The Wolf Spider: How Dangerous Is Its Bite?

Wolf Spider on flowers

Ed Reschke / Getty Images

Wolf spiders are a very common sight in the United States. In fact, scientists have identified more than 125 species of wolf spiders in the U.S. alone. Although the arachnid can be exceedingly large in size (measuring up to 2 inches long in some instances) and cause fear in many people, a wolf spider's bite is not as harmful as its appearance would lead you to believe. That being said, it can still cause a painful reaction in many people, so it's best to avoid the wolf spider and its habitats as much as you can. Keep these facts about the creature in mind as you spend time outdoors.

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9 Things You Need to Know About Wolf Spiders

Wolf Spider Appearance

The average wolf spider can range from 1/2 to 2 inches long. Wolf spiders are identifiable thanks to their hairy body, which ranges in color from orangish-brown to gray or black and features splotches or stripes that give it a camouflaged 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 front and center, and four small eyes below those. Like all spiders, the wolf spider has eight legs, but it also has an additional two tiny leg-like appendages (pedipalps) extending out the front of its face.

The young of the wolf spider 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 or bellies until they are independent enough to go off on their own.

Illustration of a wolf spider

The Spruce / Catherine Song

Wolf Spider Habitat

Wolf spiders can live just about anywhere they can find a consistent supply of insects to feed on. Typically, they're found on the ground in open areas, such as farm fields and grassy areas; harboring in firewood or ground tunnels; or under leaf piles or other ground clutter.

In some areas, wolf spiders can be a very common pest in the fall when they're seeking shelter from the cooling temperatures, a practice that often drives them indoors. In the home, they can be found around door or window frames, in houseplants, and in basements and garages. They do not like people and will likely scurry away when they hear your footsteps.

Wolf Spider Behavior

Like their namesake animal, wolf spiders chase and leap on their prey instead of weaving a web to entrap them in. Typically, their diet consists of insects like other small spiders, ants, grasshoppers, and more—though they have been known to also hunt small frogs and other reptiles. They are nocturnal creatures and will do the majority of their hunting and wandering at night.

This solitary spider hunts on the ground, which is how it has earned two more common names: ground spider and hunting spider. It can run, climb, and swim but rarely does so 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.

Wolf Spider Bite

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, and it's possible that some people may be allergic to the bite, which can prompt a more severe reaction.

Unless you actually witness a wolf spider bite you, it may be hard to distinguish their bite from any other larger insect, like a mosquito, horsefly, or other spiders. If bitten by a wolf spider, you may notice an itchy red bump that is slightly swollen—generally, you can treat the bite as you would any other insect bite, and your mild symptoms should subside within a few days. However, if you experience any of the below symptoms, it's possible you are having an allergic reaction (or were bit by something different) and should contact emergency services.

  • A red line extending from the bite (can indicate a blood infection)
  • Hives around the bite area
  • Extreme swelling around the bite
  • Swelling of the hands or face
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blistering around the bite

Wolf Spider Control

It is fairly difficult to eradicate wolf spiders entirely from your property, especially considering they must come in direct physical contact with any pesticide to die. Because these spiders are solitary creatures, they generally are spotted alone, and killing off individual spiders can be a tedious and daunting task.

To help dissuade wolf spiders from entering your home, seal up any cracks, crevices, gaps, and other openings in your home, concentrating around the exterior structure, foundation, doors, and windows. Discarding piles of old paper and boxes and keeping your home clean can also help to reduce potential spots where the spider may seek out shelter.

When using any pesticide to control insects, it's always best to enlist a professional, who can recommend the best course of action for your specific home and problem. If you choose to go about spraying on your own, be sure to read and follow all label directions closely. Make sure that the site (indoors, along the foundation, outside, etc.) is listed on the label, and use only products labeled for spiders or nuisance pests. Additionally, it's a good idea to keep any pets or young children away from the application site for the recommended period of time after spraying or applying pesticides.