Wolf Spider Male vs Female: Discover Their Key Differences

folder_openArachnida, Araneae
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Wolf spiders are fascinating creatures that can often be found outdoors in various environments. These remarkable arachnids are skilled hunters, known for their excellent vision and ability to actively pursue prey during the day. As you explore the world of wolf spiders, you may find yourself curious about the differences between males and females.

Male and female wolf spiders can be quite different in terms of size, coloration, and other features. Understanding these differences can deepen your appreciation for these fascinating predators and help you identify them more easily. So, let’s dive into some key distinctions between male and female wolf spiders, as we compare their unique characteristics.

It’s essential to note that there can be variation among individual wolf spiders, but certain traits typically mark the differences between the sexes. For instance, male wolf spiders have more elongated body shapes and are generally smaller than their female counterparts. Additionally, females can often be found carrying their large egg sacs with them or hosting their spiderlings on their back. As you uncover more about these intriguing arachnids, the distinctions between male and female wolf spiders will become more evident.

Physical Distinctions

Abdomen Differences

In male wolf spiders, their abdomens tend to have a more elongated shape. On the other hand, female wolf spiders have a larger, rounded abdomen, which allows them to carry their egg sacs and provide care for their offspring. For example, a common characteristic of female wolf spiders is their habit of carrying their egg sacs with them wherever they go.

Eye Structure

Both male and female wolf spiders possess eight eyes. However, the eye structures of these spiders show some differences. Males typically have two large eyes in the front and six smaller ones, while females have two rows of eyes with four in each row. In both males and females, these eyes provide excellent vision, allowing them to efficiently hunt their prey.

Appearance Variables

Coloration and markings can vary between male and female wolf spiders. Male wolf spiders often have more distinct color patterns and markings on their bodies, such as vibrant stripes or spots. On the other hand, female wolf spiders appear more muted in color and have subtler markings, which allow them better camouflage for protecting their egg sacs.

  • Male wolf spiders:

    • More vibrant color patterns
    • Distinct markings (e.g. stripes or spots)
  • Female wolf spiders:

    • Muted coloration
    • Subtle markings for camouflage

Body Size Variation

Generally speaking, female wolf spiders are larger than their male counterparts. The size difference between the two sexes can be quite significant, with some female wolf spiders reaching up to 2 inches in length, while males typically grow to around 1 inch. This size difference can make it easier for you to differentiate between males and females when observing wolf spiders in the wild.

Features Male Wolf Spider Female Wolf Spider
Abdomen Shape Elongated Rounded
Eye Structure 2 Large + 6 Small 2 Rows of 4
Color & Markings Vibrant, Distinct Muted, Subtle
Body Size Up to 1 inch Up to 2 inches

Behavioral Characteristics

Preying Habits

Wolf spiders, unlike tarantulas, are active hunters that don’t rely on webs to catch prey. Instead, they actively hunt and chase down their victims. Their diet mainly consists of insects and other arthropods. While tarantulas tend to be passive hunters, waiting for prey to come to them, wolf spiders venture out to seek their food. Wolf spiders inject venom into their prey, which liquefies it, allowing them to consume the meal easily.

Movement and Habitat

Wolf spiders are known for their agility and strong sense of direction, which they use to navigate through their preferred habitats. They can be found in various environments, such as:

  • Meadows
  • Grasslands
  • Gardens

Wolf spiders can climb, but they typically prefer to stay close to the ground, blending in with their surroundings. Compare this to tarantulas, which may climb trees or other structures depending on their species.

Response to Human Interaction

It’s natural to wonder if wolf spiders are dangerous or poisonous when they venture inside your home. However, their venom is not harmful to humans. While they may bite if threatened or mishandled, these bites are rarely dangerous and typically only cause mild pain or discomfort. Wolf spiders are generally shy and will retreat when faced with humans. Unlike some pests, they don’t cause damage to your home and can even help control other insects.

Pros and Cons of Wolf Spiders:

Pros:

  • Help control insect populations
  • Non-aggressive and retreat when faced with humans
  • Venom not harmful to humans

Cons:

  • Bite can be painful but is rarely dangerous
  • Can be intimidating due to their appearance and speed

It’s important to remember that wolf spiders play a beneficial role in the ecosystem. If you encounter one in your home, it’s best to guide them gently outside if possible. Just remember that they’re not aggressive and aren’t a danger to you or your family.

Reproductive Traits

Mating Behavior

In wolf spiders, the courtship process often involves intricate and fascinating behaviors. Male wolf spiders use a combination of body movements and vibrations to attract the attention of female wolf spiders. They display their interest by waving their legs and tapping their bodies on the ground to create vibrations that the female can sense. This communicates their intentions and helps to avoid being mistaken for prey.

