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!
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).