The vast forests of Idaho provide a habitat for many animal species ranging from the endangered grizzly bear and woodland caribou to the tiny pygmy shrews. Interestingly, looking below the surface of grasslands and alpine meadows, you will find fascinating ground creatures. In particular, you will most likely catch sight of arachnids, such as solifugids, scorpions, and different types of spiders. Wolf spiders are one of the most common spiders in the state and are found in almost every habitat.
This article shares everything you need to know about wolf spiders in Idaho, including where to find them and how you can identify them.
What Is a Wolf Spider?
Wolf spiders are medium-sized spiders of the Lycosidae family. They are hairy, robust, and agile hunters with excellent vision. They are solitary creatures that hunt alone. Wolf spiders do not spin webs but prefer chasing their prey down, just like wolves. There are approximately 2,900 species of wolf spiders globally. Out of these, at least six types of wolf spiders are found in Idaho, namely:
- Pardosa dorsuncata
- Pardosa lapidicina
- Pardosa lapponica
- Pardosa sternalis
- Pardosa groenlandica
- Schizocosa mccooki
Six Common Types of Wolf Spiders in Idaho
1. Pardosa dorsuncata
Pardosa dorsuncata is a thin-legged wolf spider found in the family Lycosidae. Pardosa dorsuncata species have a distinct greenish or grey egg sac, relatively long spines, and long thin legs. Like most wolf spiders, Pardosa dorsuncata species have good eyesight that aids them in hunting. They are burrowing spiders that spend most of their time in burrows.
2. Pardosa lapidicina
Pardosa lapidicina, best known as a stone spider, is a wolf spider commonly found in Idaho. Pardosa lapidicina spiders prefer inhabiting areas near water. They are small, dark-colored arachnids, measuring approximately 6-9 mm long. Their diet mainly consists of Collembola, Diptera, and amphipods.
3. Pardosa lapponica
Pardosa lapponica is a species of wolf spider commonly sighted in Idaho. Male Pardosa lapponica spiders are about 5.5-6.1 mm long, while females are approximately 0.23-0.28 inches long. The prosoma for both sexes is brown, with two reddish spots on the anterior part of the median band and a yellow-red band on the posterior.
4. Pardosa sternalis
Pardosa sternalis are thin-legged wolf spiders of the family Lycosidae. You’ll most likely spot these spiders in shrublands and rocky mountains in Idaho. Like most wolf spiders, Pardosa sternalis spiders do not spin webs. Instead, they chase or ambush prey from their burrows.
5. Pardosa groenlandica
Pardosa groenlandica is a wolf spider species in the family of Lycosidae. Pardosa groenlandica spiders are found across Idaho in terrain that ranges from rocky beaches and exposed mountain slopes to open plains. Unlike most wolf spiders, this species can withstand very cold environments. Research shows that Pardosa groenlandica spiders can move and thrive at temperatures as low as 27.86 °F (−2.3° C).
6. Schizocosa mccooki
Schizocosa mccooki spiders are fairly common in Idaho. These spiders are light brown and have intricately patterned cephalothoraxes. They are often sighted in open meadows or grasslands. Compared to most wolf spiders, Schizocosa mccooki species are slightly larger, measuring over three inches long.
Where Do Wolf Spiders Live in Idaho
Wolf spiders are very common throughout the state of Idaho. They are often found in many habitats, from alpine meadows to shrublands and woodlands. They are nocturnal species that prefer hunting at night. Although some species build burrows to hide in and hunt from, others are wanderers without permanent homes.
Are Wolf Spiders Venomous?
There is no denying that it can be terrifying to encounter wolf spiders, especially due to their hairy appearance and agility. Despite their fearsome reputation, wolf spiders are considered harmless. They don’t pose any threat to humans. Although they can inject venom if continually provoked or cornered, it isn’t strong enough to cause serious injuries or health issues. However, allergic individuals may experience adverse reactions like itching, pain, and swelling.
What Do Wolf Spiders Eat in Idaho?
Wolf spiders are primarily insectivores. Their diet mainly consists of ants, beetles, earwigs, millipedes, and centipedes, as well as worms and insect eggs. Large wolf spiders may even hunt small reptiles and amphibians, including toads and frogs. This makes them useful in controlling natural pests around households and gardens.
Since they don’t spin webs, most wolf spiders chase and pounce on their prey. Other wolf spiders wait in their burrows and ambush the insects. Once they catch the prey, they inject venom or mash it into a ball.
Wolf Spider Predators in Idaho
Despite their intimidating appearance, wolf spiders are vulnerable to predation from spider-eating birds, coyotes, lizards, and amphibians. Predatory insects, such as scorpions and wasps, also prey on wolf spiders. These predators are typically large enough, and a wolf spider’s venom has little to no impact on them.
Wolf Spiders Lifespan: How Long Do Wolf Spiders Live?
Wolf spiders live roughly 1-2 years. Most die before they attain sexual maturity. Females eat the males after mating. For this reason, wolf spiders must produce as many offspring as possible before they die.
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- Idaho Official Government Website, Available here: https://idfg.idaho.gov/species/taxa/order/Animalia/Arthropoda/Arachnida/Araneae
- JSTOR, Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3705522
- Montana's Official State Website, Available here: https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ILARA89430
- Wiley Online Library, Available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/eth.12408