Wolf spiders are so named because, like wolves, they hunt for their prey. They can grow to be rather large and often startle those who come across them. Including their legs, wolf spiders can sometimes reach as large as five inches. In fact, people occasionally mistake them for tarantulas.
Wolf spiders are commonly found in the United States and Canada. Although they primarily live outdoors, they can be seen in homes when searching for prey.
They are usually brown in color or a combination of brown, gray, or black. They bear lighter colored striping down the center, or sometimes appear with the reverse coloration of a lighter body and darker stripe. Their legs are solid in color.
The female wolf spider’s body measures 3/8″ to 1-3/8″ while the male is smaller, around ¼” to ¾”. These spiders are hairy and have long, bristly legs with three claws at the end of each.
Because of the fact that wolf spiders are hunters, they do not use webs to catch prey. Rather, they will go in search of food, which consists of insects and other spiders. However, wolf spiders do create places to retreat, usually a burrow or tunnel-type area that they dig on the ground, under leaves, rocks, wood piles, and the like.
Wolf spiders mate in the fall, though the males generally do not survive the winter. An interesting fact about wolf spiders is that the female will carry her egg sac attached to the spinnerets on her abdomen rather than attaching it to a web. Once the spiderlings hatch in late spring, they will crawl onto her back until they disperse several days later.
In spite of their menacing appearance, wolf spiders are not harmful to humans. Their bite is not known to cause any serious health complications and is about like that of a bee sting. Wolf spiders are not aggressive and usually do not bite people unless they are trapped or pinned down.
Wolf spiders are hunters rather than web builders and spend much of their time going out in search of their next meal. They feed on other types of spiders as well as insects. They are found primarily outdoors and can be seen around leaf piles, under decks or rocks, in grassy areas, or among wood piles. Some wolf spiders will wait to ambush prey as it passes by, while others will follow and attack it.
Although wolf spiders do not create webs, they do construct places of retreat. They will dig a shallow area under a rock or log, for instance, or they may dig a tunnel or burrow in the ground. They often retreat to these areas during the day and do their hunting at night, though sometimes they are active in the daytime as well.
Occasionally, wolf spiders may be seen indoors, especially when seeking prey. They are usually found at ground level in plants, under furniture, or in garages and basements.
Wolf spiders will mate in the fall, but the male spiders usually don’t survive the wintertime. The females will care for the egg sac until the spiderlings hatch in the spring. Interestingly, a female wolf spider will carry the egg sac attached to her spinnerets on the underside of her abdomen. Once the young spiderlings hatch, they will climb up onto her back for several days or a couple of weeks until they disperse.
Wolf spiders are hairy and can grow to be quite large, so they can certainly startle people who happen upon them. In fact, people sometimes mistake wolf spiders for tarantulas. In spite of how frightening they may look, however, wolf spiders are relatively harmless to humans. They are not likely to bite unless provoked and even then, their bite is similar to a bee sting. If a person is sensitive or allergic to these kinds of bites, they may experience more serious reactions, but wolf spider bites are not fatal to humans.