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 FLORIDA SPIDERS
A source for information on spiders

 Wolf Spider  Family Lycosidae

Wolf spiders are hairy arachnids that can grow up to five inches in leg span. Quick moving and relatively large in size, wolf spiders inspire fear when they are found within human dwellings. Wolf spiders are also sometimes confused for tarantulas. However, occurrences of wolf spider bites are extremely rare and are not known to be deadly.

The Carolina wolf spider is the largest documented wolf spider in the United States. Its color matches its habitat, allowing for camouflage. Other wolf spider species may inhabit alpine meadows, coastal forests, dry shrub lands and woodlands. Most species are burrowers that live underground, although some specimens can be seen traveling aboveground in leaf litter, on lawns and in gardens. Most wolf spiders are also nocturnal, although some do hunt in the morning. A wolf spider’s diet typically consists of insects and other small spiders.

Appearance:
Wolf spiders are large, hairy spiders that are typically mottled brown to gray in color with various markings or lines. They also have two large, forward-looking eyes in the middle of their face.

Size:
Range from ½ to 2-inches in length.

Behavior:
Most wolf spiders have stout bodies and long, thick legs. Their bodies are low to the ground even when walking or running, giving them the appearance of continually being on the prowl. As skilled daytime hunters, their dull coloring helps to camouflage them as they hunt along the ground. “Wolf spider” is a common name for any of a group of ground-dwelling hunting spiders that are not associated with webs. There are more than 2000 species and are large enough to sometimes be mistaken with tarantulas.

The hunting strategies of Florida wolf spiders are perhaps the most diverse of any spider group. Many are active, wandering hunters during the day in sunny areas along the ground and in vegetation; others hunt at night and remain in silk-lined “retreats” during the day. Others live and hunt in aquatic environments, walking on the surface of ponds or on submerged vegetation. Some wolf spiders dig burrows in which they lie in wait for passing insects and other prey. Of the Florida spiders that dig burrows, some add a moveable trap door at the burrow entrance while others build an elevated lookout point.

The female wolf spider lays eggs in a large sac, which can often be as large as her own body. She attaches the egg sac to her body, and carries it with her until the eggs hatch. She then tears open the egg sac and the newly hatched spiders climb onto her back where they remain for up to a week. They do not usually breed indoors or in homes.

Habitat:
Wolf spiders are commonly found in gardens, leaf litter and areas of tall grass where they patrol the ground for insects, and similar prey, though they can be found in a variety of habitats. They may also dwell under stones and logs, preferring covered, hidden areas. Wolf spiders are rarely pests, and usually enter structures underneath doors or through cracks in the exterior walls where their size can frighten some.

Bite Signs and Symptoms:
Wolf spiders are not poisonous, and will typically bite only when handled. As with most spiders bites, they may cause reactions in certain individuals.

Control:
Keep grass cut low and vegetation from overgrowing in yards and gardens near the home. Disperse rock and lumber piles, and seal any cracks or spaces around plumbing pipes leading indoors. Also, as with most other pests, cover all vents with screening.

The best approach for controlling wolf spiders is through placement of sticky traps to capture the few spiders that may have entered. Maintaining sticky traps behind furniture, to either side of exterior doors, and in the garage is an excellent way to intercept most spiders as they enter. Steps that should be taken to prevent new spiders from entering, include:

  • Removing or limiting heavy, ground-covering vegetation near the building.
  • Sealing cracks and holes in the building's exterior.
  • Installing tight-fitting screens on all attic and foundation vents.
  • Sealing holes around pipes indoors to prevent spiders from entering the living spaces by following plumbing lines in basements and crawl spaces.

Where wolf spider invasions are persistent, a professional should be consulted to conduct a thorough inspection and recommend possible treatments.

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