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” (10mm), while some species of the Wolf Spider reaches up to around 3” (76mm). (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 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 the Fall season.

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

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 in Colorado
Photography by: Melanie Johnson – Arvada, Colorado
Lycosidae – Wolf Spider

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top