Ten facts about wolf spiders

6 February 2014 by Christopher Buddle, posted in Spiders, Ten facts

I'm going to start a semi-regular series of blog posts called "Ten facts". In this series (and will the help of other experts), I'll highlight interesting facts about particular groups of organisms; facts that are hopefully new to many and hopefully open people's imagination and curiosity about biodiversity.  Since I know some things about wolf spiders, I'll start with these marvellous spiders:

  1. Wolf spiders are in the Order Araneae (spiders) and in the family Lycosidae; there are about close to 2400 species within this family, worldwide.
  2. Wolf spiders have eight eyes. In fact, most spider species have eight eyes.
  3. Wolf spider females carry their egg sacs attached to their abdomens, as photograph at the end of this post illustrates. These egg sacs often appear "blueish" in colour (I do not know why this is the case…). Many, many eggs are contained within these egg sacs. For example, some of my own research has found between well over 40 eggs in the sacs of some relatively small-bodied species in the genus Pardosa. Many, many more eggs can be found in the egg sacs of larger species.
  4. After the young wolf spiders (called 'spiderlings') hatch, the crawl upon their mother's abdomen, and she carries them around for a while before they disperse off their mother's abdomen.
  5. Sometimes parasitic wasps will lay their eggs in the wolf spider egg sacs, and these wasps end up consuming the contents of the egg sac. So, instead of spiderlings, wasps will emerge.
  6. Wolf spiders are really nothing like wolves: they aren't mammals, they don't hunt in packs, and they don't howl at the moon. They are sort-of hairy, though, and are largely carnivorous, but that's about the limit of the similarities
  7. Many wolf spiders are commonly associated with wet/boggy areas, especially those in the genus Pirata. Sometimes wolf spiders are confused with spiders in family Pisauridae; a family which includes many species also commonly associated with bodies of water (e.g., in the genus Dolomedes). Interestingly, Pisaurid females also carry around egg sacs, but instead of attaching to their spinnerets (back end) they carry them around with their chelicerae ('mouth')
  8. Wolf spiders are pretty quick, and run around a great deal, especially in open-habitats, when the sun in shining. There is some evidence to suggest females speed up development of their young by 'sunning' their egg sacs on warm days.
  9. Wolf spiders use multi-modal means to communicate, from visual to vibratory cues, as this review paper discusses. You can see (& hear) some evidence of this in a video showing courtship behaviour by males. Overall, wolf spiders have been a model taxon for studies of behaviour and communication.
  10. Wolf spiders are among the most abundant arthropods in northern regions, especially in open boreal forest habitats, and in the Arctic. There densities can be extraordinary (estimated at about 0.5 individuals per square meter). Although their diversity is not really high in these regions, their biomass is. They are important food for many vertebrates (e.g., birds)
An Arctic wolf spider (Alopecosa hirtipes)

An Arctic wolf spider (Alopecosa hirtipes)


10 Responses to “Ten facts about wolf spiders”

  1. dcf Reply | Permalink

    i'm sorry, i hate spiders. In Brisbane where I grew up I used to chase them out of the house with a cricket bat. Now in the UK the spiders are much smaller and less in number but still horrible. Perhaps I have a phobia as I am ok with snakes etc.
    But a good idea to do a 10 things list, very entertaining. I remember one species of spider being as big as a plate and living in the shower - more terrifying than Psycho!!!!!

  2. Paige Brown Reply | Permalink

    What about biting habits?! :-) great post!

    • Marshall Reply | Permalink

      Spiders rarely bite humans (it's usually a last-ditch defense effort for when the primary defense (running away!) fails). :)

  3. Marshall Reply | Permalink

    I like the idea of a "ten facts" feature, so please do make it a regular one! :D

    Wolf spiders are great.

    I always forget to look into the use of color in Lycosid egg sacs. You mentioned the blueish color, but this seems to vary from species to species from what I've seen. I've seen beautiful baby blue sacs carried by small wolf spiders, I've seen kind of boring grey sacs, and I tried to take a picture of one of the egg sacs of a Rabidosa punctulata some time ago:
    This is one of two R. punctulata spiders I've had that spun sacs, and both started out as this beautiful dark green-blue.

    Wolf spiders make excellent pets. :D

  4. Gilles Arbour Reply | Permalink

    I wonder how many species of wolf spiders there are in Southern Quebec?

    • Christopher Buddle Reply | Permalink

      Good question! We've collected about a dozen species at the Morgan Arboretum (on the island of Montreal), and there are quite a few we missed, so I think there are probably close to 20 species of Lycosids in southern Quebec.

  5. Roni G Reply | Permalink

    My friend has a wolfie on the wall just outside of his porch door. It is not camouflaged in that the wall is beige and the spider dark brown. She is HUGE and complete with what is now known as a baby sac. We are in central Florida, USA.It's comforting to know that the bite is fairly benign and that there is a positive job for these arachnids.
    Thanks for the 10 Most list. It really helps.
    Pray for Peace and that Putin doesnt kill us all.

  6. Caitlin Reply | Permalink

    I saw a large wolf spider with her abdomen covered in spiderlings hanging out at the top of a mare's tail plant. Was she setting them up to do some ballooning, perhaps?

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