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 fuzzy critters 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.
What do Wolf Spiders Look Like?
Wolf spiders tend to be dark brown, often with stripes or other markings of a lighter brown or yellow. These are long, thin-legged critters with three tarsal claws at the end of each leg and stout, furry bodies. 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 characteristic 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 measuring 1-3/8 inches and an overall length of up to four inches. Males are smaller at about ¾ inches in body length.
Wolf Spider Habitat
You won’t find a wolf spider building webs, as they prefer to hunt their food. Some species create burrows, but most are nomadic. When in your home, they’ll tend to stay near doors, windows, and plants looking for food 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 hanging around in all but the coldest extremes of the globe.
Wolf Spiders vs Brown Recluse
While male wolf spiders are the same size as the deadly brown recluse and share similar coloration, 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. 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.
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 ¾ inches 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 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. Common in woods and cotton fields, these spiders are also frequent home invaders.
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.
This is a chemical commonly used in pest control. Sprinkling it along the edges of walls creates a very effective barrier against most tiny pests. 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 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 extermination services will first assess the situation and then develop a plan of action based upon their findings.This may include additional extermination techniques if a food source (such as an insect infestation) was discovered.
A large number of pesticides 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.
One particular type of outdoor pesticide works extremely well against wolf spiders. Residual pesticides are sprinkled on the ground, forming an anti-pest barrier.
- Active Ingredient: 7.9% Bifenthrin; Target pests: Talstar Pro controls over 75 different pests;...
- Application area: Inside, outside, around the perimeter, and even in food handling areas
- Pet safe: Yes, when dry.; Always read the label before use
Most arachnids travel on 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 pesticide residue.
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 ones without the risk of creating chemical resistance in survivors.
Surprisingly effective, glue strips can be placed along the floor or ledges where wolf spiders have been spotted. These strips 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 any nearby insects can also get trapped, providing free bait.
This is a natural pesticide ingredient which is safe 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 insects and other tiny critters efficiently.
- Eugenol (Clove Oil) 2.90% Thyme Oil 0.60% Corn Cob, Wintergreen Oil 96.50%
- For use in landscaped areas and perimeters around residential, institutional, public, commercial and industrial...
- FOR EXTERIOR PERIMETER TREATMENTS: Apply uniformly to ground area 5 to 10 feet wide around and adjacent to structure....
Wolf spiders don’t invade your home 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 capture the spider 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 food available.
Prevention of Future Wolf Spider Invasions
It’s pretty difficult to keep a wolf spider from wandering into your garden, but there are some basic steps you can take 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.
Be sure to seal any external cracks on your home, so the spider can’t squeeze its way in. Using screens on doors and windows will also make entry difficult for these little guys. Wolf spiders don’t like to climb, so make sure your foundation is also free of cracks, as they are more likely to enter the house from a low elevation.
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. 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.
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 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.