What Do Wolf Spiders Like To Eat?

wolf spiders

What Are the Predators of the Wolf Spider?

Eating Habits of the Wolf Spider

wolf spiders

The quintessential spider spins a web on which she waits for prey to come to her. That’s not the case with wolf spiders, though. They’re active hunters who ambush and kill a wide variety of prey — some as larger or larger than themselves.

Active Eaters

Many spiders spin silken webs to passively capture prey, but wolf spiders don’t wait for dinner delivery. These spiders, members of the Lycosidae family, are active hunters who stalk and either corner or rush their prey. Most active outdoors at night, wolf spiders can travel great distances in pursuit of food and don’t usually settle into permanent homes or territories. Some species dig burrows to hide during the day — others hide in them until they can ambush prey — which they line or cover with silk.

Although many spiders sport six to eight simple eyes of relatively similar size in a couple of rows, wolf spiders have eight eyes in three sizes arranged in three rows — all the better to see you with. Their touch receptors are also finely honed to detect motion, which helps with hunting.

Dinner Menu

Like many other families of spiders, wolf spiders are distributed across every continent except Antarctica. As such, their diet includes a litany of region- and climate-specific insects, other arachnids, and even reptiles and amphibians. The diet of a given species doesn’t necessarily match that of its brethren in other areas, but there are some general commonalities. Some species are smaller than one-tenth of an inch long, while others can grow to lengths in excess of 1 inch. Most wolf spiders eat a variety of large insects, including beetles and grasshoppers. They’ll generally attack prey as large or even larger than themselves.

Circumstances

Because wolf spiders are nocturnal hunters, it’s natural to assume they primarily eat insects and other prey that are most active at night. That’s usually the case for wolf spiders who use burrows and other hiding spots to ambush their prey, but a hungry wolf spider can become quite a bit more resourceful. They’re not above scavenging or even more devious tactics. Although youth and kinship appear to be mitigating factors, wolf spiders will eat other wolf spiders, according to University of Cincinnati research published in 2003. That’s part of the reason you’ll rarely encounter more than one or two wolf spiders in a given area. Among solitary adults, an interaction between wolf spiders usually results in mating or cannibalism — or sometimes both — regardless of whether other food sources are readily available.

See also:  How Does The Spider Bite Look Like?

Venomous Consequences

Wolf spiders produce venom, which they inject via their fang-tipped jaws, called chelicerae. When these spider pounce on their prey, they envenom them — paralyzing or, more often, killing the animal. Wolf spiders immediately begin consuming their meal after this. Although they’re not typically aggressive toward people, they will bite if cornered or handled roughly. Fortunately, though, wolf spider venom isn’t particularly harmful to humans. Many a brown wolf spider has been confused for a brown recluse, though, leading to confusion and panic.

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How to Take Care of a Wolf Spider

Wolf spiders can be found all over the world. They are a hearty family of arachnid, and can survive in nearly any climate, from the Amazon to north of the Arctic Circle! They range in size from 1/2 inch to 2 inches, including the legs, and are usually brown or gray in color. They also happen to be very low-maintenance pets.

Items you will need

Small terrarium or other escape-proof enclosure

Clean, pesticide-free soil

Small stones, twigs or leaves

A place to find bugs

A Hole in The Ground

Wolf spiders do not spin webs, which means they do not need a lot of space for housing. A 2.5-gallon aquarium/terrarium provides plenty of room for a single wolf spider to build its home. Instead of building a web, your wolf spider will make its home in a hole in the ground. Give her an inch or more of clean, pesticide-free soil and some leaves, small rocks or twigs to hide under. (Artificial plants and rocks like those you get from pet supply stores will work just fine.) Also, make sure the lid to your spider’s tank is ventilated, but escape-proof. Although they are diurnal, wolf spiders prefer the darkness, so you will not need any kind of special lighting. A daily misting will help keep your pet’s home comfortably humid.

Bugs for Breakfast

Now that you’ve got your pet wolf spider suitably housed, you’re going to want to make sure she’s fed. Wolf spiders, as you probably expect, mostly eat insects, worms or just about any living thing that is small enough to catch and eat. They will also eat small lizards, frogs and even very small birds.

Most wolf spiders will only need to eat once every two days. Large specimens may need to eat daily. Either way, choose something about half the size of your wolf spider. You can catch a fly, worm, grasshopper or pretty much anything small enough for the spider to eat in your backyard. Make sure your spider’s food cannot harm her. For example, anything with a stinger, like a bee, or a venomous animal, like a centipede, is not good food for a wolf spider. Do not leave the prey in your spider’s enclosure for more than a few minutes, to avoid the possibility of the prey injuring your pet.

