There are many different species of wolf spider, which are so named because they actively hunt and run down their prey. Most species are dark brown or grey in colour with black, grey, orange or brown markings. Wolf spiders have three rows of eyes – the top row of two are medium sized, the middle row consists of two large eyes and below is a row of four smaller ones. These provide the spider with exceptionally good eyesight for spotting and catching its prey. Its body is relatively hairy, and the legs are long. The male can reach up to 20mm long and the female up to 35mm. Wolf spiders are not generally regarded as dangerous. However, there have been some instances where bites from a wolf spider are believed to have caused the spreading skin ulceration known as necrotic archnadism. This disease is probably caused by bacteria infecting the bite wound rather than the actual venom of the spider.
Wolf spiders occupy a huge range of habitats, including open woodlands, grasslands and forests. Many species reside in burrows, which are about 25cm deep. These are laboriously excavated using the spider’s fangs. Various species of wolf spider are common in private gardens and at night a torch will often reveal huge numbers of reflective eyes scouring the backyard for suitable prey items.
The wolf spider eats crickets, other spiders, ants, grasshoppers and many other types of small invertebrates. Large species will also occasionally take small lizards and frogs. It usually searches for its food at night.
The male wolf spider attracts the female by waving its pedipalps and front legs in the air. If these signals are carried out in the right fashion, the female does not regard the male as being the next potential meal. After mating, the female produces a silk mat into which she deposits around 100 eggs. The silk is then rolled into a protective ball which she then attaches to her abdomen and proceeds to carry it around with her until the eggs hatch. After hatching, the babies crawl onto the mother’s back and remain there until their fat reserves have been used up and they need to start finding their own food, which may take several months.