What Does A Wolf Spider Look Like?

Wolf Spiders and Their Bite

The wolf spider is very common in the U.S. In fact, scientists have identified more than 125 species of wolf spider in the U.S. alone. Although its large size (up to 2 inches long) causes fear in many people, its bite is not truly deadly. On the other hand, the wolf spider is considered to be one of the most dangerous spiders in the world!

9 Things You Need to Know About Wolf Spiders

What the Wolf Spider Looks Like

The wolf spider can range from 1/2 inch to two inches long. Like wolves, they chase and leap on their prey. Here are some characteristics that make it a little different from other spiders:

  • It is hairy and orangish-brown to gray and black with splotches or stripes that give it a camouflage look.
  • The eight eyes of the wolf spider are set in three rows of three different sizes, with two medium-sized eyes on top of its «head,» two large eyes center front, and four small eyes below those.
  • Like all spiders, it has eight legs. But the wolf spider also has an additional two tiny leg- or arm-like appendages (pedipalps) extending out front.
  • The young of this species look much the same as the adults, although their coloring may vary or change as they grow.
  • Mother spiders may sometimes be seen with the young riding on their backs until these spiders are independent enough to go off on their own.

Wolf Spider Habitat

Wolf spiders may live just about anywhere that they can find insects on which to feed. They are most likely to be found on the ground in open areas, such as farm fields and grassy areas or harboring in firewood or ground tunnels, and under leaf piles or other ground clutter.

In some areas, this spider can be a very common pest in the fall when it is seeking shelter» against the cooling temperatures.

In the home, the wolf spider is most likely to be found around doors, windows and house plants, and in basements and garages. When outside, they dig or move into burrows or leaf litter.​

Wolf Spider Behavior

This solitary spider hunts on the ground, which is how it has earned two other names: ground spider and hunting spider. In fact, unlike most spider species, Ithe wolf spider does not build webs to capture its prey but goes out at night to hunt it down. It can run, climb and swim, but rarely does unless hunting prey.

Unlike the orb-weaver spider, which operates primarily by feel, the wolf spider uses its vision to communicate. For example, when a spider waves its front legs to another wolf spider, the second spider knows exactly what is meant.

The Bite of the Wolf Spider

Wolf spiders are not aggressive, and will not bite unless frightened or provoked. Although the wolf spider’s bite is not deadly, it can be very painful.


Some people may also be allergic to the bite of this or any spider, so you should always seek the attention/treatment by a doctor anytime you are bitten.

Controlling the Wolf Spider

It is fairly difficult to eradicate wolf spiders because they must be directly contacted through physical or chemical means. Because this is a solitary spider that generally operates alone, physical removal and/or kill off the individual spider can be the best form of control and elimination.

To help exclude spiders from entering the home, seal cracks, crevices, gaps and other openings in the home structure, foundation, and around doors and windows. Discarding piles of old papers and boxes and keeping the home clean can help to reduce shelter and harborage which the spiders seek.

In addition to environmental and structural modifications and sanitation, the Washington State University Extension Service recommends the indoor use of an aerosol bomb or fogger to reduce existing spiders. WSU notes, however, that this «will not provide residual control for insect coming in later. The pesticide also may not penetrate inaccessible areas.»

For outdoor control, the university states, «Cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, permethrin, tetramethrin or deltamethrin can be applied around the outside of doors, window, vents, outdoor stairwells or window wells, foundations, or cracks and openings. Spray only where needed.»

When using any pesticide, read and follow all label directions; be sure that the site (indoor use, along foundations outside, etc.) is listed on the label; and use only products labeled for spiders or nuisance pests. You also may want to contact a pest control professional who may use or recommend a variety of chemical or non-chemical control methods in an Integrated Management Program (IPM).

See also:  What Do Granddaddy Long Leg Spiders Eat?


Wolf Spiders

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Approximately 200 known species belong to the Family Lycosidae in the U.S. and Canada. These wolf spiders are particularly abundant in prairie areas but can be located in a variety of habitats.

Appearance / Identification

How Did I Get Wolf Spiders?

In many areas, wolf spiders are quite common. They typically reside outside in leafy, grassy areas, and some even make small burrows. However, they occasionally come indoors on accident or to seek shelter over the winter. Homeowners might see them near doors, basements, or windows.

How Serious Are Wolf Spiders?

