Wolf Spider Identification

What Does a Wolf Spider Look Like?

There are a number of wolf spiders found in the United States and Canada. Generally speaking, wolf spiders are hairy and bear a stripe down the dorsal side. The females measure about 3/8″ to 1-3/8″ in body length, while the males are smaller, usually 1/4″ to 3/4″ long. They have bristly, long legs with three claws at the end of each.

When measured with their legs included, these spiders can get as large as five inches, so they can look rather terrifying to people. Because of their hairy appearance and size, these spiders are sometimes mistaken for tarantulas.

The striping on the dorsal side is usually lighter in color than the rest of the spider, which is often brown, grayish, or black. Sometimes the coloration is the opposite, with a lighter color overall and darker striping.

They have eight eyes arranged in three rows-four small eyes in the front, then two large eyes in the center row, and two smaller ones behind.

Wolf spiders are fast moving and are found mostly outdoors. If seen inside a home, it is usually when the spider is hunting for prey. Outside, they can be found among leaves, under rocks, in wood piles, under decks, or other ground-level areas where they can locate prey. They do not build webs, but create burrow-type retreats in these areas. They hunt for their prey-generally insects and other spiders-and do so mainly at night, although they are sometimes active in the daytime as well.

Anatomy
A wolf spider’s anatomy consists of two sections: an abdomen and cephalothorax, which is the head and thorax together. These two major sections are connected with a small waist, known as the pedicel. Like all spiders, the wolf spider has eight legs and two jaws, called chelicerae, with fangs at the end through which they inject venom.

Between the jaws and first pair of legs, spiders have pedipalps, which look like a shorter pair of legs. These aid the spiders in sensing objects, constructing webs, and feeding on prey. Males use their pedipalps to deliver sperm to the females. A male’s pedipalps are sometimes a different color than the female’s and they also tend to be larger.

Most spiders, including the wolf spider, have eight eyes, though some have six. The wolf spider’s eyes are in a formation of three rows with four small eyes in the bottom row, then two large eyes in the second, and two smaller eyes in the third.

Like many spider species, female wolf spiders are larger than the males. Females measure approximately about 3/8″ to 1-3/8″ in body length, while the males are about ¼” to ¾” long. However, with the legs included, wolf spiders can measure as large as five inches. Needless to say, they can be frightening to those who happen upon them. Their legs are long and bristly with three claws at the end of each.

Wolf spiders have a hairy appearance and are usually brown, grayish, or black or have a combination of these colors in their markings. They have a stripe, or sometimes a few stripes, on the cephalothorax, that are usually lighter than the rest of the spider. However, sometimes the spiders are lighter in color, such as tan, with darker striping.

Females
Female wolf spiders carry their egg sac on the under side of their abdomens. A female can be seen carrying spiderlings on her back, which she will do for several days or a couple of weeks before they disperse. Many spiders do not carry their young, so this behavior may help one identify wolf spiders.