Lycosidae – Wolf Spider

The Lycosidae, commonly called wolf spiders are a family of hunter spiders found throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

There are many species of the Wolf Spider in North America, many of which look very similar. Twice in the past I asked an entomologist (both times were different entomologists) to help me identify the different Wolf Spiders that have been sent to me. Both times, they turned me down for the same reason. It is simply too hard to identify the different species of Wolf Spiders without putting the spider under the microscope to look at the genitalia.

Wolf spider lycosidae
A North American wolf spider. Photography by: Anna M. – Traverse City, Michigan

So I learned not to try to do this myself. The information listed is for the Wolf Spider in general and not for any particular species.

A common species of the Wolf Spider is very similar to the common American Grass Spider or the Nursery Web Spider. They often do not have quite the same striping but the best way to tell them apart is by the eye pattern as described below.

Description

The descriptions change from one wolf spider to another, but there are some more common characteristics. The  general shape is of a thick set spider with thicker legs meant for walking, rather than hanging in webs.

The best way for the common  person to recognize a Wolf Spider is by the eyes. Wolf Spiders have a horizontal row of four smaller eyes. Above those  four eyes, is a pair of larger eyes, and above those, is another pair of smaller eyes.

Wolf spider USA
Photography by: Cara Salustro – Baldwin, Michigan

Size

The Wolf Spider can come in all sizes. There are some you will see running around in grass that are only about 3/8” (10 mm), while some species of the Wolf Spider reaches up to around 3” (76 mm). (These sizes include the legs)

Web

The Wolf Spider is a hunting spider and will wander in search of its prey. They usually do not spin webs like most spiders do. Though they have the ability to, they often only do so to attach their eggs to their abdomen and carry them around. Once the babies hatch, they will continue to ride around on the mother’s back until they are large enough to fend for themselves.

Bites

The bite from a Wolf Spider can cause some pain, redness and swelling. In some cases, swollen Lymph glands may occur and the skin area at the bite can turn black. Swelling and Pain can last up to 10 days. On a very rare occasion, a bite can cause necrotic lesions similar to the Recluse or Hobo Spider (Neither of which is in Michigan) but nowhere as severe.

The Wolf Spider has a reputation as a dangerous spider that is not deserved and is listed as a low risk danger. They are also one of the more common spiders in the United States. In the fall time, males will wander in search for a mate and sometimes be drawn to the warmer temperatures of our homes. Because of this, it is not uncommon to find them running across our floors during Fall.

Lycosidae Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Arachnida
  • Order: Araneae
  • Infraorder: Araneomorphae
  • Family: Lycosoidea
  • Genus: Lycosidae

Distribution of wolf spiders in the USA

Wolf spider range USA

Various wolf spider species can be found throughout the United States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Pictures of North American wolf spiders

Wolf spider
Photography by: Loni Cloum – Pontiac, Michigan
Rabid wolf spider
A rabid wold spider (Rabidosa rabida) seen in Los Angeles, California by Malcom.
Wolf spider in Montana
Photography by: Melanie Johnson – Arvada, Colorado
North American wolf spider
Photography by: Don Farrell – Barry County, Michigan
Wolf spider photo
Photography by: Kristopher Allyn – Mt. Clemens, Michigan
Lycosidae wolf spider in Michigan
Photography by: Anne Mandrick – Branch, Michigan
Wolf spider Virginia
Photo taken by Dorothy in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Wolf spider in Colorado
Photography by: Melanie Johnson – Arvada, Colorado
Rabid wolf spider in grass Virginia
A rabid wolf spider found in Reston, Virginia by Emma
Lycosidae – Wolf Spider

81 thoughts on “Lycosidae – Wolf Spider

  1. In my basement in Roanoke VA. I live in a forested area at the top of one of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains but not near any water.

    1. Wolf spider covered in babies. South Georgia USA. At least 4 inches overall. That’s a carpenters pencil for scale. Sorry didn’t have a banana.

  2. Hello Susan, thank you for getting in touch. This is most definitely a Tigrosa wolf spider. I’ve moved your ID request to the wolf spider information page. Their bite is not medically significant for humans (more like a bee sting) and they are generally not aggressive. These spiders can safely be relocated and don’t need to be sprayed.
    Let us know if you have any further questions.
    Best,
    USAspiders

  3. Hi! I believe this is a (rather large) wolf spider but would like confirmation. It was outside near an outlet we have our Halloween lights plugged into. It certainly fits in well with our decorations!

    Located in Midlothian, Virginia

  4. Found it dead in our basement today in Richmond, Virginia, covered in webbing. It is hairy. Its body is about 1” without its legs measured.

  5. Thank you! I kinda thought so. I should have kept the molt. How exciting!

    I bonded with this gorgeous arachnid in my garage one night. The next night I found another slightly smaller spider next her (?), dead. After watching her for another day, I cupped her and placed her in a vine outside. I’ve been looking for her identity ever since. She was a light brown/tan, big, sturdy, but graceful, with a dark, broadly striped carapace and abdomen. Smooth, rangy, muscular legs. A real beauty.

  6. In massachusetts found this in the kitchen , the day before one in the living room I’m guessing a juvenile wolf spider?

    1. Hi Frank, thanks for getting in touch! This is not a wolf spider. It’s a male Coras sp. funnel-weaving spider of the family Agelenidae. It’s not medically significant.

  7. This spider is 2.5-3cm in length and was seen in my garage in Jersey City, NJ. Feel free to use the pic and inform me what species it may be!