See also:  How Many Times Will A Spider Bite You?

A Spider’s Life

Wolf spiders are wild, so don’t expect to handle your spider more than is absolutely necessary. She may bite, and although wolf spider venom is only harmful to humans who are allergic, the bites can be painful.

Wolf spiders can live 3 years or more, depending on species, and have no real health concerns, as long as they have a healthy habitat and proper feeding.
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Wolf Spiders: Bites, Babies & Other Facts

The name “wolf spider” encompasses a large family of spiders, most of which are large, dark-colored and athletic. Unlike most spiders that catch their prey in webs, wolf spiders violently hunt it down using their strong bodies and sharp eyesight. These spiders also exhibit unique parenting habits that are of great interest to scientists.

Wolf spiders live almost everywhere in the world, according to the BioKids. They are especially common in grasslands and meadows, but also live in mountains, deserts, rainforests and wetlands — anywhere they can find insects to eat.

A female wolf spider carries her egg sac through the underbrush. (Image credit: McCarthy’s PhotoWorks Shutterstock)

Appearance

Wolf spiders are usually brown, grey, black or tan, with dark markings — most commonly stripes, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Their coloring is effective camouflage, helping them catch their prey and keep safe from predators. They range from a quarter of an inch to over an inch (6.4 millimeters to 3 centimeters) long, with males typically smaller than females.

Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, an arachnologist at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, told Live Science that wolf spiders have a “distinctive eye arrangement, where the front or anterior row is composed of four small eyes of roughly the same size arranged in almost a straight row. The back or posterior row is arranged in a V-pattern with the apex next to the anterior row.” Wolf spiders have excellent night vision, and primarily hunt in the dark. “They are also quite easily detected at night due to their eyeshine,” she said.

According to the Pennsylvania State University Entomology Department, wolf spiders will bite when threatened but their venom is not very harmful to humans. Human victims may exhibit some redness or swelling but no serious medical problems have ever been reported.

Habits and feeding

Wolf spiders are solitary creatures that roam alone in the night, stalking prey. According to Sewlal, they are “mostly nocturnal and often mistaken for tarantulas.” According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, they typically live on the ground, though some are known to climb partly up trees to catch their prey. Some species hide in vegetation or leaf litter, while others dig tunnels or use other animals’ tunnels. Some wolf spiders hunt in a set territory and return to a specific place to feed, while others wander nomadically with no territory or home.

See also:  What Spider Has 6 Legs?

Wolf spiders eat mostly ground-dwelling insects and other spiders. Especially large females may eat small vertebrates, according to BioKids. Some species chase down and grab their prey, while others wait for it to walk by and ambush it. Wolf spiders often jump on their prey, hold it between their legs and roll over on their backs, trapping their prey with their limbs before biting it.

Wolf spiders use their keen eyesight, camouflage coloring, speedy movements and high sensitivity to vibrations to be aware of and keep safe from predators. They will bite when threatened. According to the University of Michigan Department of Conservation, however, wolf spiders are also an important food sources for lizards, birds, and some rodents.

A female wolf spider carries her babies on her back. (Image credit: IrinaK Shutterstock)

Mating

According to BioKids, wolf spiders, who use their eyes more than many other types of spiders, use visual cues in mating. The males signal their interest to females by waving their pedipalps (short, sensory appendages near their mouths) in special patterns or banging them together.

After mating, female wolf spiders lay several dozen or more eggs and wrap them in silk, creating an egg sac. “Female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs attached to her spinnerets,” said Sewlal. If the female is separated from the egg sac, she will search furiously for it. Mothers are known to exhibit aggressive behavior when carrying their egg sacs.

This maternal behavior doesn’t stop after the eggs hatch. “After hatching, the spiderlings climb on their mother’s back and she carries then around for several days,” said Sewlal.

Male wolf spiders typically live for one year or less, while females can live for several years.

Taxonomy/classification

They belong to the Lycosidae family, which is from a Greek word meaning “wolf.” According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), the taxonomy of wolf spiders is:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Subkingdom: Bilateria
  • Infrakingdom: Protostomia
  • Superphylum: Ecdysozoa
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Family: Lycosidae
  • Genera & species: There are more than 100 genera and about 2,300 species of wolf spiders; 200 species live in the United States. The Carolina wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis) is the official state spider of South Carolina, which is the only state that has a state spider.

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