What Is 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).


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.

See also:  How Long Is A Spider Pregnant For?

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.


Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are the sprinters of the spider world. Most of the thousands of species in this family don’t spin webs; instead, they chase and pounce on their insect prey like the wolves that inspire their name.

Once wolf spiders catch their prey, they either mash it up into a ball or inject venom into it, liquefying the internal organs into a wolf-spider smoothie.

All wolf spiders have eight dark eyes arranged around their heads, or cephalothorax. Two large eyes gleam from the top of the head; two more large eyes peer out the front; and four smaller eyes form a row just above the spider’s mouth.

See also:  What Spider Makes A Zig Zag Web?

Most wolf spiders spend their time on the ground. The dark, mottled colors on their bodies help them blend in with decaying plant matter while hunting or avoiding predators. Sometimes they dig burrows or make holes under rocks or logs to live in.

Wolf spiders have figured out how to live just about anywhere. While some species are found on cold, rocky mountaintops, others live in volcanic lava tubes. From deserts to rainforests, grasslands to suburban lawns, wolf spider thrive; there’s likely one nearby. One species has even been found living in wheat crops, feeding on pests such as aphids.

When it’s time to mate, male wolf spiders attract females by rhythmically waving their long mouthparts (palps) or drumming them on leaves. Once mated, the female spins a round egg sac, attaches it to her abdomen and it carries around with her. The young hatch inside, then emerge and climb on mom’s back until they’re old enough to live on their own.

Many species are considered to have stable populations. But some, such as the desertas wolf spider of Portugal and the Kaua’i cave spider of Hawaii, are endangered.

Gaze Into the Eyes of a Wolf Spider Excellent eyesight. Incredibly agile. Camouflaged body. Venom-injecting fangs. The Costa Rican Wolf Spider is an opportunistic predator.

See more of Costa Rica’s charismatic wildlife in Untamed from Nat Geo Wild. Follow filmmaker Filipe DeAndrade and his two best friends as they travel throughout Costa Rica in search of the most diverse, iconic and unexpected animal species the country has to offer.


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.

See also:  When To Worry About A Spider Bite On Toddler?

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


What Is A Wolf Spider Look Like?


KINGDOM: Animalia | PHYLUM: Arthropoda | CLASS: Arachnida | ORDER: Araneae | FAMILY: Lycosidae (wolf spiders)

Wolf Spiders are large, hairy spiders which are usually patterned with a mixture of black, gray, and brown. Wolf spiders, especially large ones, look very similar to spiders in the Pisauridae family (nursery web and fishing spiders), but commonly encountered wolf spiders are often more robust, with shorter legs. Wolf spiders have 8 eyes. As with all spiders, wolf spiders have 8 legs, 2 body parts (cephalothorax and abdomen), and fang-like mouthparts called «chelicerae.»

In most cases, wolf spiders benefit humans by feeding on all sorts of insects, including crop pests. Wolf spiders are rarely pests, but they sometimes wander into houses, where their large size often frightens homeowners. Wolf spiders can bite, but their bites are extremely rare and no more dangerous or painful than bee stings. In fact, bees and wasps are more dangerous than wolf spiders because a wolf spider will never «attack» a person, unlike bees or wasps that will attack to defend a hive. Wolf spiders will only bite if they are mishandled. Wolf spiders that are found indoors have wandered in by mistake and should be collected and released outdoors (if you ever need to collect a wolf spider, «herd» the spider into a container with a stick or a pencil).

CONFUSION: Wolf Spider vs. Brown Recluse
Because wolf spiders are sometimes seen indoors and because they are often brown in color, they are often mistaken for brown recluse spiders. If you see a fast-moving, dark-colored spider running on the floor, it is more likely to be a wolf spider than a brown recluse. Brown recluses are very secretive and are almost never seen out in the open. With a little practice, it is easy to tell the difference between wolf spiders and brown recluses. Take a look at the Case File for Brown Recluses, and our Brown Recluse ENTfact to learn how to identify brown recluse spiders.

Rabid Wolf Spider
GENUS and SPECIES: Rabidosa rabida
The Rabid Wolf Spider, Rabidosa rabida, is a typical member of the wolf spider genus Rabidosa. Wolf spiders in this genus are very common in Kentucky and grow to about 1″ in length. They are characterized by bold brown and white stripes on the cephalothorax. The picture of the female wolf spider carrying spiderlings (shown above) is also in the genus Rabidosa.

Schizocosa spp.
GENUS: Schizocosa
Members of the genus Schizocosa are among the smallest wolf spiders in Kentucky, with a body length that rarely exceeds 1/4″. They are also some of the most common wolf spiders, especially in meadows and leaf litter where they prey on springtails and other small insects. The one pictured below is carrying an egg sac, a behavior exhibited by most female wolf spiders.

Wolf spiders are almost always be found close to the ground. Look for them under rocks and logs, near streams, in leaf litter, on the forest floor, at the bases of cultivated plants, and just about anyplace else (they are extremely common). They are often the same color as their background, so they can be very hard to see. Wolf spiders are very fast, so you have to be fast too if you want to catch one (or its picture — use a fast film speed and bright light to get a good picture of a wolf spider).

Wolf spiders can deliver a painful bite, so they should never be picked up by hand. Instead, if you ever need to collect a wolf spider, «herd» the spider into a container with a stick or a pencil. Like all spiders, wolf spiders should be preserved in ethyl alcohol.

Captive Wolf Spiders: large wolf spiders will do well in captivity when properly cared for. For tips, visit our page:
Pet Bugs — Wolf Spiders.

Wolf spiders are very difficult to identify to genus and species. Click below to visit the American Museum of Natural History’s online pictorial key to genus identification within the wolf spider family:

Wolf spiders are very closely related to Nursery-Web and Fishing Spiders.

Wolf spiders probably got their name from the way that they catch their prey. Instead of catching prey in a web, wolf spiders stalk and chase their prey like a wolf. In addition, the root word «lycos» in «Lycosidae» (the scientific family name for wolf spiders) is Greek for «wolf.» The name has been around for a long time: the ancient Greek writer and philosopher Aristotle mentioned the «wolf spider» in his History of Animals, written in 350 BC.

Although wolf spiders resemble tarantulas, they are not closely related. Despite this, at least one species of wolf spider, Hogna tarantula (a.k.a. Lycosa tarantula), a large wolf spider that lives in Italy, is referred to as the «Tarantula Spider.» Long ago, these wolf spiders were blamed for causing a disease called «tarantism,» the treatment of which involved a special dance called the «tarantella.» As it turns out, the bite of this spider is no more dangerous than a bite from any other wolf spider. You can read more about the Italian «tarantula» wolf spider at this page from Wikipedia:

Do you know any other myths, legends, or folklore about wolf spiders? If so, let us know.


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