In some cases, the female may choose the male based on his performance during the courtship dance, which allows her to select a mate with good genes. This is an example of female choice or intersexual selection.

Movement or vibrational cues are essential in wolf spider mating. However, in some species, male wolf spiders give a gift to the female before mating, usually a wrapped prey item, as a way to increase their chances of success.

Carrying of Spiderlings

One of the most distinguishing features between male and female wolf spiders is their reproductive roles and post-hatch behavior. Female wolf spiders take on the responsibility of carrying the egg sac, which they secure on their abdomen by spinning a few silk threads. This safety measure ensures their eggs are protected as the female goes about her day.

Once the spiderlings hatch from the egg sac, they climb onto their mother’s back, where they ride around for a brief period until they are partially grown and ready to explore on their own. This unique behavior is observed in female wolf spiders and not in males, as the males do not take part in parental care.

Taking care of the spiderlings is an additional burden for the female, as it affects her mobility and ability to capture prey. However, the protection provided to the young spiders increases their chances of survival, which is crucial to maintain their population in the wild.

Species Overview

Wolf spiders belong to the family Lycosidae and are known for their athletic abilities, which enable them to run down their prey instead of relying on webs. Typically, these spiders showcase various shades of gray, brown, black, or tan, often adorned with dark brown or black body markings.

In the United States, there are about 240 species of wolf spiders distributed among 21 genera. The genera Hogna and Tigrosa are particularly noteworthy, as they include some of the biggest wolf spiders found in the region.

One species, the Carolina wolf spider (H. carolinensis), stands out due to its substantial size and frequent encounters in homes. These spiders can range from less than an inch to 2 inches in length.

Some features of wolf spiders include:

  • Hairy bodies
  • Long legs
  • Excellent vision with eight eyes

Here’s a comparison table highlighting the differences between male and female wolf spiders:

Feature Male Female
Size Generally smaller Usually larger
Palps Enlarged pedipalps Smaller pedipalps
Abdomen Streamlined, less rounded Larger, more rounded
Reproductive Role Actively search for mates Stay in a single area and wait for mates

Female wolf spiders exhibit unique maternal behaviors, such as carrying their large egg sacs around to protect their offspring. Once the spiderlings hatch, they climb onto their mother’s back and ride around until they are partially grown.

Remember to always treat wolf spiders with respect and give them the space they deserve. They may look intimidating, but they play an essential role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem by controlling insect populations.

Habitat and Geography

Global Presence

Wolf spiders are found in various regions around the world, including the United States. They are not as widespread as tarantulas, which can be found on most continents. For example, Missouri has its own species, the dotted wolf spider, while other states like Nebraska also report wolf spider sightings. However, you won’t find wolf spiders in Hawaii, as they are not native to the islands.

Habitat Preferences

Wolf spiders prefer being close to the ground, often found in habitats with plenty of rocks, leaves, and vegetation. They are known to inhabit various environments, such as:

  • Forests
  • Grasslands
  • Wetlands
  • Urban areas

While they may have different habitat preferences from tarantulas, which are usually associated with warmer climates, both spiders are known for their unique attributes.

Comparison table: Wolf Spiders vs Tarantulas

Wolf Spiders Tarantulas
Size Smaller Larger
Legs Fast and agile More slow-moving
Venom Generally mild Varying levels
Distribution Wide range globally Warm climates
Habitat Ground-dwelling Varied

Pest Control and Home Encroachment

Wolf spiders can be helpful for pest control, as they feed on insects and smaller pests. However, they may still be considered unwelcome in homes. To reduce the likelihood of wolf spiders entering your home, consider the following measures:

  • Seal gaps and cracks around doors and windows
  • Keep your home and surroundings clean
  • Remove excess clutter, especially in basements and garages

By maintaining a clean and clutter-free environment, you can minimize the chances of encountering wolf spiders in your home while still appreciating their role in your local ecosystem.

Comparison to Other Spiders

Brown Recluse Comparison

Wolf spiders and brown recluses have some similarities, but there are key differences between them. For example:

  • Legs: Both spiders have eight legs, but the brown recluse has more slender and longer legs compared to the wolf spider.
  • Webs: Wolf spiders don’t spin webs for catching prey; instead, they actively hunt on the ground. In contrast, brown recluses create irregular webs in hidden areas, primarily to serve as a retreat.

