more about wolf spiders and their behavior, you can make a more informed decision on how to handle their presence in your home and around your property.

Wolf Spider Offspring

Egg Sac and Spiderlings

Wolf spiders are unique in the way they care for their offspring. When a female wolf spider lays her eggs, she creates a silk-woven egg sac to protect them. The egg sac is securely attached to her abdomen, as she carries it with her everywhere she goes. This ensures the safety of her young during their vulnerable stage.

Once the eggs hatch, the spiderlings climb onto their mother’s back. This might seem strange, but it’s a crucial part of their development. They ride on her back until they’re partially grown and can fend for themselves. By doing this, they’re able to learn from their mother and have a better chance of survival.

Life Cycle of Wolf Spiders

Understanding the life cycle of the wolf spider can help you appreciate their unique behaviors. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Egg: The female lays her eggs and wraps them in a silk sac.
  • Spiderlings: Upon hatching, the spiderlings immediately climb onto their mother’s back.
  • Juvenile: The young spiders eventually leave their mother’s care and start living independently.
  • Adult: They will grow into adults, capable of mating and producing offspring of their own.

During this process, wolf spiders undergo a series of molts, shedding their exoskeleton to grow and develop. They will continue to do this until they reach adulthood.

It’s fascinating to learn how wolf spiders care for their offspring and the unique life cycle they undergo. Observing their behavior can offer valuable insights into the world of these amazing arachnids.

Footnotes

  1. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/pests-weeds-diseases/insects/how-identify-wolf-spider 2

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 – Probably Burrowing Wolf Spider???

 

one last try (this is #4!) Large spider
Bugman,
I really think this could be a spider of interest to your viewers (and you??)… thought I’d give it one more try (4th attempt!). I’ve looked through several sites and books but haven’t been able to come up with an identity except for thinking it’s some kind of Wolf spider (but not hairy as in most of the pictures I’ve come across). These photo’s were taken late one night over a year ago where she was standing next to me while I was working on my table saw. I think she’s amazing (safe assumption it’s a she??) and I would like to know more about her. It’s not often you come across a spider of this size, especially here in Boulder, Colorado. Since I have a large male cat (he eats all the bugs / spiders he’s come across… and I have seen several black widows here as well – photo included), I needed to safely relocate her outside near our building. Thanks once again ahead of time…
Jon Ehrlich

Hi Jon,
We always feel badly when we hear that someone felt ignored and had to write back a second time, but your case is unconscionable. Please accept our apology. Your photo is lacking in detail, but we believe this may be a Tube Trapdoor Spider in the family Nemesiidae as depicted on BugGuide. Generally it is the male Trapdoor Spider that wanders in search of a mate. Since we are not certain this identification is correct, perhaps a knowledgeable reader can provide a correct identification. Please list Trapdoor Spider in the subject line.

Update: (07/05/2008) Trapdoor Spider
Hi Daniel, At this point I think you probably know more about spiders than I do, but I am wondering if this could be the Burrowing Wolf Spider, shown as a Colorado species at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PTLK/1485f2a.html With general info at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PTLK/1485.html It does claim that wolf spiders are the largest spiders in Colorado. And you probably have a higher resolution image than the version on WTB, so I can’t really see the face and the eyes well, but the legs in Jon’s photo sure looks like the legs in the picture of the burrowing wolf spider defending its nest which is near the bottom of the Wikipedia article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_spider Best,
Susan H.

Ed. Note: Susan requested the full sized file so she could inspect it more closely. Here is her conclusion.
Update: (07/07/2008)
Yes, the photo is a bit blurry, but the spider does look as if it has two small eyes on top, two nice large eyes facing forward, and as if it could maybe have 4 small ones in a row underneath the two big ones. If that is so, that would make it a wolf spider. I would definitely think it is a male spider in the genus Geolycosus, a Burrowing Wolf spider. In any case it really is a great-looking spider!
Susan

Letter 2 – Possibly Carolina Wolf Spider

 

Burrowing Wolf Spider ?
Location:  cheney ks
September 18, 2011 5:42 pm
I have been finding these holes on my property this summer while watering the garden.
I decided to investigate and dig up the hole and see what type of insect was making these holes.
I believe it’s a Burrowing Wolf Spider from looking at photos on your site but I could be wrong .
Signature: Chris Harris

What’s In that Hole???