Wolf spiders do not damage homes or threaten human health. They may bite, but only if threatened. Because of their large size, wolf spiders intimidate people and could be a nuisance in large numbers but they do eat insects so are often considered beneficial.

What Can I Do About Wolf Spiders?

The Orkin Man™ is trained to help manage wolf spiders. Since every home is different, the Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Keeping wolf spiders out of your house is an ongoing process, not a one-time treatment. Orkin’s exclusive A.I.M. solution is a continuing cycle of three critical steps—Assess, Implement and Monitor.

The Orkin Man™ can provide the right solution to keep these spiders in their place. out of your home.


Although their reputation would lead one to believe otherwise, the bite of the wolf spider is not a significant medical threat to the average adult. Wolf spiders typically do not bite unless threatened or provoked. In most cases the wolf spider will first retreat or rear up on its legs, exposing its large fangs.

Difference between other spiders

Wolf spiders are also sometimes confused for tarantulas, nursery web and fishing spiders, and brown recluse spiders.

It can be difficult to differentiate between wolf spiders and the many species that resemble them. Most spiders have in common two-segmented bodies, eight legs and fang-like mouthparts known as chelicerae. However, wolf spiders do have shorter legs than web-building spiders and appear more robust than other species.

Wolf Spider vs. Brown Recluse

It may help to observe the movements of the spider in question. Named for their swift motion, particularly while attacking prey, the wolf spider can sometimes be seen scurrying across open surfaces. The brown recluse, on the other hand, tends to hide in dark, unvisited places and is rarely seen in the open. Recluses also have six eyes arranged in pairs combined with a violin marking on their cephalothoraxes. Wolf spiders do not have these combined characters.

Jaws & fangs

Chelicerae, or jaws, are used to hold prey, inject venom and eat. Two sharp, horizontal fangs are present at the extreme bottom of these jaws. Also present near the jaw are the palps, which serve as sensory structures and as sperm storage in the male wolf spider.

The circulatory system of the wolf spider is open, meaning the blood isn’t confined and delivered inside of a closed system, and contains hemolymph, a respiratory protein similar in function to hemoglobin. Hemolymph is pumped through the heart and bathes the internal organs and tissues.

Where can you find them?

Wolf spider habitats range from woodlands and dry, inland shrub lands to wet, coastal forests and alpine meadows. Some wolf spider species prefer to dwell in suburban gardens. Coastal sand dunes, mountain herb fields or riverbank gravel beds are also home to many wolf spider species. Because wolf spiderlings travel great distances, the habitat of a single species can span a large region.

There are several wolf spiders found in the west that are most commonly brown in color, although gray and black specimens have also been documented. Colored markings may appear along their bodies. Some western wolf spiders can be found indoors, while others are specific to wet outdoor areas like riverbanks.

Burrows in the Ground

Wolf spiders do not spin webs and reside instead within burrows. These burrows may be open or sealed with silken doors. In rainy seasons, wolf spiders plug their burrows with pebbles and build turrets to deflect floodwater. Twigs may also be placed at the top of the burrow.

In the Home

At the onset of the fall season, wolf spiders seek warmer habitats and have been known to enter homes, where they are found in windows, doors, garages, basements and houseplants.

Signs of a Wolf Spider Infestation

All spiders have the potential to come indoors. Wolf spiders often scurry under gaps below doors, and jumping spiders accidentally may be carried in on people. Sightings of wolf spiders are the main sign of their activity. If wolf spiders are found invading a structure it is best to contact a local pest management agency.

More Information

Wolf spiders are common throughout the United States, especially Missouri, Texas, and California. In California, they are sometimes referred to as California wolf spiders.The Kauai cave wolf spider (Adelocosa anops) inhabits the caves of Hawaii’s Kauai Island. These spiders are eyeless and reddish-brown in color. Specimens can measure up to 20 mm in length.

Wolf Spider Bites Wolf Spider Life Cycle Other Types Of Wolf Spiders

The Carolina wolf spider is the largest documented wolf spider in the United States. Its color matches its habitat, allowing for camouflage. Other wolf spider species may inhabit alpine meadows, coastal forests, dry shrub lands and woodlands. Most species are burrowers that live underground, although some specimens can be seen traveling above ground in leaf litter, on lawns and in gardens. Most wolf spiders are also nocturnal, although some do hunt in the morning. A wolf spider’s diet typically consists of insects and other small spiders.

