Wolf spiders are fascinating creatures that have generated a lot of interest due to their unique characteristics and hunting behaviors. As a member of the Lycosidae family, these spiders are known for their athleticism and agility. Unlike most other spiders, they do not spin webs to capture their prey; instead, they actively hunt and chase it down.
These spiders come in various sizes, ranging from less than an inch to as big as two inches in length. They are typically brown, gray, or black with distinctive dark markings on their bodies, helping them blend into their environments. You may spot them in gardens, fields, forests, and even inside your home.
As a curious individual, you might wonder what these impressive hunters eat in their day-to-day lives. Wolf spiders primarily consume insects and other small arthropods, including crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, and occasionally other spiders. Using their speed and strength, they subdue their prey and deliver a swift bite to immobilize it before consuming their well-deserved meal.
What Do Wolf Spiders Eat
Wolf spiders are known for their athleticism and hunting skills. They primarily consume a wide variety of insects and ground-dwelling insects. Here are some examples of their prey:
- Pill bugs
These spiders don’t spin webs to catch their prey. Instead, they rely on their speed and agility to hunt down and capture their meals. This makes them highly effective predators of smaller creatures.
It’s important to note that the specific diet of wolf spiders can vary depending on their environment and the availability of prey. In some cases, they might also engage in cannibalism, eating smaller spiders, including their own kind.
As a top predator, understanding what wolf spiders eat can give you a better grasp of their role in the ecosystem. These spiders help maintain the population of various insects, contributing to the balance of nature.
Hunting and Feeding Mechanisms
Wolf spiders are skilled hunters that rely on various techniques to catch their prey. They do not build webs like some other spiders. Instead, they rely on their keen eyesight and swift movements to capture their prey. Let’s explore some of the common hunting and feeding mechanisms used by these arachnids.
- Burrowing: Some species of wolf spiders make burrows in the ground as their hunting grounds. They hide in the burrows and wait for their prey to pass by, then quickly pounce on it and inject venom to immobilize it.
- Prowling: Wolf spiders also actively prowl in search of prey. They have excellent eyesight, which helps them to locate and stalk their target. When they find suitable prey, they pounce on it and inject venom.
Venom: Wolf spiders have venom to subdue their prey effectively. The venom is not deadly to humans, but it can cause pain and discomfort.
Pouncing: Once they spot a target, they use their strong legs to launch themselves onto their prey. They often do this in a swift and accurate manner to increase their chances of success.
In summary, wolf spiders employ various hunting tactics, such as burrowing and prowling, to secure their prey. They then utilize their venom and pouncing abilities to immobilize the target and make it easier to consume. To learn more about wolf spiders and their fascinating hunting skills, you can visit this source.
Habitat and Geography
Wolf spiders are versatile creatures that can be found in various environments around the world. In North America, their preferred habitats include fields, meadows, grasslands, mountains, deserts, and even rainforests.
What makes these places suitable for wolf spiders is their easy access to prey. As predators, wolf spiders feast on small insects, such as ants and flies. Their excellent camouflage abilities — blending in with their surroundings like leaves, grass, or soil — allow them to stalk and capture their prey with ease.
The ground is an essential element in a wolf spider’s habitat. These spiders are known for their preference to live close to the ground, building burrows or finding ready-made hideouts like crevices and holes. In more urban environments, they might seek refuge in leaf litter or under stones. Their ground-level lifestyle, coupled with their cryptic coloration, helps them to avoid larger predators like birds and mammals.
Wolf spiders have even adapted to various climates, from the dry heat of deserts to the moist, dense foliage of rainforests. For instance, in meadows and grasslands, they use tall grass to their advantage, climbing up the blades to hunt for flying insects. In mountains and colder regions, they have adapted to survive low temperatures by seeking shelter in warmer crevices and burrows.
To sum it up, your encounter with a wolf spider could happen almost anywhere. Their ability to adapt to various terrains and conditions makes them widespread and successful hunters. So don’t be surprised if you spot one in your backyard or during your next hike in the great outdoors.
Wolf spiders are known for their distinctive features. These spiders can vary in size, typically ranging from 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. They come in different colors including brown, gray, tan, and even black. The color and patterns on their bodies serve as excellent camouflage in various environments.