Hi Chris,
Thank you for a wonderful submission.  We opened your email yesterday afternoon, but we knew this was going to be a labor intense posting and we did not want to rush through it, so we waited until after some social commitments were fulfilled.  We are very excited that you submitted a photo of the hole as well as its occupant.  We agree that this is a Wolf Spider, and we are relatively certain that it is in the genus
Hogna, and though we believe it is a Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis, we have a few nagging doubts.

possibly Carolina Wolf Spider

The hairy orange chelicera or fangs and the other facial characteristics are a near perfect match to a Carolina Wolf Spider photo posted to BugGuide, but not all the Carolina Wolf Spiders posted there have such distinctive orange fangs.  The BugGuide info page on the species provides this information:  “The carapace is dark brown with gray hairs (lighter in males) and usually without distinct markings. The abdomen is brown with a somewhat darker median stripe. (1)  Orange paturons (chelicera) and black around the the ‘knees’ ventrally are characteristics of the species.(Jeff Hollenbeck)”  The dark abdominal coloration on your specimen does not seem to match any of the photos posted to BugGuide of the Carolina Wolf Spider, the majority of which have the darker median stripe.  Another confusing difference for your individual is that back of the knees are not black, but appear to be a lighter almost orange color.  We don’t know how much of this can be attributed to individual variation.  There are also many more species of Hogna listed on the genus page on BugGuide that are not represented by photos.  Kansas is listed as a known location for the Carolina Wolf Spider which is reported to be the largest Wolf Spider in North America.  BugGuide does not have any information on the burrowing habits of the species or the genus for that matter, however, we did locate some other links that mention the burrows.  The Carolina Wolf Spider Care Sheet on the PetBugs website has some helpful information including:  “Terrestrial, but will burrow to some extent.”  The Off Beat Pets website also contains helpful information including:  “Carolina wolf spider is terrestrial and does not build webs. It spends most of the time on the ground but may burrow to some extent.”  We have taken the liberty of deleting your street address to keep poachers who may want to collect and sell your Burrowing Wolf Spiders to collectors.  Again, thank you for providing us with a wonderful posting.

Face of a Wolf Spider: Hogna species

 

Letter 3 – Possibly Dotted Wolf Spider

 

Dotted Wolf Spider?
Location: Missouri
September 19, 2011 10:22 pm
I found this wolf spider in some brush when weed eating a few weeks back. I captured it and kept it as a class pet in my 5th grade classroom for a few weeks before releasing it. I believe it to be a dotted wolf spider or rabid wolf spider. I am leaning toward the dotted as the rabid usually has the abdominal stripe broken up and mine is smooth. Any confirmation would be a huge appreciation.
Signature: Nathanael Siders

Spotted Wolf Spider, we believe

Hi Nathanael,
The best we can do is provide you with our opinion.  We agree that this is a Wolf Spider in the genus
Rabidosa.

Possibly Spotted Wolf Spider

According to the Fairfax County Public Schools ecology website, the Rabid Wolf Spider, Rabidosa rabida, “is easily confused with other wolf spiders. It can be identified by its stripe pattern.  The cephalothorax (front body section) has two dark stripes. The abdomen (rear body section) has one dark stripe surrounded by two pale lines.”  That description matches your spider, however, the Illinois State Museum Spider Collection Online page on the Dotted Wolf Spider, Rabidosa punctulata, states:  “The Dotted Wolf Spider gets its common name from the black dots on the underside of its abdomen.”  Your photo of the underside of the spider clearly shows black dots.  Based on all of that, we agree that this is most likely a Dotted Wolf Spider.

