Wolf spiders can be a scary surprise when you aren’t expecting to see one. With their speed and ability to leap great distances, people often fear them. Yet these arachnids are both fascinating and beneficial.
Here are 11 fascinating facts about wolf spiders that just might surprise you (in a good way).
#1 – They’re Everywhere! (Almost)
There are over 2,300 species of wolf spider, some as small as a quarter inch and others as large as two inches.
The largest North American wolf spider is the Carolina wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis) with a length of up to 1 3/4 inches for the females. It’s the official state spider of South Carolina but can be found throughout much of North America.
These intrepid hunters have traveled to every continent except Antarctica (barring any potential stowaways aboard scientific expeditions) in search of prey. You can find them everywhere from arid deserts to wet coastal forests.
Various wolf spider species can survive in almost any climate even though they’re not too fond of winter. In fact, some species can even walk on water, thanks to the hairs on their legs!
#2 – Baby Buggy
Wolf spiders have a very unique way of handling their young. Much like nesting species, a female wolf spider bundles her eggs in a woven sack. However, she carries the sack on her abdomen instead of hiding it. These female spiders have a strong maternal instinct and will display aggressive behavior if her egg sac is threatened.
When the eggs hatch, she opens the top of the sack and up to 100 hatchlings climb onto her back where they remain in relative safety for about a week before venturing forth on their own to find a meal.
#3 – Move Over, Tarantulas!
Despite their appearance, wolf spiders are one of the most popular species to keep as pets. They’re very docile towards humans and usually only bite when frightened.
A wolf spider bite will produce some swelling, itching, and pain; but is otherwise harmless to people (barring allergies).
#4 – Predator and Prey
Wolf spiders will eat almost any kind of insect (including cockroaches), and their ability to pounce means they can grab even the fastest of prey. Thus you might be surprised to learn that a wolf spider’s worst enemy is actually an insect.
Spider wasps are a parasitic species of wasp that actively hunts spiders, often several times their size. These wasps inject a powerful paralytic venom into their victims, then drag them back to their nest. An egg is then embedded in the spider’s abdomen.
Upon hatching, the larvae devours the still-living spider from the inside out.
#5 – Misnomer
Wolf spiders hail from the family Lycosidae (derived from λύκος in Greek) which literally means “wolf”. However, they didn’t get this name from their furry appearance.
The name actually refers to an early (mistaken) belief that they hunted in packs like wolves. We’ve since learned these spiders are solitary, but the name stuck all the same.
#6 – Mythbusting
Over the centuries, wolf spiders have been blamed for a lot of behaviors. As mentioned above, they originally gained their moniker from the mistaken belief they hunted in packs.
They have also been blamed for necrotic (where the flesh rots) bites in Australia and Africa. Later study of the species accused proved they were framed by other, similar looking spider species in both continents.
Despite their many species having wide distributions, not one case of someone dying from a wolf spider bite has ever been confirmed.
#7 – Eagle Eyes
Wolf spiders have the third strongest vision of all spiders, bested only by the huntsman and jumping spiders.
Their eyes are arranged in three rows, allowing them to see in four directions at once. As their eyes produce eyeshine (i.e. they reflect light), you’ll easily spot one if you shine a light on it. This same eyeshine gives them excellent night vision, much like cats.
#8 – Veloci-rachnids
All wolf spider species are active hunters. Some lie in wait and pounce from their den, while others stalk their prey. They all have the ability to pounce, with the length of the leap varying from one species to another.
A wolf spider strikes quick and has a strong grip. Once one gets you, there’s no escape.
See Also: Do Spiders Poop?
#9 – Guard(den) Dogs
Wolf spiders can also be a welcome resident in your garden. These arachnids won’t harm any of your plants, but love to feast on harmful insects.
As one of the most common spiders around the house, it’s much cheaper to have one around than using pesticide, and safer, too!
#10 – Crazy Mating
Wolf spiders have their own courtship ritual. The female will leave scent markings on a bit of silk for the males to follow. The male will respond with complex tap dances.
One species, Schizocosa stridulans, is known to improvise dance moves to win the female’s affections. Because these rituals can attract predators, spiders will often have threesomes so the bundle of limbs is more difficult to attack.
#11 – Natural Camouflage
Many critters use camouflage for protection, and wolf spiders are no exception. Species tend to bear colorations and markings that match their preferred habitats. This lets them pretend they’re rocks or other debris when a predator is nearby.
But this isn’t just a defensive tactic. Many species will actively hunt their prey while some are known to lie in wait before attacking. In both cases, their camouflage allows them to get close to potential prey so it’s harder for a meal to escape.
We’re Just Getting Started
Wolf spiders are one of the most interesting types of spider out there. They’re also one of the largest spiders in North America. But there’s so much more to discuss about these curious critters that we’d literally have to fill a book to cover everything.
Whether it’s about a specific species or wolf spiders in general, we’d love to hear from our readers about any facts we didn’t cover. Maybe we’ll even add some of them in during a future update!