Wolf Spiders: The Stealthy Hunters Lurking in Your Backyard

Professional Infographic on the Wolf Spider
Wolf spiders are widely distributed throughout the world, including Australia. Australian Wolf spiders are most commonly found in suburban backyards, where they use their superb hunting skills to stalk prey. They are also known to venture inside the family home to stay warm.

Much like the Huntsman spider, the Wolf spider is so named for its distinct hunting skills.

While other spiders prefer to hang out in their web, and wait for their prey to come to them, Wolf spiders use their agility and superb eyesight to stalk their prey – much like a wolf.

But what does this mean for humans? Are we also in the Wolf spider’s firing line? Keep on reading to find out.

What are Wolf spiders?

There are many different species of Wolf spiders, all of which belong to the Lycosidae family.

According to Live Science, there are nearly 2,400 species of Wolf spiders distributed across the globe in a wide range of coastal and inland habitats, including shrublands, woodlands, and rainforests.

Per Backyard Buddies, Australia’s most common Wolf Spider, the Garden Wolf spider (Tasmanicosa godeffroy) prefers open woodlands and suburban backyards.

Wolf spiders are known to primarily feed on ground-dwelling invertebrates, such as crickets, ants, and other spiders, while larger species are also wont to feed on a selection of small vertebrates, including frogs, toads, and lizards.

What do Wolf spiders look like?

Though there are nearly 2,400 species of Wolf spiders, several of which have their own distinct characteristics, they are typically drab in colour, and have variegated pattens of grey, brown, or black markings.

Likewise, they are relatively hairy and can range in size from 1.2 to 5 centimetres.

One of their most interesting features, however, are their eyes – they have eight eyes organised across three rows, one of which is located at the top of their rounded head.

As a result, they have excellent eyesight that allows them to hunt nocturnally without using webs or vibrations, as other spiders do.

Where are Wolf spiders found?

Though Wolf spiders are found just about anywhere they can hunt and eat invertebrates, Australians are most likely to stumble across them in the humble backyard.

Many species of Wolf spiders reside in burrows – though, interestingly, females prefer to carry their egg sacs and hatchlings on their back until the latter are old enough to survive on their own.

According to Backyard Buddies, female Wolf spiders have been known to enter the family home to protect their egg sacs and hatchlings from the cold.

Are Wolf spiders aggressive?

Though Wolf spiders have been known to take down relatively formidable prey like cane toads, they are not so keen on taking down humans.

Wolf spiders typically run away from trouble and will only bite when threatened.

This is important to remember, as you may inadvertently dig up a Wolf spider while tending to your garden.

First aid for a Wolf spider bite

Wolf spider bites generally only cause mild symptoms in humans, including localised pain or itchiness at the bite site.

Less common and more severe symptoms can include prolonged pain and swelling at the bite site, as well as nausea, dizziness, and a rapid pulse.

In any case, you should treat Wolf spider bites using the following first aid procedure:

  • Reassure the casualty and keep them under constant observation.
  • Apply a cold compress to the bite site for periods of up to 20 minutes to lessen the pain.
  • If the casualty is a young child (under 8 years), a pregnant woman, or if they exhibit any signs of deterioration, follow the basic life support guidelines per DRSABCD and call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.
  • DO NOT use the Pressure Immobilisation Technique, as the venom moves slowly and this will just worsen the pain.

If the pain persists or you are worried about your symptoms, it is best to seek medical attention.

Spider bites and anaphylaxis

If the casualty begins exhibiting signs of a severe allergic reaction, otherwise known as anaphylaxis, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, consult the Australian Resuscitation Council's anaphylaxis treatment guideline, and follow DRSABCD and prepare to perform CPR.

Other fun facts about the Wolf spider

  • Some inland species of Wolf spiders have a salmon-pink underside.
  • Once Wolf spider hatchlings are ready to take on the world, they send out web-like tendrils that catch in the wind and ‘balloon’ the hatchlings to new locations.
  • One easy trick to work out if you’ve got resident Wolf spiders is to shine a torch onto your lawn at night, as their eyes shine green under torchlight.

Conclusion

Wolf spiders are widely distributed throughout Australia, with the common backyard garden proving to be the preferred habitat of many species.

Wolf spiders are so named for their predilection to stalk prey, which can include invertebrates and small vertebrates alike.

One vertebrate that wolf spiders do not have their eyes on, however, are humans. Unless provoked, they mostly run away from trouble.

In any case, their bites typically only result in localised pain and itching that can be remedied with a cold compress - so, the next time you run into a Wolf spider, thank them for keeping the local insect population at bay, and bid them a nice day.

Recommended resources

If you would like to learn more about providing first aid in the event of a spider bite, book a First Aid course with us today.

We also have articles on what to do if you get stung or bitten by a snake, fire ant, and different types of marine life.

And for more details on how to identify and treat bites from some of Australia's deadliest spiders, including Huntsman spiders, head to our Resource Library.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, replace, or qualify as any form of first aid training.

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