Wolf Spider

Wolf Spider (Florida Wolf Spider)

Quick Overview

Size: 1-2”

Characteristics: 

Florida wolf spiders are large with a gray, black, or brown pattern on their backs. They closely resemble the more dangerous brown recluse spider. 

Habitat 

Wolf spiders can be found in grassy areas and piles of leaves. They are also frequently found indoors, hiding near doors and windows along with dark, undisturbed areas like basements, garages, and closets.

Behavior 

Florida wolf spiders are unique because they don’t build webs to capture their prey. Instead, they patrol for insects by walking around on the ground, day and night. 

What does a wolf spider look like?

Wolf spiders are common, with many individual species found in the state of Florida. They can be as large as two inches in length, though their hairy limbs often make them appear larger. Many people like their appearance to that of a tarantula or even a brown recluse spider. 

They can be differentiated by their behavior – wolf spiders move much more quickly and are more likely to be found in the home than a brown recluse (which is more secretive). 

What is the habitat of a wolf spider in Florida?

In Florida, wolf spiders can be found just about everywhere. They live by the thousands in leaf litter as well as in grassy areas. They occasionally build small burrows. They will also wander indoors from time to time, preferring to inhabit quiet, dark areas like garages and basements. 

What are the behaviors of a wolf spider?

Wolf spiders are unique because they do not build webs and can be particularly dangerous when found in homes. They have phenomenal vision and can see humans coming close – usually they will flee. 

Some wolf spiders are nocturnal, using reflective structures in their eyes to maximize night vision. There are some wolf spiders that build burrows and defend a specific territory, while others prefer to roam. Female spiders keep their young on their backs until they are fully grown.

How dangerous is a wolf spider?

Wolf spiders tend to cause the most alarm for Florida homeowners because they are so large. They are fast and aggressive when hunting but rarely bite humans unless provoked. If you are bitten, the bite shouldn’t be toxic, but it can be quite painful. Those with compromised immune systems, children, and the elderly may have more severe reactions.

What should I do if I’m bitten by a wolf spider?

It is important to seek medical attention if you’re bitten by a wolf spider, especially since these harmless spiders look quite similar to many toxic lookalikes (such as the brown recluse). Wash the wound immediately and use a cold compress to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Animalia

Subkingdom: Bilateria

Infrakingdom: Protostomia 

Superphylum: Ecdysozoa

Phylum: Arthropoda

Subphylum: Chelicerata

Class: Arachnida 

Order:  Araneae

Family: Lycosidae

Genus & species: Hogna lenta

Wolf Spider Facts and Myths

1. Fact: Wolf spiders are found just about everywhere in the world.

This is true! Wolf spiders are some of the most diverse groups of spiders out there, with dozens of individual species spread out on every continent except Antarctica. They are valuable additions to the environment, helping to provide necessary pest control services.

2. Myth: Wolf spider bites are poisonous.

Although they may be painful, the bite from a wolf spider isn’t likely to cause any long-term harm (as long as you’re not elderly, a child, or immunocompromised). Seek medical attention just in case – but you should be fine. 

3. Myth: Wolf spiders have just two big eyes.

Well…sort of. Wolf spiders have eight eyes altogether, but they have two that are extremely large and particularly noticeable. These large eyes are meant to provide the wolf spider with some night vision – and if you happen to shine a light on them in the dark, you’ll even notice them glowing! 

4. Fact: Wolf spiders jump.

Wolf spiders often jump on their prey, with the distance they can jump varying depending on the species of wolf spider. The good news is that they don’t usually jump on humans!

5. Fact: You can reduce the number of wolf spiders around your home by keeping your lawn cleaned up.

Although wolf spiders aren’t harmful, there’s a good chance that you probably don’t want them hanging around your house. Fortunately, you can usually keep them out by keeping your lawn trimmed and tidy. These spiders are more likely to build burrows in yards that feel like nature – give it a human touch, and you can say goodbye (for the most part) to the spiders.

Photo Credit: Raphaël Poupon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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