Here’s a brief comparison table:

Feature Wolf Spider Brown Recluse
Size 1/2 inch to 2 inches long 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch long
Body shape Robust, with stout legs Slender, with long thin legs
Web spinning No, active hunters Yes, creates irregular webs
Venomous Mild venom, not dangerous Potentially dangerous venom

Tarantula Comparison

Comparing the wolf spider to tarantulas, we can observe the following differences:

  • Size: Tarantulas are generally larger than wolf spiders, with some species reaching up to 11 inches in legspan.
  • Name: Although both belong to the order Araneae, they come from different families. Wolf spiders are from the Lycosidae family, while tarantulas belong to the Theraphosidae family.

Key features of the wolf spider and tarantula in bullet points:

  • Wolf Spider:

    • Active ground hunters
    • 1/2 inch to 2 inches long
    • Hairy and robust body
  • Tarantula:

    • Burrowers or tree-dwellers, depending on the species
    • Generally larger, up to 11 inches in legspan
    • Furry appearance with urticating hairs

In summary, you now have a better understanding of how wolf spiders compare to the brown recluse and tarantulas. Keep in mind, each type of spider has its own unique characteristics and behaviors.

Spider Life Cycle

Egg to Spiderling

Wolf spiders have a fascinating life cycle. Female spiders produce an egg sac that may contain over 100 eggs. They attach the egg sac to their spinnerets at the bottom rear of their body, providing constant protection. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the young spiderlings emerge and immediately climb onto their mother’s back.

Here are some characteristics of wolf spider egg sacs and spiderlings:

  • Females carry the egg sac with them
  • Spiderlings ride on their mother’s back until partially grown
  • Young spiderlings are vulnerable to predators

Life Span

Wolf spiders vary in size, from 1/2 inch to 2 inches long. Males are often smaller than females and have a shorter life span. The life expectancy of a wolf spider can range from a few months to a couple of years, depending on factors such as environmental conditions and predators.

Here’s a quick comparison of male and female wolf spiders:

Attribute Male Spider Female Spider
Size Smaller Larger
Egg sacs None Carries with spinnerets
Life span Shorter Longer

By understanding the life cycle of wolf spiders, you can better appreciate these fascinating creatures and their role in our ecosystem.

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 – Male Rabid Wolf Spider

 

Wolf Spider from Virginia w/2 black front legs
Location:  Dryden Va, in the heart of the Appalachian mountains
July 20, 2010 8:35 am
Hello Daniel, It is always nice to be able to send you a picture of a spider or insect that I need help identifying, you folks at Whats that Bug, are truly amazing.My husband found this big fellow about two inches from my foot as I sat at my computer desk this morning, he said ”Honey quick put your feet up,” I of course trusting he knows best put my feet up without asking any questions,and when I looked down to see what the fuss was about this fellow was there. Well to be honest,my first reaction was Kill it, Kill it,thats how I use to be,because of my fear,I wanted to kill every spider I seen.Since i’ve been visting your website these past 6 months,and after my weekend stay at a cabin about 6 months ago that was infested and swarmed with spiders,I have not only started to overcome my fear but I have realized that they are just as much God’s innocent little creatures,as a dog,cat,bird,fish,deer,or anything else in the world.Everything has a purpose, and every little insect,and spider contributes to our way of life.I wish that I was never raised to be so fearful of something honestly so innocent and amazing,and although I am a long way off,of letting a spider crawl in my hand or take a picture of one that is not in something I can put the lid back on real quick if he looks to jump or what have ya.But I am working on overcoming my fear and trying to be more tolerable of these amazing creatures.I really do thank you Daniel and your website for helping me realize how innocent most of these critters are,and how actually cruel it is just to kill for not a reason at all, whether it be a bug,spider,dog,or even a human.Every thing has that God given right to live and serve out its purpose,and nothing should be killed without a good reason for doing so.Anyway needless to say,of course I automatically recanted my statement,and told my husband,”oh no we cant kill the poor thing,catch it,i’ll snap a few pics to send to D aniel and we wil take it down to the barn to let it go.” Need less to say thats what we did,and he was let go without ever being harmed.He sure was a beauty,although I see this kind of spider around here all the time,I have never seen one with the two black front legs like this one has,he is one of the larger ones we have seen,but the largest one we seen was as big as your hand,and that thing hopped up as far as my husbands knee caps as he was trying to capture it to let it go.I regret not having my camera to snap a pic of that big daddy, I have never in my life seen a spider so big,but my other camera had recently been broke,and I had not got this one yet.Anyhow,sorry for writing a book here,just wanted to share with you how much your website has helped me in my inner quest to overcome my fears,again you guys are amazing, and if im not mistaken from the pictures I have seen on your site,this big guy is a wolf spider.If you can and you are not to busy,get back to me,and let me know,its always so nice to hear from you.I hope the pics are ok and you dont have any problem identifying. Have a wonderful day.P.S.The moth in the bowl with the spider was already attached to his foot when my hubby caught it,we didnt put a little moth in there to be killed,although I know its just natural and inevitable,its not my place to decide what moth lives or dies……
Tina Cochran

