Wolf Spiders

Wolf Spiders: Appearance, Behaviour, Habitat, Bites

Unlike the Black Widow Spiders, the Wolf Spiders are big hunting spiders that will not require webs to affectively trap their prey.

  • In the United States, you’ll find 2 main species of the Wolf Spiders (Lycosidae spp); H. aspersa and the Hogna carolinensis.

The Lycosidae family (where the spider belongs) are arachnids that have athletic, hairy, and have a large body size. 

The Lycos bit means “wolf” due to the wolf-like hunting habits but the spiders are solitary animals and thus they hunt alone and not in packs. 

Related: How to Control Spiders

Wolf Spider Appearance

If you’re thinking about your traditional spider then the wolf spiders won’t match that body and behavior archetype.

  • First, wolf spiders will not spin webs but instead hunt down their prey just like wolves.
  • The Lycosidae (meaning wolf in Greek) may have some similarities with the tarantulas but they are smaller and come from a different family.

Wolf spiders have brown to Gray (and hairy) bodies that have varied lines or markings.

  • The male spiders are about 19 mm (3/4″) in length while their female counterparts are 23 to 24 mm (3/8″ – 1″).

The male carolinensis measure about 18 – 20 millimeters while the females have a length of 22 – 35 millimeters.

The male Tigrosa aspersa measure about 16 – 18 millimeters while the females measure about 18 – 25 millimeters.

The darker color of the wolf spiders helps them camouflage and hide from their predators and approach their prey unnoticed.

The Hogna ingens (desertas wolf spiders) are documented who has the longest body with their legs spanning about 12 cm.

The wolf spiders have eyes that are arranged into three rows.

  • The eyes in the first row are small-sized (4), those in the second row are larger (2), and finally, the eyes in the bathroom are medium-sized (2).

A unique feature of the eyes in the wolf spiders is that the eyes in their central row are considerably larger.

Next, you should check if the end of the spider’s legs 3 claws (tarsal claws).

  • The tarsal may be described as the last segment in the legs of an insect.

The wolf spiders are in the infra-order Araneomorphae ( “true spiders”) and the members in this group have pincer-like fangs that have a side-by-side orientation.

  • The side-by-side oriented fang will help you differentiate the wolf spiders from the small tarantula.
  • The latter (the small tarantula) are classified in the infraorder Mygalomorphae that come with fangs that are vertically-oriented.

On comparing the brown recluse with the wolf spiders; the wolf spiders have shorter legs and they lack the marking behind-the-head (violin-shaped) which is characteristic in the brown recluse. 

Related: Getting Rid of Brown Recluse Spiders

The wolf spiders also have hairs that cover their abdomen – Kentucky Entomology.

  • This feature may make you confuse them with the tarantula but the wolf spiders are smaller in body size.

Wolf Spider Behavior

As noted above the wolf spiders are hunting arachnids (they’re great sprinters) and so they won’t lay webs to catch their prey.

  • This is where the wolf spiders derived their name from because they will hunt down their prey.

Where can you find the wolf spiders? The habitat of the wolf spiders includes the rainforests, alpine meadows, wetlands, coastal forests, inland shrublands, deserts, and dry or Woodlands.

  • But some species of wolf spiders may occupy suburban gardens, riverbank beds, mountains herbal fields, and coastal sand dunes.

The ITIS reports that the wolf spiders (Lycosidae) have about 2400 species that are classified into 123+ genera.

Wolf Spider Habitat

Examine whether the spider under consideration will retreat to some burrow. The burrows may be found on outbuildings, around the house, and windows or doors.

  • You will identify the spider as a wolf spider if it tends to move into a crevice or burrow as opposed to a web.

But the trap doors and the tarantulas also tend to move into burrows but they are relatively larger in size compared to the wolf spiders.

Another characteristic feature of the wolf spiders is that they will be comfortable on the ground spying on their prey and they will rarely climb onto tall objects.

As noted earlier the wolf spiders will have some white sack (containing eggs) on the back of the abdomen during the summer and spring seasons.

  • Also, the female wolf spiders tend to carry they are spiderlings on their backs.

Wolf spiders hunt their prey (including caterpillars and crickets) during the night (thanks to having a great night vision) and day.

  • But the shining of their eyes during the night makes them also be detected easily.

Finally, the wolf spiders are classified as very fast – an adaptation that helps them catch their prey very fast.

The main habitats of the wolf spiders are low vegetation, gravel, stream edges but may sometimes climb on trees although you will mainly find them on the ground.

Wolf spiders can enter your house through breezeways, crawl spaces, and basements.

Females with large bodies can eat small reptiles and amphibians but wolf spiders generally eat other spiders, crickets, and ground-dwelling insects.

Wolf spiders utilize their vibrations sensitivity, fast movement, excellent camouflage, and keen eyesight to avoid predators such as hunting wasps, birds, and lizards. 

Related: Spider Bite vs Mosquito Bite?

How Dangerous Are The Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders will only bite humans when mishandled or if they feel threatened.

  • Arachnids will only socialize during the mating season and thus they will walk as lone wolves.

Wolf spiders are venomous but are not classified as poisonous to humans – as reported by Penn State College.

This means that the venom produced by The wolf spiders will paralyze the small and crawling insects but won’t be toxic people.

  • In comparison, the wolf spider bite is classified (on pain level and the danger posed) just under a bee sting.

The wolf spider bite will cause redness and pain in most humans but these side effects will go off gradually.

So if you have noticed a spider that is moving fast in the house, most likely it is a wolf spider since the brown recluse spiders don’t come out in the open regularly.

When ready to mate, the female wolf spiders will drop scent markings that will help the males locate them.

  • The males will wave their pedipalps (the sensory appendages around the mouths) and legs to signal their courtship intentions to the females.


So what should I do when I see a wolf spider? You can evade the wolf spider bites by avoiding picking or touching (or even squishing) them.

  • Squishing the female wolf spiders may also damage the eggs sacs on their backs and thus may drop hundreds of them and spiderlings in your house – you can use spider bombs to contol them

Wolf spiders are mainly walking on the ground and will rarely climb on tall objects or structures.