Wolf Spider showing black dots

 

Letter 4 – Terrified Wolf Spider

 

Terrified
Location: Georgia
February 28, 2012 4:18 pm
Please help me ID this spider Im terrified he might bite my 3 year old. I’ve killed 2 in my house in the last 3 days. Its the biggest spider ive seen in person ever. 2 friends say it looks like a wolf spider— How do I keep them out of my house?
Signature: Squeemish in GA

Terrified Spider

Dear Squeemish in GA,
If Spiders were capable of being terrified, the possible Wolf Spider in your photo is most assuredly terrified.  You live in Georgia.  It is the south and there are numerous spiders and insects both indoors and outdoors.  The only way we can think of for keeping spiders out of the house might be to move to Antarctica, or then again, maybe not anymore.

That was most unhelpful- Thanks for nothing. I would have preferred to
get no reply over a smart-alec one.

Dear Squeemish in GA,
While we understand that you might be squeamish about spiders, Wolf Spiders are relatively harmless.  It is also true that Southern States, because of the milder climates, tend to have a higher population of larger insects and other arthropods for the greater part of the year.  Insects and spiders are everywhere and they occasionally wander into the home.  You can spend a great deal of money attempting to hermetically seal your home from the natural world, and creatures may still enter.  Some folks claim that placing osage oranges in the home discourages spiders, but we cannot verify that claim.  See the Great Plains Nature Center website for information on osage oranges.

You are most welcome.  You should read Spider Champion Ms Muffet’s comment on your posting:
2012/02/29/possibly-wolf-spider/

Thank you!

Letter 5 – Probably Carolina Wolf Spider

 

Carolina Wolf Spider
Carolina Wolf Spider

Subject: species????
Location: Indiana woodland area
October 13, 2014 9:51 am
Whilst in a sword duel this happy not so little chap almost fell on my head…. This immediately stopped all combat as we marveled at this beast. What species is this thing? It was nearly 4″ in diameter.
Signature: Morttis

Dear Morttis,
We were not aware that sword dueling was legal in the United States.  Your Wolf Spider looks like a Carolina Wolf Spider,
Hogna carolinensis, and it looks like a very close visual match to this individual posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Considered to be the largest wolf spider in North America.” 

Letter 6 – Possibly Wolf Spider from Senegal

 

Subject: My friend is a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal and found THIS fascinating spider…
Location: Kedougou Region of Senegal
November 2, 2014 8:46 pm
Hi Bugman!
My friend is volunteering in the Kedougou Region of Senegal. He found this spider while walking on a dirt path at night walking from Wouridje back to Thianguey.
I know the photo is from at night, but any ideas as to what it might be? I thought perhaps a Hunstman spider?
Thanks so much!
Signature: Trying to help going to Senegal more appealing…

Possible Wolf Spider
Possible Wolf Spider

We do not believe this is a Huntsman Spider.  The shape reminds us more of a Wolf Spider, but alas, the eye pattern is not visible in your image.  Perhaps one of our readers can offer additional information.

Letter 7 – Probably Wolf Spider from South Africa

 

Subject: What is this spider?
Location: Mwandi, South Zambia
January 27, 2016 3:56 am
Hello bug people,
On a trip to Zambia in July last year, we encountered a phat spidr in the small town of Mwandi in Southern Zambia. We were wondering if you could identify it for us, we think it may be a wolf spider. Thanks very much.
Signature: Phat Spyda

Probably Wolf Spider
Probably Wolf Spider

Dear Phat Spyda,
We believe you are correct that this is a Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae, but a dorsal view or a close-up of the eyes would aid in identification.  Your individual looks similar to this Wolf Spider from iSpot.

