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
  • Rabid wolf spider
  • Wolf spider in Montana
  • North American wolf spider
  • Wolf spider photo
  • Lycosidae wolf spider in Michigan
  • Wolf spider Virginia
  • Wolf spider in Colorado
  • Rabid wolf spider in grass Virginia
  • Black-Wolf-Spider-Brenda-Ohio
  • Black-Wolf-Spider-Debbie-Virginia
  • Black-Wolf-Spider-Kelly-Alabama
  • Black-Wolf-Spider-Lanie-Kansas
  • Brown-Striped-Wolf-Spider-Jay-Arkansas
  • Brown-Wolf-Spider-Bryan-Texas
  • Coin-sized-Wolf-Spider-Kim-Kentucky
  • Female-Medium-sized-Wolf-Spider-Abby-South-Carolina
  • Small-Black-Wolf-Spider-Rbnhd76-South-Georgia
  • Nice-looking-color-and-pattern-Wolf-Spider-Rachelle-Arkansas
  • Light-Gray-Black-colored-Wolf-Spider-Kyle-Missouri
  • Light-Colored-Wolf-Spider-Tim-Texas
  • Light-Brown-Spider-Divina-Michigan
  • Large-Wolf-Spider-His-Michigan
  • Large-Wolf-Spider-Cyndi-Utah
  • Large-Dark-Fuzzy-Wolf-Spider-Michelle-Tennessee
Lycosidae – Wolf Spider

52 thoughts on “Lycosidae – Wolf Spider

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. This (probably? I’d love to know) wolf spider was living between a window sill and a removable AC unit for at most five months. The spider came into the house when the unit was removed and is behind a bookcase. The scale bar is based on the width of the floorboards, which have been cropped out in this version of the image.

  7. Found this little one in my bathtub, southern Kentucky. Are they wolf spiders and can they come up from the septic tank? Seems i always find them in the bathtub. There was another one found in my living room yesterday (both released outside unharmed). Entire body just slightly more than 1/4″.

  8. We are in Jacksonville, Florida. This spider was located on our front door & is about the size of a quarter. We are native to the state & seen our share of spiders! This one has us stumped. Thanks for any info you can provide to identify it.

  9. Found this wolf spider in my basement in Northern Virginia, about 2 miles from the Potomac.

    I used a pint glass to catch it, a small glass just seemed dangerous 😉

  10. A coworker found this spider on one of the walls of our buildings on campus and we are curious if it is a Wolf spider or something else.

      1. Found one of these in my chickens water dish. I set it loose and it lived to swim another day. Thanks for the identification help. It’s not a wolf spider I typically see. With its legs it was about the size of my palm.

        Location: Spencer, Tennessee (about 30 minutes south of Cookeville and an hour north of Chattanooga)

  11. Hello. Found this spider under a piece of plywood. Is it a wolf spider? I am in Virginia. Thanks.

  12. for reference, that is a 4X4 post. Body around 1.5”. The White stripe on its back is confusing me as well as leg coloration. Montgomery, AL

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