What Eats Wolf Spiders: Discover Their Surprising Predators

Wolf spiders are fascinating creatures known for their unique appearance and behaviors. These spiders can be found in various environments and play an important role in ecosystems by controlling insect populations. As predators themselves, wolf spiders can be both feared and admired, but have you ever wondered what creatures might prey on them?

In the complex web of life, even predators like wolf spiders can fall victim to other animals. Being aware of their predators can help you better appreciate the delicate balance of nature and the vital role that wolf spiders play in maintaining it. In this article, we’ll explore the different animals that feed on wolf spiders and discuss how this predator-prey relationship impacts their environment.

As we dive into this topic, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of wolf spiders and their place in the food chain. This knowledge can not only satisfy your curiosity, but also provide valuable insights for those interested in biology, ecology, or simply learning more about the natural world around them.

What are Wolf Spiders?

Physical Characteristics

Wolf spiders are an athletic species of spider known for their speed and agility. They are generally 1/2 inch to 2 inches long, with most being hairy and brown to gray in color. They have a variety of markings or lines on their bodies, often including dark brown or black stripes. These spiders have eight legs and are equipped with eight eyes, arranged in an unusual pattern that helps them track and capture their prey.

Some key physical features include:

  • Size: 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
  • Hairy bodies
  • Brown to gray coloration with markings or lines
  • Eight legs and eight eyes

Scientific Classification

Wolf spiders are part of the family Lycosidae, which belongs to the order Araneae in the phylum Arthropoda. They are a diverse group, with many different species found throughout the world.

Here is a summary of their scientific classification:

  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Lycosidae

You’ll often find wolf spiders in various environments, such as near shrubs or tall grass where there is a plentiful insect supply. Notorious for being great hunters, they don’t rely on webs to catch their prey, but rather run it down, using their unique combination of speed and visual skills to effectively target their meals.

Wolf Spider Habitats

Natural Habitats

Wolf spiders can be found in a variety of natural habitats. They are known to inhabit meadows, forests, grasslands, deserts, rainforests, and wetlands. Their versatile nature allows them to thrive in diverse environments across North America.

These spiders are mainly ground-dwellers and often create burrows to seek shelter or hunt for prey. In some habitats, like grasslands, they prefer hiding in tall grass or vegetation, while in forests, they may be found in leaf litter or under stones.

Adaptability to Human Settings

Wolf spiders are not only adaptable to natural environments but also to human settings. You might come across them in your garden, backyard, or even inside your home. They are particularly attracted to areas with:

  • Plenty of insects to feed on
  • Plentiful hiding spots like rocks, logs, or leaf piles
  • Moist conditions in basements, crawlspaces, or damp corners
Habitat Type Preferred Shelter
Meadows Tall grass, vegetation
Forests Leaf litter, under stones
Grasslands Tall grass, vegetation
Deserts Burrows, under rocks
Rainforests Leaf litter, vegetation
Wetlands Vegetation, under rocks
Human Settings Gardens, basements, damp corners

Remember, although they might look intimidating, wolf spiders are not dangerous to humans and help control insect populations in and around your home. Appreciate their role in the ecosystem and try to coexist peacefully with these adaptable creatures.

Wolf Spider Behavior

Nocturnal Lifestyle

Wolf spiders are known for their nocturnal lifestyle. These spiders are most active during the night, using their excellent camouflage and incredible speed to blend into their surroundings and catch their prey. You might often find them climbing on various surfaces in search of their next meal.

Mating Habits

The mating habits of wolf spiders are quite fascinating. Males usually perform a courtship dance to attract a female partner. They communicate their interest by sending vibrations through the ground, allowing the female to sense their presence nearby.

Parenting and Life Cycle

Wolf spiders exhibit unique parenting behaviors compared to many other spider species. Female wolf spiders carry their large egg sacs attached to their bodies until the spiderlings are ready to emerge.

Once the spiderlings hatch, they climb onto their mother’s back for protection and transportation. This close bond lasts until the spiderlings are partially grown and able to fend for themselves. The life cycle of a wolf spider is a remarkable example of nature’s adaptability and complexity.

What Eats Wolf Spiders?

Bird Predators

Birds, as an important part of the ecosystem, help in controlling the population of wolf spiders. Some common bird predators of wolf spiders include robins and swallows. These birds often feast on these spiders as a tasty meal.

Amphibians and Reptiles

Amphibians and reptiles also play a role in hunting and eating wolf spiders. For example:

  • Frogs: Frogs, such as the leopard frog, can quickly snatch up wolf spiders with their sticky tongues.
  • Lizards: Certain types of lizards, like the eastern fence lizard, feed on wolf spiders as part of their diet.

