Are Wolf Spiders Poisonous?

Fear not! Not poisonous to you

Table of Contents

Are Wolf Spiders Poisonous?

It’s the stuff that makes up nightmares: a large hairy spider popping out at you from under a log. Don’t be frightened. Wolf spiders only appear dangerous due to their size and their coloring. A wolf spider will bite you if it feels threatened, for example, if you tried to hold it in your hand. Its bite is very painful, but its Venom  isn’t poisonous.

Wolf Spider. Archbold Biological Station. Venus, Florida
Wolf Spider. Archbold Biological Station. Venus, Florida, Credit: Wikimedia/Judy Gallagher

Wolf spider habitats

There are over 2,300 species of wolf spiders belonging in the family Lycosidae. They’re the most common species of spider in the world.

 

Wolf spiders are solitary arachnid . Various species can be found on sand bars, or stream edges, in holes under rocks or logs, and under plants. Wolf spiders don’t spin webs but dig burrows .

 

When the weather gets harsher, one might inhabit a garage or basement. Wolf spiders are found worldwide in deserts, grasslands, wetlands, and even on mountains.

How to identify a wolf spider

Spiders belong in the phylum Arthropoda. They have eight legs and two main body parts, the cephalothorax and the abdomen. The first pair of appendage found in front of the mouth is called the chelicerae . These are pincer-like and will hold and crush prey. The venom sacs and the fangs are located on the chelicerae. The second appendages are the pedipalps  which are used for touch. Spiders do not have jaws and will inject digestive fluids into their prey to liquify it.

 

The wolf spider’s body size ranges from a quarter of an inch (0.6 cm) to an inch (2.5 cm).

 

A wolf spider carapace  can be brown or black, with tan, red, or yellow markings, usually seen as stripes. Its appendages can be a solid color or banded with two colors of brown. Tigrosa aspersa has a narrow line of yellow hairs near its eyes. Males are lighter in color than females.

 

Its dark coloring helps the wolf spider camouflage  itself and protects it from predators. Common predators of the wolf spider include frogs, lizards, birds, and coyotes.

Wolf spider defending its egg sac
Wolf spider defending its egg sac, Credit: Wikimedia/Brummfuss

How a wolf spider hunts

Wolf spiders don’t build webs to catch their prey. They are nocturnal , meaning they’re active during the night. Wolf spiders feel vibrations to sense prey is near their burrow. With the help of their exceptional night vision, they track and chase prey. The spider waits until the insect comes close and ambushes it. While holding it with its legs, the wolf spider injects its venom into the insect, paralyzing  it. Later, it carries its captured food home by using its eight eyes like a compass to track direction.

 

Read more: How many eyes do spiders have?

Wolf spider burrows

Some species of wolf spiders build intriguing burrows with a trapdoor, while others take small pebbles and block their burrow opening. A few species build a wall of twigs around the burrow for protection from predators. The Hogna lenta spider spins tripwires on top of their burrow. If a cricket walks over the web, the spider senses the movement. It attacks the insect and injects neurotoxin  into it with their fangs.

Readability: 69.1

 

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 6.1

Glossary

Venom: a poisonous substance secreted by animals such as snakes, spiders, and scorpions, and typically injected into prey or aggressors by biting or stinging

 

Arachnid: an arthropod of the class Arachnida, such as a spider or scorpion

 

Burrows: a hole or tunnel dug by a small animal as a dwelling

 

Cephalothorax: the fused head and thorax of spiders and other chelicerate arthropods

 

Appendage: a body part (such as an arm or leg) that is attached to the main part of the body

 

Chelicerae: pair of appendages in front of the mouth in arachnids and some other arthropods, usually modified as pincer-like claws

 

Pedipalps: the second pair of appendages of various arthropods (such as an arachnid or horseshoe crab) that lie on each side of the mouth and often perform a specialized function (such as grasping or feeling)

 

Carapace: the hard upper shell of a turtle, crustacean, or arachnid

 

Camouflage: a natural phenomenon used by plants and animals to blend into their environment

 

Nocturnal: an animal or a plant that is active at night

 

Paralyzing: causing a person or part of the body to become partly or wholly incapable of movement

 

Neurotoxin: a poison which acts on the nervous system

Wolf Spiders. November 18, 2022. https://extension.psu.edu/wolf-spiders

 

Szalay, Jessie. Wolf Spiders: Behavior, Bites and Other Facts. March 7, 2022.
https://www.livescience.com/41467-wolf-spider.html

 

Wolf Spider Facts and Pictures. July 5, 2017. https://infinitespider.com/wolf-spider-facts-and-pictures/

 

Woo, Marcus. Are We There Yet? Wolf Spiders Use Their Eyes as Odometers. July 18,2017. https://www.insidescience.org/news/brief-are-we-there-yet-wolf-spiders-use-their-eyes-odometers

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