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Wolf Spiders in Nebraska
by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator
Wolf spiders are among the largest spiders in Nebraska. They are common outdoors, and only accidentally find their way indoors by wandering into houses and buildings. Many people who find one of the larger species of wolf spiders think that they look like small tarantulas because they are quite hairy.
Even though some wolf spiders are large, there are also many smaller species. Regardless of their size, wolf spiders are distinguished by a distinctive eye pattern. Their eyes are arranged in two rows with four small eyes in the lower row. The upper row is recurved with a large pair of middle eyes directed forward and a smaller pair of lateral eyes located further back.
Wolf spiders do not build webs to catch their prey, but are active hunters–they either ambush or freely hunt their prey. They are appropriately named because they powerfully pounce on their victims. Wolf spiders use their eyesight to detect prey, but also react to vibrations.
Outdoors, wolf spiders are common in most terrestrial habitats, but are often found in areas of tall shrubs or dense grasses their insect prey is abundant. When they are not actively searching for food, they may be found hiding under rocks or other objects. Some species dig burrows into the soil.
The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office
Contact InformationUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A,
Lincoln, NE 68528
The mother wolf spider is notable in the arachnid world because she demonstrates a degree of maternal behavior. She attaches her large egg sac to her spinnerets (the organs at the tip of her abdomen that make silk) and carries it around with her until the spiderlings hatch. (photo right). If the egg sac is removed, she searches for it until she finds it and reattaches it. At hatching time, the mother wolf spider opens the rim of the cocoon with her mouthparts to help her spiderlings escape. After hatching, the spiderlings, which may number a hundred or more, immediately climb on their mother's abdomen and ride there for about a week. They gradually disperse and take in food for the first time.
Wolf spiders are not considered to be poisonous, although a bite may cause a reaction in certain individuals. The presence of wolf spiders in the house is particularly common in the late summer and fall of the year. Because there usually are only a few spiders at most, it usually isn't necessary to use an insecticide. Instead, put sticky traps (i.e., mouse glue boards) in the corners of rooms to passively trap unwanted spiders and other insects.
Outdoors, wolf spiders are beneficial because they feed on so many insects; if you catch a live one, returning it outside is a good thing to do.
Wolf Spiders as Pets. If you want to try an undemanding pet, try keeping a wolf spider. Wolf spiders like dark places so an upside down plastic margarine tub with a hole cut in the side makes a good shelter. Be sure to provide food and water. Water can be provided by soaking a small piece of sponge and keeping it free from mold.
We kept an adult female wolf spider in our office for several months. She readily ate crickets from the pet store and even laid an egg case. After her spiderlings hatched, we decided it was time to return her and her babies to the great outdoors.