What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: December 15, 2021
© iStock.com/CathyKeifer
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Wolf spiders are well known throughout the world. They live on every continent except Antarctica, and have even been found north of the Arctic Circle. They prefer to live in piles of foliage or leafy debris, but can also be found living in small burrows. Wolf spiders are perhaps most well known for carrying their babies on their backs. But just what do wolf spiders eat? And how do they feed all those babies?

Here, we’ll discover the wolf spider’s favorite foods, how they hunt, and what to feed your pet wolf spider. Then, we’ll explore the wolf spider’s lifecycle, starting with the spiderlings on the mother’s back.

What Do Wolf Spiders Like to Eat?

What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?
Wolf spiders eat ants, earth worms, and smaller spiders, among other things. They are carnivores

©iStock.com/Goldfinch4ever

Wolf spiders eat a diet that consists mostly of ground-dwelling insects like ants, worms, and insect eggs. They are carnivores and hunt their prey. Wolf spiders, which can be anywhere from one to three inches in length with their legs outstretched, have even been known to eat small frogs and toads. They are opportunistic hunters that prey mostly on non-flying insects. A few of their favorite foods include:

  • Ants  
  • Beetles  
  • Earwigs  
  • Worms  
  • Spiders  
  • Roaches  
  • Pill bugs  
  • Aphids  
  • Millipedes  
  • Centipedes 

Less commonly, wolf spiders will even eat insect eggs and flying insects, if they happen to land on the ground long enough. The largest wolf spiders, particularly those in Australia, have even been observed eating small frogs and toads. 

How Do Wolf Spiders Hunt?

What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?
Some wolf spiders dig burrows. They hide in the burrow, and when an insect walks by, they pounce

©iStock.com/martinezcanovas

Wolf spiders are solitary creatures with two main methods of hunting. They have long, powerful legs and excellent eyesight which they use to spot prey. Unlike jumping spiders, wolf spiders are nocturnal, and hunt primarily at night. They have such good night vision that they even have a tapetum lucidum structure within their primary pair of eyes. This means that if you shined a flashlight at a wolf spider in the dark, its eyes would shine back at you like a cat’s. 

The wolf spider hunts its prey much like a wolf. First, they spot the unfortunate insect. Then, using their powerful legs, they literally run the prey down and pounce on its back when they get close enough. From there, they hold the insect in their strong mandibles and inject a venom that liquifies the creature’s insides.

Alternatively, some species of wolf spider dig tube-like burrows that they line with silk and sometimes camouflage with a home-made trapdoor. Once the burrow is complete, the wolf spider waits at the entrance for an insect to walk by. When it does, the wolf spider lunges and catches the prey in its strong legs.

What Do Wild Wolf Spiders Eat?

In the wild, wolf spiders eat whatever ground-dwelling insects are most abundant in that particular region. Since wolf spiders live in so many places around the world, including high altitude mountains and riverine locales, their diet varies widely. Wolf spiders are carnivores, and eat no plant material. They are not opposed to eating insect eggs, or freshly dead insects, if they find them. 

Wolf spiders can be distinguished from other types of spiders by their long, strong legs. They also have a unique eye configuration; four small eyes below two large eyes, with two more small eyes almost on the top of their head. There are around 200 hundred species of wolf spider in North America, and about 50 in Europe.

Wolf spiders, though scary to some, are not dangerous to humans. They will only bite if in danger, and even then, their bite is not considered dangerous. Gardeners and farmers the world over actually favor wolf spiders because they eat many insects that are considered pests. 

What Do Pet Wolf Spiders Eat?

What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?
Captive wolf spiders eat mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers

©iStock.com/JAH

Wolf spiders may not eat cricket sized sheep, but they do love a good grasshopper or worm. Wolf spiders are relatively easy to care for and are a favorite of spider enthusiasts because of their exuberant hunting style. Pet wolf spiders eat almost anything their owners give them, as long as the prey is small enough. 

Wolf spiders should be fed at least every two days, though large wolf spiders may need to be fed every day. Flies are also a good option for captive wolf spiders, as are mealworms and roaches.

What Do Baby Wolf Spiders Eat?

One of the things wolf spiders are best known for is their egg and spiderling rearing behavior. When the female produces eggs, she encases them in an egg sac that she then attaches to her spinnerets (silk producing organs on the rear end of her thorax). She drags the egg sac behind her until the eggs mature. Once the eggs hatch, the new spiderlings don’t just up and leave. Instead, they cling to their mother’s back for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Once the baby wolf spiders are big enough, they leave the mother to fend for themselves. They are carnivores, and eat the same types of things as adults, albeit on a smaller scale. The bigger they get, the bigger their prey gets.


The Featured Image

What Do Wolf Spiders Eat?
Wolf spiders can be found throughout the North American continent.
© iStock.com/CathyKeifer

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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