Despite being hairy, wolf spiders are skillful hunters thanks to their long legs. These agile spiders don’t rely on webs to catch prey; they run it down instead. Their remarkable eyesight plays a crucial role in their hunting prowess.
Wolf spiders boast eight eyes organized in three rows. This unique arrangement allows them to detect even the slightest movements, especially when searching for prey. As nocturnal creatures, they rely on their excellent night vision to navigate through the darkness.
Here’s a quick overview of their notable traits:
- Size: 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
- Colors: Brown, gray, tan, and black
- Legs: Long and agile
- Eyes: Eight, in three rows
- Sensory Ability: Exceptional eyesight
Remember, these spiders adapt well to diverse habitats, and their physical characteristics help them thrive as excellent hunters.
Behavior and Life Cycle
Wolf spiders belong to the family Lycosidae and have unique behaviors when it comes to mating, raising their young, and hunting. They are fast and skilled hunters, often seen chasing after their prey.
These spiders don’t build webs to catch food. Instead, they rely on their speed and hunting skills. They are mainly nocturnal, meaning they hunt at night. Here are some key behavioral aspects:
- Nocturnal hunters
- Do not build webs
- Chase their prey
- Fast and agile
During the mating process, the male and female wolf spiders engage in a complex courtship ritual. Males often jump or use other physical signals to attract females. Once mating is successful, the female lays her eggs and creates a protective egg sac.
Unlike many other spiders, wolf spider mothers exhibit an interesting behavior of carrying their egg sacs attached to their bodies. This ensures the safety of their eggs until they hatch. When the spiderlings emerge, they continue to hitch a ride on their mother’s back until they are partially grown and can survive independently.
In a nutshell, key aspects of the wolf spider life cycle include:
- Complex courtship ritual
- Females carry egg sacs
- Mothers protect spiderlings
- Spiderlings ride on mother’s back
Overall, the behavior and life cycle of the wolf spider make it a unique and fascinating species to study.
Wolf spiders may cause mixed reactions among people. Some see them as pets and appreciate their hunting skills, while others consider them unwanted pests due to their frightening appearance.
In general, wolf spiders are more beneficial than harmful. They prey on insects, which can help control insect populations around your home and garden. However, bites from these spiders can be painful but are not usually harmful to humans. Symptoms such as pain, redness, and localized swelling typically subside within 24 hours and have no serious medical consequences1.
In the U.S, you might come across a variety of wolf spider species, each with their unique colors, markings, and habitats2. If you decide to keep a wolf spider as a pet, be prepared to provide an environment that mimics their natural habitat, and feed them a diet of insects.
To give you an idea of their pros and cons, here is a comparison table:
|Fascinating hunting skills
|Appearance might be unsettling
|Help control insect populations
|Can cause painful but non-dangerous bites
In conclusion, it’s up to you whether you want to appreciate wolf spiders as beneficial creatures or consider them as unwanted pests. Just remember that their presence generally helps control pests around your home, and their bites pose no significant threat to your health.
Threats and Predators
Wolf spiders are efficient hunters that primarily feed on large insects and other spiders. However, these nocturnal predators face their fair share of threats as well.
Frogs and Lizards: Amphibians such as frogs and lizards often prey on wolf spiders. They are quick to snatch up these spiders and feast on them.
Brown Recluse Spiders: Although wolf spiders may eat other spiders, they can fall victim to a brown recluse spider. Having a venomous bite, brown recluses can pose a significant threat to wolf spiders.
Here’s a comparison table for some predators of wolf spiders:
|Type of Threat
|Impact on Wolf Spider
In terms of their bite, wolf spiders are capable of biting humans, especially if they feel threatened or are mishandled. Generally, their bites result in initial pain, redness, and localized swelling, which usually subsides within 24 hours.
It’s important to remember that though wolf spiders are fearsome hunters in their own right, they, too, are a part of the food chain and face various threats and predators in their environment. By shedding light on their fascinating world, you can better appreciate the role they play in maintaining the balance of ecosystems and learn to coexist with these remarkable creatures.