Male Rabid Wolf Spider

Hi Tina,
Thanks for providing us with such a long and introspective letter.  We are happy that we learned some new information in researching your Wolf Spider.  We believe that this is a male Rabid Wolf Spider,
Rabidosa rabida, and BugGuide indicates:  “The ground color is yellow, with brownish to black longitudinal stripes. In this species, the median dark band of the abdomen is broken and encloses lighter areas. The male has leg I dark brown or black. The venter is not spotted.”  BugGuide also has at least one image that supports the statement that “the male has leg 1 dark brown or black.”

Letter 2 – Female and Male Wolf Spiders

 

 

some photos you might like
Location: northwest Illinois
July 18, 2011 12:12 am
I am an amateur arachnologist and I often catch spiders around my house with the intention of photographing them. I have also been raising some Hogna helluo wolf spiders from egg sacs for about seven months now. I have lots of pictures of spiders, and thought I’d share them with you. Should you need some nice spider pictures, or help identifying spiders, I am willing to offer my services for free. It’s a way to share my love for these much maligned little guys and gals, and give you a helping hand if you want to take me up on my offer. The second and third images are a male and a female juvenile wolf spiders, two members of my seven month old brood.
Signature: that spider guy

Female Wolf Spider

Dear Spider Guy,
Thanks so much for sending us images of your female and male Wolf Spiders.  We are curious how you fed the hatchlings when they first emerged from the egg sac, or if you let them cannibalize each other until they were large enough to feed them small insects.  You can actually assist us with identifications by checking out our Spider section and providing identification comments to any species we have misidentified or were unable to identify. Many of our Wolf Spider postings are not identified past the family level. We will also link to the BugGuide page on
Hogna helluo. 

 

 

Male Wolf Spider

Actually, I didn’t have to worry about feeding them until they dispersed from their mother, and then I simply bought some Drosophilia melanogaster, the smaller of the two commercially available species. Anyway, they were allowed to roam in a large aquarium with tons of places to hide and I sprinkled a hundred fruit flies or so in every other day. Once they had molted enough to be of any size, I fed them larger fruit flies (Drosophilia Hydei) and eventually pinhead crickets. Raising baby wolf spiders takes a lot of work, I actually made attempts at raising my own Drosophilias and crickets. Breeding and raising crickets is easier than the flies, and cheaper too. Out of each egg sac, I ended up with about a 50% survival rate. I believe there may have been some cannibalization, but I expected as much.
I have kept notes during my spider raising experiments, and plan on putting together a booklet (or a webpage) in case others want to make the attempt.
Now I only have 36 of them left, as the majority have been released to do good in my yard. Thanks for the opportunity to help you with the site, and hopefully I can contribute to helping to teach others about the wonder of insects and arachnids. 🙂

 

 

Letter 3 – Female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

 


I live in N. Las Vegas, NV and see lots of bugs and spiders here…I have never seen anything like this one though, can you tell me what it is? Many thanks.
DC

Hi DC,
This is a female Wolf Spider with her Spiderlings. After producing an egg sac, the female Wolf Spider drags it around everywhere she goes. Once the eggs hatch, the Spiderlings climb on her abdomen and ride for several days, eventually dispersing. Her mobility allows the Spiderlings to disembark at different locations. It is great the way the electronic flash of your camera reflected off of the mother’s eyes as well as the Spiderling’s eyes.

Letter 4 – Female Wolf Spider carrying Spiderlings on her back

 

Spider ID??
I would appreciate any info you have on this, or links to a site that might help me identify it. We live in NE Texas, about 30 miles North of Tyler, TX, out in the country.
Maggi’s Garden Magic
Von Russell Farm

Hi Maggie,
This is a female Wolf Spider. Many species of Wolf Spiders carry their eggsacs with them, and when the eggs hatch, the young spiderlings are also transported until they are old enough to disperse.

Letter 5 – Female Wolf Spider with brood of Spiderlings

 

Subject: Awesome spider
Location: Skopje, Macedonia
May 28, 2013 5:09 pm
Hi, how are you? I just wanted to ask if you know the species of this spider. He/she has been living in my yard for quite some time now, so I was just curious.
Have a nice day 🙂
Signature: Monika

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Hi Monika,
While we cannot say for certain which species this is, we can tell you she is a female Wolf Spider and she is carrying a brood of Spiderlings on her abdomen.  That behavior is characteristic of the maternal behavior of Wolf Spiders who are very protective of eggs and young.  We will be out of the office and not responding to any mail in early June, so we are postdating this submission to go live on our site in our absence.