    Thanks,

    Jerry Piven, PhD
    Rutgers University

    1. Hello Jerry, thanks for uploading the picture. It’s a bit hard to tell from the angle and with the strong contrasts. Based on the picture, it looks like a male wolf spider to me.
      I can tell with certainty that this is not a medically significant spider.

  8. I keep periodically finding these spiders in my basement in Massachusetts. They’re large, 1 to 1.5 inches long (including legs). I’ve never seen one in a web, but crawling on the walls or out from under the floor trim. I think maybe a type of wolf spider?

  9. usaspiders
    Thanks for the reply,my wife and I are glad it’s not a wolf spider or medically significant.
    Much appreciated
    Frank D

  10. This was found in my kitchen and wasn’t sure what type it was can anyone help? I live in Arkansas to me it looks between a brown recluse and a wolf .

  11. Hello!
    I found this spider on its back in my basement in northern Virginia. I’m pretty sure it was dead when I found it.
    Is this a wolf spider?
    It’s the largest I’ve ever seen other than a pet tarantula. The main body is about an inch long. We just moved here from a much more urban area and now we are close to woods and the Occoquan River.

    Thanks!
    Steve

  12. 1st of two large spiders found on our property in Idaho in the past couple of weeks. 5/16/21. This spider was being dragged by a small wasp. It had a really fat body and was probably dime-sized.

    1. Hi Heather, thanks for uploading this shot! It’s really hard to tell from tis angle what type of spider it is. It’s definitely not one of the medically significant spiders. It could be some light-colored trapdoor spider (Ctenizidae sp.). But this is simply a guess.

  13. We think this is some type of wolf spider. It’s about 3 inches long including legs , and extremely fast. It hung out on a screen outside the kitchen window for at least three hours. No visible web.

  14. Saw this HUGE spider in my flowers. My brother said it’s a Wolf spider. You could see the flowers moving as it walked thru. From Southern Indiana….

  15. body is maybe hairy, with balls or beads maybe eggs? runs fairly fast with thick legs. that is a quarter in the picture

  16. Found in the house, on a shirt on the floor. About dime-sized, including legs. Curious about the thing on its back. We’re in Leander, TX. North of Austin.

  17. This was found in a finished basement in PA, just hanging out on the couch lol. Thinking a wolf spider?

    1. Hello Wade, thanks for getting in touch. It’s hard to say exactly what spider this is as it is quite hard to make out any details on the picture. The posture suggests that this might be a wolf spider. It also looks like the spider might be carrying spiderlings on its back – wolf spiders are the only spiders that do that. Wolf spiders are not medically significant:
      https://usaspiders.com/lycosidae-wolf-spider/
      I can say with certainty that this is not one of the few medically significant species found in the U.S.

  18. I’m in northern Wisconsin. This guy was in the woods by my house. It looks like an American grass spider but without the spinnerets. My dogs walk through here all the time and I want to make sure they are safe! Thank you.

  19. Hello!
    This guy startled me and got squished (sorry!) in my kitchen. I saw two larger similar spiders yesterday (downstairs bathroom and bedroom) and one more the day before (wall of entry). Hoping to find out if it is a wolf or grass spider? Thanks so much!

    1. Hello there, thanks for getting in touch. This is probably a fishing spider (Dolomedes sp.), possibly D. albineus. Fishing spiders are not medically significant.

  20. I found this not so little dude outside walking along the glass door trying to get inside. Im thinking it’s a type of grass spider. Body length was about an inch maybe longer and the two very long front legs were completely black unlike the other legs which I have never seen. It didn’t seem like there was much hair if any at all, maybe some light fuzz on the body.

  21. Found this on my back screen door in suburbs of Philadelphia PA. After researching i decided it was some sort of wolf spider and would not eat my children, or small animals, although the size seemed to tell me otherwise. Was I correct?

    1. Hello Kimberly, thanks for getting in touch and for uploading this shot. You were right with the assumption that it is unlikely to eat (or harm) your children. However, it’s not a wolf spider – this is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus): https://usaspiders.com/dolomedes-fishing-spider/
      They are not medically significant spiders.

  22. Found in central New Jersey. very small (leg span probably the size of a dime or slightly smaller) with no web in sight. i’ve seen this kind of spider before but never known what it was.

    1. Hello Cecilia, thanks for uploading this picture. This is a wolf spider. They are not medically significant. This one looks like it has been through some trouble as it is missing two of its legs. The legs will re-grow with the next molt. Here is more information about wolf spiders: https://usaspiders.com/lycosidae-wolf-spider/

  23. Dark fishing or Wolf spider? This fella scared the goonies out of me at 4am(before bedtime for this night-shifter) in central Ohio. After regaining my composure, though I’m not normally terrified of spiders, he was ushered into a small box and released 50 yards from the house. For size, those are 1 inch square holes in the laundry basket that he jumped out from under.

  24. Hello! Might you be able to help identify this little guy? He looked to be roughly about 1” to 1.5” in length when stretched out and dead when I found him. Thanks!!

  25. I found this spider in the garage this morning. I’m not exactly sure, but I believe it’s either a wolf spider or a fishing spider. It was quite large. The baseboard is 4″ high for reference. We live in the countryside near Weatherford, Texas.

  26. Found in Kansas by my neighbor, she says the body was “bigger than a half dollar” Is it a Texas brown tarantula? Something else? Do we need to worry? I’ve seen some around our house as well.
    I have another photo of the underside, but I guess I can only upload one.

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