One of the few species of spider that are popularly kept as pets, the wolf spider is usually either loved or hated. Unfortunately, having one of these hairy critters with eight legs loose in your home is usually an unwelcome event.
Not only are they fairly large, but their jumping ability and furry appearance result in almost as many standing-on-chair incidents as mice. Because of their speed, it isn’t always clear how to get rid of wolf spiders.
So how do you know if that’s really a wolf spider running around your home or garden, and what do you do with her?
Identifying Wolf Spiders
There are actually 125 species of wolf spider in the US (and approximately 2,300 worldwide), but they all share some common characteristics.
See Also: 9 Fascinating Facts about Wolf Spiders
What do Wolf Spiders Look Like?
Wolf spiders tend to be dark in color (usually dark brown or even black), often with stripes or other markings of a lighter brown or yellow. These are long critters with thin legs that have three tarsal claws at the end of each hairy leg and stout, furry bodies. They are a considered a fast spider making them a bit intimidating.
They have two large eyes with two smaller eyes above and four below, making a total of eight eyes that will shine if you reflect light off of them.
One of the most notable features is that most female wolf spiders carry their egg sacs attached to their spinnerets, holding the sac in a manner that prevents damage. A few species hide their sacs underground.
From birth until their first molting, wolf spiderlings will ride on top of their mother’s abdomen, a sign that makes identification easy.
How Big can a Wolf Spider Get?
These are some of the larger spiders you’ll run into. The average female wolf spider can grow to have a body that measures 1-3/8 inches and an overall length of up to four inches. Males are smaller with a body length that measures about 3/4 inch.
What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?
Wolf spiders will eat just about any type of insect including grasshoppers, flies, lovebugs, caterpillars, ants, and earwigs. After locating their victim, they are fast enough to pounce on them and use they’re powerful jaws to bite them. They never have a problem of finding food to eat in almost any environment.
Wolf Spider Habitat
You won’t find a wolf spider building webs as they prefer to hunt. Some species create burrows, but most are nomadic and they don’t spin webs so there’s no clear sign you have one.
When in your home, they’ll tend to stay near doors, windows, and plants looking for their next meal and prefer to stay close to the ground. Despite this, they tend to disperse aerially.
They are one of the most common spiders around the house in many regions but they prefer warmer climates. However, you’ll find at least one species that likes to live in all but the coldest extremes of the globe.
See also: Where Do Spiders Go in the Winter?
Wolf Spiders vs Brown Recluse
While a male wolf spider measures about the same size as the deadly brown recluse and shares a similar color, there are two key features to the latter that make identification easy.
Brown recluse have only six eyes, set in three pairs horizontally instead of a wolf’s eight reflective eyes in three rows. Also, there is a telltale dark violin-shaped marking on the head and back of the brown recluse, with the neck of the violin pointing to the abdomen.
Wolf Spiders vs Grass Spiders
Grass spiders are often mistaken for wolf spiders due to their similar markings, but they have some very different features.
Unlike wolf spiders, grass spiders build webs. These webs resemble funnels, giving this spider the nickname of “funnel spider”. They also have very prominent spinnerets which can be seen from most angles and are a sign they’re not a wolf spider. Like the wolf spider, grass spiders are harmless to humans and are actually unable to bite people due to their tiny chelicerae (fangs).
The Lycosidae family is pretty big, but there are a couple species which stand out and deserve special mention.
Carolina Wolf Spider (Hogna carolinensis)
This giant wolf spider is not only the largest in the US, but Carolina’s official state spider (making it the only spider to receive such recognition in the country). They have an estimated habitat range spanning ten states and their coloration provides camouflage in their natural hunting grounds. They are very dark or black in color.
Kaua’i Cave Spider (Adelocosa anops)
Native to Hawai’i’s Kaua’i Island, these cave dwellers deserve special mention due to their lack of eyes. These reddish-brown hunters can measure up to 3/4″ and are locally referred to as Pe’e Pe’e Maka ‘Ole (or “No-eyed, big eyed spider).
The chances of finding one of these living in your home is extremely unlikely, as both the species and its primary prey (the Kaua’i cave amphipod) are on the endangered list.
Texas Wolf Spider (Rabidosa rabida)
Known as the rabid wolf spider, this species is actually quite harmless. They frequently camouflage themselves against bark when hunting, and have a complex mating dance which does not end in intercourse, but instead the male deposits his sperm in a web sac that the female collects and attaches to her body.
While Texas wolf spiders like to live in woods and cotton fields, these spiders are also frequent home invaders as they like to venture indoors.
How to Kill Wolf Spiders
There are several commercial ways to kill wolf spiders, ranging from cheap to expensive. These can get rid of any currently residing wolf spiders, but generally won’t prevent against future invasions.
A large number of pesticides and insecticides are available that target spiders. In most cases, these will also kill wolf spiders, although there are some indoor products available that specifically target wolf spiders. Products which leave a residue will reduce the risk of future spiders for a time, but are less safe around children and pets. Before using a spray indoors, make sure it’s safe.
One particular type of outdoor insecticide works extremely well as wolf spider control as well as almost 100 other pests. Tempo SC Ultra comes in a super concentrated 8 oz bottle that makes up to 30 gallons so it will last you a long time or cover a large yard. Demon Max is another good spider killer. Spray these pesticides on the ground, forming an anti-pest barrier.