Invertebrate Predators

Even within their own class, wolf spiders face threats from other invertebrates:

  • Other Spiders: Some species of spiders, such as the larger tarantulas, may prey on wolf spiders.
  • Scorpions: Certain types of scorpions, like the desert scorpion, feed on wolf spiders in their desert ecosystem.

Human Interaction

While humans typically view wolf spiders as pests, these spiders play a beneficial role in keeping insect populations in check. However, some people might accidentally kill wolf spiders they encounter because they are perceived as a threat. Remember to be cautious around wolf spiders, but try to appreciate the essential role they play in your local ecosystem.

Wolf Spider Diet

Insect Prey

Wolf spiders primarily feed on various insects such as:

  • Crickets
  • Ants
  • Grasshoppers
  • Other bugs

These spiders aren’t too picky when it comes to their diet, so they tend to eat whatever insects they come across.

How Wolf Spiders Hunt

Wolf spiders are known for their hunting skills, which include strategies like stalking and pouncing. Unlike some types of spiders, they don’t rely on webs to catch their prey. Instead, they use their keen senses and agile legs to chase after their targets.

When they spot a potential meal, they’ll stalk it carefully, watching and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Once they’re close enough, they pounce on their prey, capturing it with their strong jaws. This hunting technique makes them efficient predators in various environments.

As you can see, wolf spiders are capable hunters with a diverse diet of insects. By understanding their feeding habits, you can better appreciate these fascinating creatures and their role in the ecosystem.

Wolf Spider Defense Mechanisms

Camouflage and Stealth

Wolf spiders rely on their camouflage and stealth abilities to avoid predators. They have a combination of fast movements and excellent eyesight, which they use to evade threats. The colors of the wolf spider help them blend into their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot them. For example, their brown, gray, or black body markings give them a natural advantage when hiding among leaves and rocks.

Venom and Biting

When directly threatened, wolf spiders employ their venom and biting capabilities as a defense mechanism. Although their venom is not particularly dangerous to humans, it’s effective in incapacitating or killing prey. Wolf spiders only bite when they feel threatened and will inject venom through their fangs, resulting in painful but usually harmless bites.

In summary, wolf spiders have two primary defense mechanisms:

  • Camouflage and stealth: Fast movements, eyesight, and body markings allow them to blend into their environment and avoid predators.
  • Venom and biting: Used as a last resort, their venomous bites can cause pain and incapacitate potential threats.

Remember, the goal is to avoid being eaten, so these defense mechanisms help wolf spiders stay alive in their natural habitats.

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 – Wolf Spider from South Africa

 

Subject: Huntsman?
Location: Pretoria North
November 5, 2013 3:43 pm
Hi, I came home tonight to find a new addition to the family. From other photos I believe it is a Huntsman but would appreciate confirmation. This guy/lady quite liked posing for the camera and I was able to get a few nice photos with my phone.
Signature: Regards, Peter

Wolf Spider
Wolf Spider

Dear Peter,
In our opinion, this is a Wolf Spider.  They are considered harmless, though big individuals might bite if provoked.

Letter 2 – Wolf Spider: Hogna coloradensis

 

Subject: Huntsman?
Location: Moccasin, AZ (Northern AZ Strip)
May 1, 2015 4:47 pm
Hey buggy person! In case the first picture didn’t go through, here’s a smaller resize. Found this big guy in Pipe Spring National Monument, near Moccasin, AZ on the Arizona Strip.
Signature: Kait

Wolf Spider:  Hogna coloradensis we believe
Wolf Spider: Hogna coloradensis we believe

Dear Kait,
This is one spectacular looking spider.  It is not a Huntsman Spider.  You can tell by the eye arrangement on your excellent image that it is a Wolf Spider.  We believe, based on this BugGuide image, that your spider is Hogna coloradensis.  According to BugGuide:  “Range Mostly CO & NM, and also just across the border into AZ & TX. There are old notes of it being found in KS & NE, but those specimens couldn’t be verified.  Habitat A dominant species found in sandy environments of New Mexico.  Remarks  This species creates a burrow (no turret) and may use small rocks/debris to close the burrow entrance.”

Probably Hogna coloradensis, a Wolf Spider
Probably Hogna coloradensis, a Wolf Spider

Letter 3 – Wolf Spider: Mother Drowns, Spiderlings Survive

 

Sadly I found this spider dead in our swimming pool skimmer. When I looked closely I found that there were many tiny baby spiders clinging to the mother. I was surprised that they were able to survive. Can you tell me what kind of spider this is and do you think the young spiders can survive?
Kathy

Hi Again Kathy,
Your spider is a Wolf Spider. The mother often carries the spiderlings on her back for several days to weeks. Though they survived the drowning, there are many perils awaiting young spiderlings, so they will not all survive, but some surely will.