See also:  How To Not Have Spiders In Your House?


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)


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.

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)


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.


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.

Editor’s Note: If you’d like more information on this topic, we recommend the following book:

Additional resources

  • Learn more about Jo-Anne Sewlal’s research on orb-weaving spiders.
  • BioKids explores Lycosidae.
  • Clemson University discusses South Carolina’s official state spider.
See also:  When To Get A Spider Bite Checked Out?

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What does a wolf spider bite look like? Is it dangerous?

Wolf spider bites are not dangerous and do not usually require specific medical attention.

In rare instances, a person may be allergic to spider bites. If this is the case, they will experience more pronounced symptoms and may feel generally unwell. However, this form of allergy is unusual.

In general, a person can treat a wolf spider bite in the same way as they would treat any other minor insect bite.

In this article, we take a look at how people can identify a wolf spider and what might happen if a spider bites them. We also examine the treatment options available for dealing with a spider bite.

Share on Pinterest Wolf spiders do not spin webs.

Wolf spiders are a common spider that are notable for not spinning webs. Instead, they hunt their prey with the help of excellent eyesight, which is unusual for spiders.

These spiders are solitary and can live in many different environments. People may encounter them in grassy areas and among fallen leaves. Some wolf spiders will live in and defend burrows while others may roam around looking for food.

Like many spiders, wolf spiders tend to avoid people but will live in and around basements, lofts, sheds, and garages.

Wolf spiders are fairly large, ranging from 0.5 to 2 inches long. They are generally brown, but their coloration can change depending on the habitat they are in.

Wolf spiders have eight eyes, two of which are particularly large. If a light shines toward their eyes, they glow.

People can sometimes confuse wolf spiders with the brown recluse spider, which is a more dangerous venomous spider. However, brown recluse spiders have a distinct violin-shaped marking on their heads. They have six eyes, which are all the same size.

The other common venomous spider is the black widow, but these are distinct from both wolf spiders and brown recluse spiders. This type of spider has a smooth, black body and red markings on the bottom of their abdomen.

Generally, a wolf spider bite is not dangerous.

In the vast majority of cases, a person bitten by a wolf spider will react in the same way they would from a bite by other minor insects. An itchy or sore red mark may appear at the site of the bite.

Bites from a wolf spider and other insects are very similar, so unless a person actually sees the wolf spider biting them, they may never identify the culprit.

As an article in the journal Critical Care Nursing Clinics of North America notes, spider bites may seem alarming, but in reality, they pose a minor risk.

In rare instances, a person may have a severe allergic reaction to the bite. If a person’s symptoms worsen quickly, or if they start feeling generally unwell, they should seek medical attention.

The following symptoms could signal an allergic reaction to the bite:

  • swelling
  • itchiness
  • blistering
  • a rash around the bite
  • breathing problems

Wolf spiders seek to avoid human contact and will only bite if provoked.

If a wolf spider bites someone, there are some basic steps the person can take to avoid infection and help manage any swelling, itchiness, or soreness:

  • clean the area bitten with soap and water
  • apply an ice pack to reduce swelling
  • if the bite is very itchy, take over-the-counter antihistamines
  • avoid scratching, which can increase the chances of infection

The symptoms should clear up after a few days. If they do not, speak to a doctor for advice and possible treatment.

Wolf spiders are solitary. As they do not produce webs, it can be difficult to know if they are around. This can make preventing a bite tricky.

People who store their shoes or clothes in an area that is easily accessible from the outside should check the items to make sure no spiders are living in them. Take extra care in places, such as garages, sheds, and lofts.

People should also be wary around piles of leaves, as some wolf spiders use these as a home.

Applying proper insulation to homes can reduce the chance of a wolf spider entering from the outside. Particular areas where insulation can make a difference include windows, doors to the outside, lofts, and basements.

In general, wolf spider bites are rare, and people do not need to be too concerned.

Wolf spiders will usually only bite people if they come into direct contact with them and feel threatened. Being careful around areas where wolf spiders might be living will reduce the risk of being bitten.

The vast majority of wolf spider bites do not require medical attention. If symptoms suddenly get worse, if they go on for a long time, or if a person feels generally unwell, speak to a medical professional.

Last medically reviewed on December 21, 2018


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