Wolf spiders (family Lycosidae), hunting spiders found in homes and gardens across North America, walk, or more often run, along the ground and among rocks and leaf piles searching out prey.
Over a dozen different genera, consisting of over two hundred species call some part of the United States home, making them one of the most abundant and commonly seen spiders. Wolf spider identification begins by finding spiders with body patterns similar to the patterns on the spiders presented here. Grass spiders superficially resemble wolf spiders, so if the spider is near a funnel web, the odds are it’s a grass spider.
A few articles published by The National Institute of Health address wolf spider bites, summarizing them as follows,
“Because of their dark color and hunting habits, wolf spiders (Lycosidae) are often confused with the much more dangerous brown recluse spider (Loxosceles reclusa). Unlike the brown recluse spider, wolf spider envenomation seldom causes cutaneous necrosis or systemic symptoms.”
Like all spiders, wolf spiders bite, but their bite is considered more annoying than dangerous.
Wolf Spiders: Identification
Wolf spider identification usually starts with one physical attribute. Bay and large all wolf spiders have a dull brown, gray or black body, which has a light color stripe on the middle of the cephlothorax.
The abdomen may or may not have a stripe pattern. While they do share physical similarities with funnel web spiders, the typical wolf spider does not have extended spinnerets visible on the bottom of the abdomen. One exception to the general identification rule exists for the Genus Sosippus, or Funnel Web Wolf Spiders.
Wolf spiders range in size from the smaller thin legged wolf spiders to the largest species of the Hogna genus, which can grow to three inches in length, including the leg span.
Females, like the one in the first picture, carry their egg sac around with them. Once born, the young spiders remain on the female’s back for a couple of weeks.
So, if you see a small brown spider with an egg sac attached to the back of the body, that’s a great clue for identifying it as a wolf spider.
Despite the name, the rabid wolf spider (Genus Rabidosa), picture two, is not an aggressive, rabies carrying scourge of the earth. In fact, rabid wolf spiders are a fairly common and docile eastern wolf spider genera.
Most Raidosa species measure around one inch in length and share the physical characteristic of having distinct light stripes on a brown body. The picture highlights a chevron pattern on the bottom of the abdomen.
Picture Credit goes to B.D. of Fayetteville, NC.
Often measuring three inches in total length, wolf spiders in the Hogna genus rank as the largest of the wolf spiders.
Their large size means they could be mistaken for tarantulas. Otherwise they are easy to identify.
Unlike tarantulas, they lack body hair. Their striped cephlothorax also helps identify them.
Most species inhabit areas of eastern North America, with only small populations occurring on western soils.
The Carolina Wolf Spider (Hogna carolinensis), in the picture ranks as the largest of the Hogna species.
It inhabits a variety of primarily southern ecosystems, and home consists of a ground burrow. Their hunting occurs mostly at night.
Females often overwinter in residential areas, startling unsuspecting homeowners when they run from under a board or other ground based object. In 1990 the South Carolina designated the Carolina Wolf Spider as the official state spider.