Letter 4 – Wolf Spider with Egg Sac from Australia

 

Mother Wolf
Location: NSW, Australia
December 4, 2011 5:17 am
Hi again! Thought you might like this picture of a wolf spider and her egg sack. We found her while we where planting a mulberry tree.
Thank you!
Signature: Emma

Wolf Spider carrying her egg sac in her Chelicerae

Dear Emma,
We agree that this looks very much like a Wolf Spider, and that it most closely resembles the Garden Wolf Spider, Lycosa godeffroyi, which is pictured on the Brisbane Insect (and Spider) website.  There is however, one very perplexing mystery for us.  Wolf Spiders drag their egg sacs behind them from the spinnerets and Nursery Web Spiders including Fishing Spiders carry their egg sacs in their fangs or chelicerae like your individual.  Here is a photo from our archive of a Fishing Spider with her Egg Sac and here is a Photo of a Wolf Spider with her Egg Sac, also from our archive.  The Find A Spiderwebsite concurs with our statement:  “Females produce a white or pale blue spherical egg sac and this may be carried around attached to the spinnerets. When the spiderlings hatch out they crawl onto the female’s upper surfaces, almost completely covering them. It is presumed this serves as an efficient means of dispersing the young spiders.”  We hope to get some additional information on this mystery.  Unfortunately, we cannot really make out the eye pattern arrangement in your photograph.

Wolf Spider or Nursery Web Spider???

I have a theory about why she was carrying her eggs like that. We disturbed her burrow when we where digging the hole for the tree. So she probably had to grab them quickly, and didn’t have time to do the spinneret/silk thing. It was a shame to wreck her home, but we have LOTS of these spiders around our house. Kind of hard to avoid them. We moved her away after I’d gotten some pictures, so hopefully she found a safe spot for them to hatch.

Thanks for the theory Emma.  We still hope to hear from a few folks we contacted.

Eric Eaton responds
Daniel:
You are correct to at least the family level.  I suspect her egg sac became detached from her spinnerets and so she is carrying it this way for the time being; or perhaps the sac is about to hatch?
Eric

 

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.

14 thoughts on “What Eats Wolf Spiders: Discover Their Surprising Predators”

    • Before responding, we wanted to verify that “spine” is the correct term for the features on the spider’s legs, and we found this information on the US National Library of Medicine site: “Some large spiders have relatively large spines on their legs and it was hypothesized that these may cause injury in some cases of suspected spider bite, and may account for “splinters” uncommonly seen at bite sites. “

      Reply
  1. Hi!

    A little known fact.
    Spiders live in burrows, are dangerous to cows.
    When cows eating spiders, along with grass, there is an injury in the intestines of cattle.

    Thank you

    Reply
  2. I have found a lot of holes in my grass lately and did not know what it was. Various questions ended up with we do not know either. Then I decide to do something. Took the garden hose and open the tap as wide as possible. Then stuck it to a hole. The next moment a spider pop up from another hole.

    Same as the one pictured by Peter.

    It seems to be a pest since after a while I ended up flushing at least 40 in a 40sqaure meter area.

    Where do the come from? What can we do to get rid of it?

    Seems that it spread quickly since we have seen the holes increase quite rapidly?

    Reply
  3. I have found a lot of holes in my grass lately and did not know what it was. Various questions ended up with we do not know either. Then I decide to do something. Took the garden hose and open the tap as wide as possible. Then stuck it to a hole. The next moment a spider pop up from another hole.

    Same as the one pictured by Peter.

    It seems to be a pest since after a while I ended up flushing at least 40 in a 40sqaure meter area.

    Where do the come from? What can we do to get rid of it?

    Seems that it spread quickly since we have seen the holes increase quite rapidly?

    Reply
  4. We have found two of these in the past two months in our house…both carrying their babies on their backs…almost seems like hundreds! I did some research and saw that it seems to be only wolf spiders that carry their babies on their backs, but this is the first site I found referring to wolf spiders in South Africa. Is there anything I can do to keep them out of my house? I have small children and do not want them around…

    Reply
    • We do not provide extermination advice. We would suggest weather proofing more carefully to eliminate cracks and spaces, especially near windows and doors.

      Reply
  5. If we found 1 spider will there be more than this one.
    He ate my friends fish, 6 of them in 2 weeks time.
    Can 1 spider eat so much

    Reply
  6. If we found 1 spider will there be more than this one.
    He ate my friends fish, 6 of them in 2 weeks time.
    Can 1 spider eat so much

    Reply
  7. I found a really scary looking spider in my house. I would like to know if it’s dangerous and what type of spider it is. When you reply on this email, I will send a picture.
    thank you in advance

    Reply
  8. I found a really scary looking spider in my house. I would like to know if it’s dangerous and what type of spider it is. When you reply on this email, I will send a picture.
    thank you in advance

    Reply

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