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 – Introduced False Wolf Spider
Subject: Spider Zoropsis spinimana
Location: Oakland, California, USA
December 22, 2014 6:01 pm
I found this fellow (and I do believe it is a male) lurking on my living room wall in Oakland, California. At just over 2″ he’s too big to live with comfortably. So, into a capture jar, smile for a close up and then away to the garden with you.
I was able to get a few good photos and with a quick internet search had the spider ID. Seems that Zoropsis spinimana is an exotic introduction to Northern California and is native to the Mediterranean. Our local nature authority, the California Academy of Sciences of San Francisco, has been tracking its spread since it was first found in the San Jose area in the mid-1990’s.
It’s not aggressive, slow moving and not believed to be harmful. Likes crawlspaces, attics and houses.
I’ve written to you to help out others like myself who are curious about these critters.
Thanks so much for your well researched submission and the helpful information you have provided for our readership. As you have indicated, BugGuide states: “Native to the Mediterranean coastal countries and northern Africa” and BugGuide also reports: “This is the only species in the family found in BugGuide’s range.” According to the UC Davis website: “In the mid-1990s, Zoropsis spinimana, a large spider from the Mediterranean region, started showing up in homes around the San Francisco Bay area. It has since become well established around the southern, eastern, and northern portions of the Bay and has become a permanent member of the California spider population. Although the known distribution is not very extensive, this spider does inhabit a part of the state that is densely populated by humans and Zoropsis is routinely found in homes, causing concern among the people who encounter it. However, it is harmless to people. This Pest Note was prepared to provide information regarding this non-native resident. The first California reports of Zoropsis spinimana were from the Sunnyvale area in Santa Clara County in 1992. Since then the spider has mostly spread north and east around the San Francisco Bay area with specimens found throughout Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Marin, and Santa Cruz Counties. Scientists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco are tracking the spider’s spread. So far, Zoropsis spinimana seems to be found only in and around human dwellings. However, it is also possible that this spider is establishing itself in natural vegetation areas.”
Letter 2 – Large Wolf Spider in Joshua Tree
Subject: Joshua Tree Spider
Location: Joshua Tree, CA
July 25, 2017 5:25 pm
Please help me identify this greyish spider that’s about the size of an open hand.
This looks like a large Wolf Spider, but we are not certain of the genus or species. Wolf Spiders are hunting spiders that do not build webs. Despite their large size, they are harmless. We are going to attempt to contact Mandy Howe to see if she can provide a species identification.
Letter 3 – Mother Wolf Spider
Hi – Sorry I don’t have a picture to send, but this all happened far too fast for me to grab a camera. I was setting in a chair on one side of the room very early in the morning, when I noticed something moving near the front door. When I got up to check it out, it turned out to be a spider like I have never seen before. It was a light brown color,with a darker brown abdomen, and almost looked like it had hair growing on it’s abdomen. And it was quite large, about the size of a quarter. The strangest thing about this spider was, when I opened the door to shoo it out, hundreds of baby spiders jumped off of the abdomen and scurried in all directions. They were too small for me to get a good look at and moving far to fast. I was living in So CA at the time, and I have spent at least five or six years trying to find out what this spider was. Can you help out?
Thanks in advance,
Female Wolf Spiders, Family Lycosidae, carry their eggs around. When the eggs hatch, the young spiders, called spiderlings, ride around on their mother’s back for a short time. These are hunting spiders which do not build webs. The females are highly maternal. You obviously caught them the minute the apron strings were cut. Congratulations on seeing a wonder of nature that obviously left an impression. Here is an image I downloaded from a Florida website. Wolf Spiders of different species are found worldwide.
Letter 4 – Maternal Wolf Spider and Brood
thought you might like this pic taken in my new jersey backyard.
Thank you Faith,
We love your photo illustrating the maternal behavior of a Wolf Spider. We are so sorry it took us so long to post and answer. We just recently posted a photo of a female wolf spider fished dead out of a swimming pool. Her body served as a life-raft for her brood that survived. Thanks again.
Letter 5 – Maternal Wolf Spider with Brood
I love your website, and find myself checking it regularly. I thought you might like a couple of photos I took. When I first saw the wolf spider from a distance I thought, “Oh, my God, something has parasitized this spider.” When I got closer I realized she was carrying babies. She was pretty big as you can see from the standard 8” brick she is standing on.