Most arachnids are known for crawling up vertical surfaces or using web strands (think Spider-Man) and thus never come in contact with the pesticide barrier. Wolf spiders, however, scurry along the ground and will almost always run into the insecticide residue.
This is a chemical commonly used for spider control and pest control in general. Sprinkling it along the edges of walls creates a very effective barrier against most tiny pests. Humco boric acid powder is a popular and trusted brand.
When a spider (or other mini-pest) walks over the acid, it causes numerous cuts and gashes. The pest will not only lose bodily fluids from these wounds, but will get on its legs and ingest the chemical the next time it grooms, killing it.
Note that this product isn’t safe around kids or pets, although it’s perfectly harmless to adults.
In the event of a large infestation, you may choose to hire an exterminator. Most any professional extermination service will first assess the situation and then develop a plan of action based upon their findings.
Treatment may include additional extermination techniques if a food source (such as an insect infestation) was discovered. Some type of commercial pesticide spray is usually used when a professional service is used.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Wolf Spiders
Getting rid of any pest is usually a balance between effectiveness and family safety. Unlike most small critters, the natural methods used against wolf spiders are just as effective as chemical treatments without the risk of creating chemical resistance in survivors.
Surprisingly effective, glue strip traps can be placed along the floor or ledges where wolf spiders have been spotted. These traps can be of any variety, including the common fly strip.
When your unwanted spider comes out, she will get trapped on the glue. An added bonus to this is that the glue traps any nearby insects, providing free bait. Glue strip traps should be placed in the corners of the garage, basement, or attic, and in closets or behind furniture.
This is a natural pesticide ingredient which is a safe treatment option around both humans and pets. Based on a blend of various plant oils, Hexa-Hydroxyl targets certain neural pathways that don’t exist in humans and other mammals, but can kill spiders and other tiny critters efficiently.
Wolf spiders don’t invade homes or crawl spaces maliciously. They simply go wherever there’s food, much as a hunter in the African savannas might migrate alongside its prey. Thus, an individual brave enough to catch a live spider indoors can simply relocate her to a new home away from your’s.
Woods and fields are perfect relocation targets, as wolf spiders will have plenty of things to eat and wood and leaf piles to hide in.
What Attracts Wolf Spiders in the House?
It’s pretty difficult to keep a wolf spider from wandering into your yard or garden, but there are some basic prevention tips you can use to keep them out of your home.
The number of wolf spiders invading homes spiked in 2012, due to the extremely hot weather, and this number will likely continue to increase annually until weather conditions begin calming down to the levels they were in the 20th century.
Note that some of these methods will also help against other critters and may save a little on your heating bills in the long run.
Wolf spiders don’t enter your home because they like it better than their own burrows. They tend to be shy, and usually only enter a home when they find a potential food source which attracts them. Getting rid of these sources is the first step to prevention.
This is also why you will usually find them near doors, windows, and in humid areas of the house. Proper pest control will greatly reduce the risk of them entering (or remaining) in your house. Like other critters, they want to eat. Remove the food source and lessen the chance of having wolf spiders.
You want to regularly clean and vacuum your floors and carpet since crumbs can attract many insects
In addition, while wolf spiders aren’t necessarily attracted to your home’s exterior lights, the lights do attract potential meals such as moths and flies. Try to keep any unnecessary outdoor lights turned off at night or switch to sodium vapor lights which are less likely to attract bugs.
Be sure to seal any external cracks or holes on your home, so the spider can’t squeeze its way in. Using screens on doors and windows will also make crawling into your home difficult for these little guys.
Wolf spiders don’t like to climb, so make sure your foundation is also free of cracks or small holes, as they are more likely to enter the house from a low elevation such as crawl spaces or basements.
You’ll also want to remove any vegetation, firewood, or yard debris such as leaf piles away from your home. Various materials and debris near your walls may offer them shelter and give them a higher chance of stepping into your home. So clean things up.
Wolf Spider Benefits
While you may not want to open your doors to a group of wolf spiders, having one or two in your garden or yard can be quite beneficial. These spiders are naturally shy around humans and will usually run or hop away unless cornered.
As they’re ground dwellers and rarely climb, they make for a welcome defense against a wide variety of garden pests from grasshoppers to caterpillars. Of course, spotting one may cause some panic, but these critters are a lot more effective than pesticides and will generally stay out of your way.
As with most spiders, there is a lot of debate on how dangerous a wolf spider is. On one hand, they help control insects that might pose a risk of disease, but on the other, there is a lot of confusion about whether wolf spiders are venomous and thus a threat to humans.
Are Wolf Spiders Poisonous?
While wolf spiders are technically venomous, it was discovered in the early 1990s that the venom from all wolf spider species produced no necrotic (where the flesh dies) effects in humans.
The use of anti-venom for wolf spider bites was thus stopped at this time. Previous reports of necrosis from wolf spider bites in South America were later attributed to other genera of spiders that simply resembled wolf spiders, such as the brown recluse.
What Happens when a Wolf Spider Bites You?
Wolf spider bites are painful and may produce some temporary swelling or itchiness. The pain itself generally lasts about ten minutes and is caused by the body’s natural reactions to a puncture, and not the venom.
A bite wound’s symptoms can remain visible for anywhere from a few days. It should be noted that while wolf spider bites are generally low-risk, children and the elderly should seek medical attention due to their lower immune systems.