Letter 6 – Female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

 

Subject: What’s this bug
Location: Flint, MI
October 28, 2013 6:47 pm
Hello guys, I’m in Flint Michigan this photo was taken on 10-28-13. I work in a store with a warehouse that receives shipments from Colorado on a weekly bases. I see this spider a lot or places back In the warehouse. Everyone hear thinks they come from the shipments. Our whole staffed would love to know what this guy is.
Signature: JP

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Hi JP,
Your request arrived just prior to us leaving the office for a spell, and that is something we are doing again soon.  We postdate letters to go live in our absence, and we do not answer mail while we are away.  We apologize for the tardy response, but we figured that since this Wolf Spider sighting was not an isolated event, you might still want to know the answer.  Wolf Spider are considered harmless.  They are hunting spiders that do not build webs to snare prey.  The common name comes because of the way they pounce on their prey.  This is not a guy, but a gal.  Female Wolf Spiders are very maternal.  They drag their egg sacs with them and when the eggs hatch, the young Spiderlings crawl onto the female’s back and ride around for a short period of time before dispersing.  If you look closely, you can see the Spiderlings in your image.  This may be a Rabid Wolf Spider,
Rabidosa rabida, which is picture on BugGuide.  Once again, despite the name, this is a harmless, local species for you.  Your request will post live to our site next week.

Letter 7 – Female Wolf Spider carrying Spiderlings

 

Subject: Kukulcania Hibernalis question
Location: South central Virginia
May 24, 2015 9:49 am
I saw this on the side of the house. I believe it’s a Kukulcania Hibernalis, the southern house spider. Do you know if the female carries its young on its back? Or is this a wolf spider? Thanks!
Signature: Nina Eagle

Wolf Spider with Spiderlings
Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Dear Nina,
This maternal behavior is characteristic of Wolf Spiders in the family Lycosidae.  Alas, we cannot tell you to which species she belongs.

wolf Spider with Spiderlings
wolf Spider with Spiderlings

Letter 8 – Female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings from South Africa

 

Subject:  Identifying a spider
Geographic location of the bug:  Bloemfontein South Africa
Date: 01/12/2018
Time: 04:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Good day,
I found this spider in my house and just want to make sure my identification is correct, is the spider a wolf spider? And if so are they to be considered dangerous for humans?
Thanks.
How you want your letter signed:  Anonymous

Female Wolf Spider with Spiderlings

This is indeed a Wolf Spider.  She is a female with her brood of Spiderlings.  Wolf Spiders are considered harmless to humans.

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

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • I just tried to step on one last night thinking it was a Brown Recluse, Hundreds of microscopic what look like mini ants scurried about, I have never seen anything like it. I have lived in Las Vegas 14 years. Are they poisonous?

    Reply
  • Well, how about Oklahoma? One of these rabid wolf spiders crawled up my computer cord and scared me half to death. I am very frightened of spiders and can’t really say why. I did kill it because I was afraid it might have been a brown recluse. This things was really scary. Is this spider’s bite poison?

    Reply
    • Like most spiders, Wolf Spiders have venom. Wolf Spiders rarely bite people and the bite causes local tenderness and swelling, but no permanent damage.

      Reply
  • Hello,
    I recently caught a large wolf spider?
    Not sure what kind of wolf it is or if it’s female or male. This is my first time caring for one and had some questions.
    Thanks
    Haki Kim

    Reply
  • Hello,
    I recently caught a large wolf spider?
    Not sure what kind of wolf it is or if it’s female or male. This is my first time caring for one and had some questions.
    Thanks
    Haki Kim

    Reply
  • I have killed three with in past five days coming under my stove. I live in Kansas. In a basment. They have been as big as silver dollars..im very scared of them do any of the female spiders have same black legs because white scac was attached. To rear..i hsve placed coconut oil. Under and around dose this work? I dont wanna kill them just want them stay out of sight…also im being infedted with what looks like clear and brown and black crickets what can I do about them as well plzzzzzzz help..thanks

    Reply
  • What size are they?

    Reply
  • I’m trying to figure out what kind of spider I caught in my house. Also the gender. Help?

    Reply
  • Annadraghicescu
    June 14, 2019 10:31 pm

    Very Cool Website-this is so nice to know the fellow insects lovers of the world. How Fantastic…without any horrible judgment or headlines all involving how to kill all of these magnificent creatures! Thanks for the info and the positive influence.

    Reply

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