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

10 Comments. Leave new

  • Dear Squee, don’t be afraid. :^) Unless your daughter catches one and does it some harm, she has zero chance of being bitten by one of these guys. They don’t want any trouble, they just want to be outside to eat big bugs, including garden pests. Also, like you, they are devoted mothers: they carry their babies constantly on their body until they are big enough to fend for themselves!
    We have loads of them where I live in the mountains of Maryland, and they have never bitten anybody I know. I just take them outside when I find one. (I let small spiders stay inside: they eat flies, gnats, mosquitoes, etc.)
    If you approach one casually with an upside-down glass or plastic jar, you may be able to set it down over the spider, then gently slide a thin, stiff piece of cardboard (like a big postcard or calendar cover) under the jar. Then you can pick the whole thing up and take it outside to let the spider go. But don’t worry if you can’t catch it. It’s doing its level best to stay out of your way!

    Reply
  • Just out of curiosity, should medical attention be sought in the case of a bite? I didn’t know that I had a young one on me and it got inadvertently pinched and of course, it bit…lol. It feels about like a yellow jacket sting, and I had no reason to worry until my husband looked it up and found information lumping them into a venomous category with widows and recluses! Of course I’ll keep an eye on it, and if I have more of a reaction than a yellow jacket sting, then I guess I’ll go to the doc, but this page has so much good info about bugs of all types that I figured someone here would know more than hypochondria-inducing google. Thanks!

    Reply
    • To the best of our knowledge, the bite of a Wolf Spider would produce a localized reaction similar to a bee sting, but we would never rule out the possibility of a more severe allergic reaction in certain individuals. Since we are not qualified to offer medical advice, we would never entirely rule out a dangerous reaction. Let your body be your guide.

      Reply
  • Codie Morgan
    July 19, 2016 4:20 am

    I live in south africa where I regularly catch wolf spiders (to play with them or keep as pets).
    I concur that this is definetly a wolf spider without any doubt, a female almost identical to one I kept in captivity for 6 months before release.

    Reply
  • Codie Morgan
    July 19, 2016 4:20 am

    I live in south africa where I regularly catch wolf spiders (to play with them or keep as pets).
    I concur that this is definetly a wolf spider without any doubt, a female almost identical to one I kept in captivity for 6 months before release.

    Reply
  • I came across this post while reminiscing about a spider identical to this which I kept as a pet back around 2002, and from everything I was able to ever divine about her she was simply a regional color morph of a carolina wolf spider. I found her in the warehouse of a retail store in Overland Park, KS and it was hard to identify at first since she didn’t really bear much of a resemblance to all the examples of the carolina species that I could find in reference books. Instead I sent pictures to several college entomology and arachnology departments and they confirmed it as a carolina via anatomical features vs coloration. She had the same orange fur on the chelicerae and small red spots on the skin to either side, along with the dark abdomen and relatively featureless cephalothorax that lacked the traditional wolf spider lateral stripe.

    A couple years later I moved north of St. Louis, MO and observed that about 250 miles to the east all the carolina wolf spiders here look like this to a tee, being closer to what is normally shown in field and identification guides:

    http://www.jeffpippen.com/arachnids/wolf-spider071021-2284jones.coz.jpg

    Reply
  • I came across this post while reminiscing about a spider identical to this which I kept as a pet back around 2002, and from everything I was able to ever divine about her she was simply a regional color morph of a carolina wolf spider. I found her in the warehouse of a retail store in Overland Park, KS and it was hard to identify at first since she didn’t really bear much of a resemblance to all the examples of the carolina species that I could find in reference books. Instead I sent pictures to several college entomology and arachnology departments and they confirmed it as a carolina via anatomical features vs coloration. She had the same orange fur on the chelicerae and small red spots on the skin to either side, along with the dark abdomen and relatively featureless cephalothorax that lacked the traditional wolf spider lateral stripe.

    A couple years later I moved north of St. Louis, MO and observed that about 250 miles to the east all the carolina wolf spiders here look like this to a tee, being closer to what is normally shown in field and identification guides:

    http://www.jeffpippen.com/arachnids/wolf-spider071021-2284jones.coz.jpg

    Reply
  • I have found nearly all black morphs right here in the heart of the carolinas, smack dab in the middle of both states almost. They can be anywhere from a light grey or tan, to deep greys, browns, and black. You still might see some of the pattern a bit but usually I see most hognus with a solid black underside.

    Reply

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