Grace E. Pedalino
Letter 6 – Maternal Wolf Spider, Argiope and unknown Long Legged Spider from India
Spiders at home
Shot some spiders at home. Request you to ID them. I stay in Palm Meadows
http://www.adarshdevelopers.com/projects/palmmeadows/palm_location.html in Bangalore.
The spider with young is a species of Wolf Spider. The females often carry the young on their backs. The “Monster Spider” is either a Silver Argiope or a very close relative. These are orb weavers and totally harmless, as is the Wolf Spider. The spider you have labeled Spidey Long Legs is unknown to us, but an awesome specimen.
Letter 7 – Mating Burrowing Wolf Spiders
Subject: Mating Geolycosa
Location: Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
September 5, 2012 7:57 pm
About a month ago, I’d sent in a number of photos of some of the local arthropods I’d encountered during my regular evening strolls around my location. Among them was a photo of a particularly large female Geolycosa specimen, which was featured in your response. I’ve been seeing quite a few more of these spiders around lately, even outside of their burrows (I’m including a photograph of an impressive male I’d found outside my office);
additionally, this morning I was out checking on some plants when I decided to check on that very same aforementioned spider. At first, I thought what I was seeing was her full body outside the hole; while this is indeed part of what I was seeing, it took me a moment to notice the similarly-sized male on top of her. At first I was afraid she’d been attacked, but then I recalled something I’d seen before. I’d never witnessed this before myself, but I believe they were in the middle of mating! Ind eed, later the female was by herself in her usual position, more than healthy. I get the feeling we’re going to be seeing an awful lot of little ones.
Thank you for following up on your previous posting. The mating Burrowing Wolf Spiders must have been fascinating to observe.
Letter 8 – One of the Best Bug Stories Ever: Wolf Spider eats Giant Salmonfly and lost imagery reclaimed
Subject: Epic bug battle
Location: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness, Northeastern Oregon, in a river canyon
August 14, 2014 6:56 pm
In late April of 2009, my best friend and I went backpacking in the remote Wenaha-Tucannon wilderness of Northeastern Oregon, along the Wenaha river canyon. It was a spectacular trip made even more spectacular when it ended in near disaster; during a flash flood, my backpack with all of its photographic equipment was swept away and we narrowly escaped the same fate. Remarkably, the backpack was found one month ago by some hikers who pulled out one of the photo memory cards and brought it to the local sheriff, who tracked me down on facebook.
ANYWAYS, during the intervening 5 years, one of our greatest regrets about losing the photos was that we had witnessed an epic struggle between the largest spider I’ve ever seen in Oregon, and an enormous (for Oregon) long, cylindrical fly with a bright orange head that I had never seen before and couldn’t easily identify with online searches. We doubted anyone would ever believe how completely legendary and unbelievable the struggle was as these two titans locked themselves into a dance of death for at least 10 minutes. They did not care that we were there one bit. The battle was too fierce. We were able to get right up next to them with cameras and take photos….. and now we finally have those photos back! Unfortunately, my good camera with a macro lens was permanently lost, so the photos we have are only ‘decent,’ but I think they will work. I’ll be forever grateful if you can help give even more life to this newly revived fabled cha pter of my life by identifying these two mighty contestants.
Thanks so much,
P.S. If it helps, I also have a low quality video – no fine details in focus but it give a better sense of the size because of the movement that’s visible.
