Wolf Spider – Identification, Danger Poised and How to Deal with It

October 4, 2013 | By More

wolf spiderThe wolf spider is probably one of the most misunderstood creatures. They are also one of the most common spiders in the world, inhabiting almost all parts of the globe where humans reside. Their name is the collective or common name for the ground-dwelling or terrestrial spiders who usually do not spin a web. To date, there about 2000-3000 species of wolf spider that exists, depending on the sources. They can range from the small ones which are the size of a coin to the big ones, which can be the size of an adult male human’s palm.

Wolf Spider – Where Did the Name Came From?

The wolf spider is named that way because of the way they hunt. They hunt their prey actively, just like a wolf does. However, wolf spiders are not pack creatures and live solitarily. The only time they are with other wolf spiders is when it’s time to mate and when they are too young, wherein they hitch a ride on their mother’s back together with their siblings. They also look like they are always on the prowl, hence, looking like a wolf stalking its prey.

Wolf Spider – How to Identify It?

The wolf spider is the only type of spider which carries it’s young on its back. Seeing a spider with little spiders on its back is a sure-fire way of identifying a female wolf spider. A male would look like it has two smaller legs with black or very dark tips. Those are not legs, those are pedipalpi where they carry their sperm. During courtship, the male would wave this to the female in a slow motion manner, as if enticing her with his load of sperm.

Identifying wolf spiders are usually based on their size too, or rather, their body size which ranges from 2 millimeter to 40 millimeter in size (more than an inch in body size) and also their body built, which is more robust than nursery web spiders and brown recluse spiders which both kind of look like them. Wolf spiders therefore can be easily identified by their stout looking bodies and long thick legs.

As for legs, a true spider of course have 8 legs, which means they belong to the arachnids (not insects, which only have 6 legs), so it only goes to say that wolf spiders of course have 8 legs. Wolf spiders also have 8 eyes which are arranged in 3 rows. The lowermost row has 4 eyes, the middle row has 2 very large eyes which looks very prominent, and the topmost 2 eyes are of medium size.

Wolf Spider Comparison Chart with Nursery Web Spider and Brown Recluse Spider





Arranged in 3 rows, with the middle row having two large very prominent eyes, the bottom row having 4 small eyes, and the top row having 2 medium sized eyes, a total of 8 eyes

Arranged in 2 rows of 4 eyes each, a total of 8 eyes

Arranged in a single row, 2 each on right side, middle of the head, and left side, a total of 6 eyes

Body Shape

More round and robust

More thin and triangular, with the rear end usually being a bit pointed

Slimmer body shape

Body hair

Hairy but not as hairy as tarantulas, usually the hair is on the legs only

Not hairy

Not hairy

Identifying behavior

Carries the egg sac on its spinnerets and the baby spiders on its back.

Carries the egg sac on its pedipalpi (in the front)

Is very reclusive, seldom seen at all

Colors and other markings

Brown, black, or a color range of the two with very roundish body and very prominent eyes.

Mixture of browns, from pale to dark. Also have striped legs, with markings of lighter and darker colors alternating so it looks like its wearing striped leg warmers.

Brown and with a violin shape on their back which is usually darker than the rest of the body.


Wolf Spider – How Dangerous Is It?

A wolf spider is a non-aggressive spider. It will not attack humans unless it is provoked or has been threatened. It can look quite aggressive though, particularly if the male is waving its pedipalpi (in courtship) and its two largest eyes can look quite scary too. If the fangs are visible, especially in very large wolf spiders, they can look very menacing indeed.

Another reason why it is feared is because of its hunting behavior and the way it walks. It gives the appearance of being always on the prowl and is very agile. When startled, it will run in any direction, often even in the human’s direction, so it looks like the wolf spider is attacking when it is really trying to get away.

A wolf spider has venom (all spiders do) but it is not enough to kill a human. A bite from a wolf spider will of course hurt, and can cause swelling of the area. For those who have abnormal sensitivity though, the reaction can be worse.

Wolf Spider –What to Do When You See One?

If the wolf spider is outside of your home, it is better to leave it alone. If it is in your home, you can try shooing it away until it goes outside. A wolf spider is very difficult to catch because it has very good vision and is very fast. More so, if you kill a female wolf spider with babies, the little wolf spiders will just scatter in every direction, which can be a very disturbing sight indeed!

Generally speaking, wolf spiders are a good sign of a good functioning eco system, but it can also mean a bug infestation particularly if the wolf spiders are in abundance.

Category: Basics

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