Image via flickr by patrickkavanagh
Wolf spiders are intimidating creatures, but they aren’t as bad as they may seem. Wolf spiders are a natural defense when it comes to other pests that may invade your home, and they are also an essential part of the food chain for other creatures. Knowing how to deal with wolf spiders can help to eliminate the threat of them invading your home.
A wolf spider is a relatively large and hairy arachnid that has been named by how it hunts its prey. Unlike other spider species that are ambush hunters that build webs and lay in wait for an unsuspecting critter to become a meal, wolf spiders are swift runners and chase down their prey, much like a wolf does. There are around 200 species of wolf spiders belonging to the Family Lycosidae throughout the United States and Canada.
Wolf spiders are often mistaken for other species of spiders such as nursery web spiders, brown recluse spiders, fishing spiders, and even tarantulas. Appropriately, their behavioral traits can help identify wolf spiders. They are often spotted scurrying across open ground. They quickly attack prey, while other spiders like the brown recluse spider typically hide in dark, undisturbed areas.
Wolf spiders’ jaws, or chelicerae, have several purposes. They use their jaws to capture and hold prey while injecting them with venom. Once the toxin has taken effect, wolf spiders use their jaws to eat. The chelicerae contain two very sharp fangs that are positioned horizontally at the bottom of the jaws. Wolf spiders have palps located near the jaw that act as sensory structures and double for the male’s sperm storage.
Wolf spiders have an open circulatory system. This type of circulatory system doesn’t deliver blood to the organs and internal tissues through blood vessels. Instead of hemoglobin, the wolf spider’s circulatory system uses hemolymph, a respiratory protein. Hemolymph is pumped through the wolf spider’s heart and saturates the organs and internal tissues.
The mating rituals of wolf spiders are often deadly for the males. Females often kill and consume male wolf spiders after they mate, but they do sometimes survive to mate again in the future. Female wolf spiders are known for exhibiting behaviors of parental care for their young. Their young spiders or spiderlings will remain with their mother for a few weeks after birth.
Once a female and male wolf spider has successfully mated, the female seeks out a covered isolated area to lay her eggs. More than 100 eggs are laid at a time and are encased inside a silky sac. They will protect their eggs at all costs and carry this sac on their spinnerets. When the time comes for the spiderlings to hatch, the female will tear open the sac to release them, and they will swarm all over her body and legs where they will stay for protection during the first few weeks of their lives until they have matured enough to be on their own.
Wolf spiders have a hairy thick, sturdy build. The adults can be up to 35 millimeters in length. Depending on their habitat, they can range in color from gray, brown, or black. Some wolf spider species, such as the Carolina wolf spider, have coloration that camouflages to their environment.
As with most arachnids, wolf spiders have eight legs, eight eyes, and two-segmented bodies. Their mouthparts are fang-like in appearance and are called chelicerae. Although Wolf spiders can make silk, they don’t build webs and have shorter legs than web-building spiders. Due to their large size, wolf spiders can be somewhat intimidating, but they are only aggressive toward humans when threatened.
Though wolf spiders are common in California, South Carolina, Texas, and Missouri, they can be found throughout the United States. Hawaii has a species named the Kauai cave wolf spider that lives in caves and has no eyes. South Carolina wolf spiders or the Carolina wolf spider is the United States’ largest documented wolf spider.
Wolf spiders are known to live in wet coastal forests, woodlands, dry inland shrublands, and alpine meadows. Wolf spiders can also be found in mountain herb fields, coastal dunes, and riverbank gravel beds. Many wolf spider species live in underground tunnels sealed with silken doors. Wolf spiders will build turrets to deflect rainwater and plug their burrows with pebbles during rainy seasons.
During the fall season, wolf spiders can be found inside homes where it’s warm. Inside the house, they can be found in doorways, windows, basements, houseplants, and garages. The only sign of wolf spider activity within your home is by seeing them. If you feel you are experiencing a wolf spider infestation, contacting a professional pest control agency is the best way to deal with the threat.
Wolf spiders are practically harmless and pose no real threat to humans. They are typically docile when they come in contact with people. If a wolf spider feels threatened in any way, such as being stepped on or squeezed, they will act in self-defense and bite. Wolf spiders reserve their aggressive behavior for protecting their young and attacking their prey.
A wolf spider’s venom is not very toxic and isn’t lethal to humans. Allergic reactions to the poison of wolf spiders are uncommon, but how a person’s immune system reacts is the deciding factor of how serious a bite can be. A bite from this spider will be similar to a bee sting, and as long as it is kept clean and disinfected, it should heal with no significant symptoms. If you feel a spider, in general, has bitten you, it is always best to seek treatment from a physician.
Spiders, especially wolf spiders, are remarkable creatures that are to be respected and not feared. Understanding the behavioral traits of wolf spiders will help you to determine if they are threatening your home. Always use caution regarding spiders, as some spiders can be deadly. Taking the time to fortify your home by sealing off potential entryways for spiders and other pests is a significant first step in protecting your family and pets.