Signature: John Felder
If forced to choose which we are more impressed with, your amazing images or your fantastic story, we are going to have to go with the story, which is why we are featuring this posting on our scrolling feature bar. The fact that you witnessed this “Epic Bug Battle” and then lost the images and then reclaimed the images after five years is truly an amazing story worth relaying. The spider is a Wolf Spider in the family Lycosidae, and based on the size and eye arrangement (see BugGuide) we believe it is in the genus Hogna. The Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis, is found in Oregon, and you can see images of it on BugGuide which states: “Considered to be the largest wolf spider in North America.” The Carolina Wolf Spider is also represented on the Spiders.Us site which states: “This species is uncommon in the Pacific Northwest, but we have included those states in our range listing because it is still possible to find them there.” We are going to check with spider expert Mandy Howe to get her opinion on the species. The prey is a Giant Stonefly in the genus Pteronarcys, and it is most likely the California Salmonfly, Pteronarcys californica. Here is an image from BugGuide. One interesting note is that this sighting obviously occurred near the river, which is the correct habitat for the California Salmonfly, however, Spiders.Us indicates of the Carolina Wolf Spider: “This spider is typically found in arid habitats such as deserts, prairies, glades, and open fields and pastures.” Thanks again for providing your fascinating story for the entertainment and awe of our readership. On a final note, we really hope we hear back from Mandy regarding the identity of this Wolf Spider because it may represent and new or little documented species as it was observed in such a remote location.
This is a truly amazing story with some wonderful images. I’m not certain how good you are with Spiders, but since you lived in Oregon, I am hoping you can provide some input. Can you confirm or correct the identity of this Wolf Spider: Carolina Wolf Spider or other??? I have also contacted Mandy Howe.
Eric Eaton Disagrees
Definitely “other.” I’m not even sure there are any recent records of the Carolina Wolf Spider from Oregon. Hopefully Mandy can put it to genus.
Ed. Note: We are guessing that Eric agrees that this is a Wolf Spider, but not that it is a Carolina Wolf Spider.
Wow! Thanks so much!!!!
I found the salmonfly online shortly after I submitted the photo and then I felt guilty for potentially wasting your time, so I’m glad you liked it!!!
A couple of things that add up based on what you’ve told me:
1) the habitat for Hogna Carolinensis: the area around the Wenaha river is usually quite arid in terms of ambient humidity throughout the year and probably rainfall as well. It’s the type of canyon that’s covered in dry brown grasses, rocks, and pine trees in the gulches but not on the exposed ridges. In spring, the river swells from the melting snowfall of winter in the mountains, but rain is usually fairly sparse. EXCEPT for the week we were there, when it rained almost nonstop, causing the flood conditions and raising the river to probably historic levels. So I think that if Hogna Carolinensis likes arid conditions, it probably likes the Wenaha area.
2). From what I’ve read, emergence of salmonfly larvae from the water tends to occur when rivers are at peak or rapid flow, which was definitely the case at the time we were there, further confirming the identity of the salmonfly.
I am going to send you a link to the (shoddy) video I have. Quality is poor but you can see their movements as they battle. Very compelling.
The hikers who found my pack were unable to open the rusted body of my metal dSLR to remove the memory card, so we unfortunately only have the lower quality images that my friend took with his plastic lower-megapixel point and shoot. Otherwise, we would have glorious, high definition, macro lens shots and video, but at least we have something.
Thanks again for the help and for featuring the story. You guys are great. I’ll send a link to the video when I get home.
Here it is:
Thanks for the update John. We were under the impression that the images you sent were from the card retrieved from the missing camera. Your most recent email indicates that you were always in the possession of the images. Do you by chance have a dorsal view looking down on the top of the spider?
No no, your initial impression was correct. I only just got the images this week after not having them for 5 years.
What I was attempting to convey is that there were two cameras in the missing backpack and the hikers who found it only retrieved the memory card from one of the cameras, which happened to be the poorer quality one. If they had been able to get the images out of the other camera (they didn’t because it was rusted shut and they couldn’t get the memory card out and didn’t want to carry out the entire camera), we would have been dealing with better quality images. That’s all. The story, as it is posted on your website, is completely accurate.
Here are the closest I have to a dorsal view (focus not great):
Thanks for the clarification. Bummer: Too bad they didn’t bust the camera body to get the memory card. Thanks for providing the dorsal view. We wanted to be able to show the markings on the carapace.
Update November 15, 2015: Mandy Howe Identifies Alopecosa kochi
He got some cool shots, and great story! The wolf spider is a female Alopecosa kochi, e.g. http://bugguide.net/node/view/758183/bgimage (the carapace on Lenny’s example there has been rubbed off a bit though). The specimens found in the western states have a slightly different appearance than the ones found further east.
Hope that helps, even though I’m replying over a year late; sorry about that!