- Common Name(s): Wolf Spider
- Order: Araneae
- Family: Lycosidae
- Common Species: There are many species in Georgia, so focus on the Family name instead of a specific species.
- Commonly Confused With: Grass Spiders, Trapdoor Spiders, Tarantulas, Fishing Spiders
How to Identify?
Wolf spiders come in a very wide variety of colors (usually gray, brown, tan, or black) and sizes. Unlike some other Families of spider, the abdomen (back section of a spider) and cephalothorax (front section of a spider) can be the same color or they may be different colors. Both are usually patterned with intricate designs. This patterning is used to help wolf spiders camouflage themselves outdoors. The body size of wolf spiders varies greatly depending on species. In Georgia and surrounding states, typical wolf spider bodies will range between 6-28 millimeters in length, but it is not uncommon to find them as small as 3 mm and as large as 30 mm.
Where do they live?
These spiders are found most often outside of the house. Compared to many of the other spiders covered on our website, wolf spiders are unique because they are hunting spiders not web-dwelling spiders. They live in tall grass, under rocks, sandy soil, open fields, and other safe areas of vegetation outdoors. Wolf spiders can either be nomadic (free roaming) or guard a specific burrow or section of land.
What do they eat?
Wolf spiders are fantastic predators of insects and other arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans, millipedes, etc). These hunting spiders will go find and capture prey. They have even been known to eat small vertebrates (frogs, lizards, etc.). Wolf spiders are nocturnal hunters and their dark patterned coloration is great for helping them hunt unseen.
What do they do?
Wolf Spiders have no desire to come inside the home; they would much rather be outdoors finding and killing insect pests. Many people can be intimidated by them because of their speed and large size. Wolf Spiders have to be quick to chase down their prey, and if trapped indoors they may become confused and run around the home. People can confuse wolf spiders with Tarantulas, which are not found in Georgia, trapdoor spiders, which may emerge after heavy rains, grass spiders, and a variety of fishing spiders. Wolf spiders are very common and abundant but are not medically significant. If a wolf spider happens to bite you the pain would be equivalent to a bee sting (unless you happened to be allergic to the venom or the bite got infected).
There are a couple of fun facts to share about wolf spiders. First, if you ever see a wolf spider that has numerous little spiders on board, that is a mom with her babies! If you step on the mom the babies will flee everywhere, but don’t worry they will not be able to survive without her protection. Second, if you go outside at night, shine a light through your yard, and see emerald twinkles popping up everywhere, you are seeing wolf spider eyes! They are hunting for pests and helping to keep your home safe. Don’t believe me? Go out and try it sometime!
Below is a mother Wolf Spider carrying her babies for your viewing ‘pleasure!’
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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