From species of venomous snakes to scorpions and numerous spider species, Texas is full of challenges. Enter the wolf spider, a scary-looking addition to the already intimidating lineup. But are wolf spiders in Texas dangerous? And how big do they get? Read on to find out everything you need to know about wolf spiders in Texas!
What is a Wolf Spider?
Wolf spiders are hairy, blocky-bodied spiders belonging to the family Lycosidae (Greek for “wolf”). Astonishingly, there are over 2,800 species of wolf spiders in 124 genera, most with similar characteristics. In Texas alone, there are 238 species of wolf spiders! Five of the most common include:
- Carolina wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis)
- Rabid wolf spider (Rabidosa rabida)
- Santa Rosa wolf spider (Arctosa sanctaerosae)
- Field wolf spider (Hogna lenta)
- Wetland giant wolf spider (Tigrosa helluo)
Wolf spiders gained their name and their reputation from their hunting techniques. Instead of weaving webs like most other spiders, they behave more like wolves. They either lie in wait in dark places or run their prey down with long, powerful legs. Unlike wolves, however, they inject their victims with venom, which liquefies their insides. Then they suck out the innards like juice. Add to this that wolf spiders look a little like wolves with their hairy bodies, and you have all the ingredients for a nightmare.
How to Identify Texas Wolf Spiders
Wolf spiders in Texas can be difficult to identify, especially from species to species. Most types look alike, with the biggest variations having to do with color or size. Some people even confuse them with tarantulas, which also inhabit the state of Texas. However, one easy way to identify a wolf spider is by the number and size of its eyes. Any member of the family Lycosidae will have eight eyes in three rows. The bottom row just above the mouth has four small eyes. Above that are the two main eyes, larger than the other six. The top row has two smaller eyes set far to either side of the face.
Though not as stocky as tarantulas, wolf spiders have fairly thick bodies with long legs and copious hair. Their mouth appendages are enormous, packing a big bite. Colors range from black to brown to grey with the possibility of tan or light orange markings.
How Big Do Texas Wolf Spiders Get?
Texas is home to the largest wolf spider species, the Carolina wolf spider. It tops the charts with a body length of up to 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters), though most specimens measure no more than 1.2 inches (3 centimeters). Some members of Lycosidae are much smaller, as small as 0.24 inches (0.6 centimeters) in body length. However, this spider’s protracted legs make it look larger than it actually is. Females are larger than males, as is the case with most spider species.
Where Are Texas Wolf Spiders Found?
Wolf spiders are bountiful in Texas, which isn’t something its human inhabitants want to hear. No region of the state is off-limits, though these arachnids especially appreciate Texas’s drier, sandier areas. They also make their presence known as house and garden pests. Residents often find them in tall grass or dark nooks throughout the house.
Interestingly, wolf spiders leave trails of silk that other wolf spiders can use to find them. Males sometimes use this technique to hunt down females for mating! If there’s a dragline around a house or garden, there could well be more than one wolf spider in the vicinity.
What Do Texas Wolf Spiders Eat?
There’s good news when it comes to wolf spiders: they love to eat insects! Since Texas has a greater diversity of bugs than any other place in the United States, residents may want to rethink killing the wolf spiders in their homes. These hairy arachnids are partial to insects like ants, flies, earwigs, roaches, crickets, grasshoppers, centipedes, and millipedes. If they’re especially hungry and they have the chance, they will even attack small reptiles and amphibians! They also eat insect eggs, which means they can be an important form of pest prevention.
Texas Wolf Spider Predators
Strange though it may seem, wolf spiders make a tasty treat for a number of natural predators. Birds of prey like owls find them worth the effort as well as various lizards and rodents. Wolf spiders may be hard to keep hold of, however: they can detach their legs to escape and regenerate them over time. Because their laws are powerful, they can also bite back with a vengeance.
Are Texas Wolf Spiders Dangerous?
Texas wolf spiders are not dangerous to humans. Though they have large mouth appendages and are technically venomous, they rarely bite except when directly threatened. In any case, bites on humans are not fatal except in the case of an allergic reaction. The wolf spider’s venom simply isn’t powerful enough to do more than raise mild swelling and redness at the site. As long as people exercise common sense and don’t attempt to handle any wolf spiders they find, a bite is highly unlikely. If the homeowner can stand to knowingly live with a wolf spider, it will provide the benefit of keeping insect pests under control.
Texas Wolf Spider Lifespan
The typical wolf spider’s lifespan is 1-2 years, though this may vary slightly from species to species. They mature quickly, usually within a few weeks, and begin breeding soon after. Female wolf spiders carry their eggs, and eventually their live young, on their backs. Not only is this of benefit nutritionally, but the spiderlings can also take advantage of the additional protection this affords.
Because females carry their broods on their backs, stepping on them is unwise. Though it may kill her, it also has a high likelihood of scattering spiderlings throughout the home or yard. This would immediately negate the benefits of killing the adult.
Texas is full of tough and fascinating creatures, the wolf spider not the least of them. Next time you spot a wolf spider, don’t step on it! If you let it live, you might just get to see its famous hunting prowess in action.
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