Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders are large hunting spiders. Two notable species, Hogna carolinensis and H. aspersa, are occasionally encountered in Pennsylvania homes.
Wolf Spiders - Articles

Updated: December 10, 2018

Wolf Spiders

Edward L. Manigault, Clemson University Donated Collection, Bugwood.org

Lycosidae—Wolf Spiders

(Hogna, Tigrosa, and other genera)

This group contains approximately 240 species in twenty-one genera in the United States. The genera Hogna and Tigrosa contain nineteen and five species, respectively, including some of the biggest wolf spiders in our area. Two notable species, H. carolinensis and T. aspersa, are among the largest and most commonly encountered in Pennsylvania homes.

Description


Tigrosa female carrying young spiderlings. Photo by Iustin Cret, BugGuide.net, photo# 1122233

Hogna carolinensis females are 22 to 35 millimeters in length, and the males are 18 to 20 millimeters. The carapace is a dark brown with scattered gray hairs that are typically not arranged in any discernible pattern. The abdomen is similarly colored, with a somewhat darker dorsal stripe. The legs are a solid color.

Tigrosa aspersa females are 18 to 25 millimeters in length, and the males are 16 to 18 millimeters. They are similar to H. carolinensis in body color but have a distinct narrow line of yellow hairs on the carapace in the vicinity of the eyes. The legs are banded with a lighter brown color at the joints. The males are much lighter in color than the females, and only their third and fourth pairs of legs are banded with a lighter color.

Life History

Both of these spiders are found in similar habitats and have similar habits. These spiders build retreats (holes or tunnels) in the soil; under and between boards, stones, and firewood; under siding; and in similar protected areas. They are hunting spiders and only come out of hiding during the night to look for prey. Mating occurs in the autumn, and the males die before the onset of winter. The fertilized females overwinter in protected locations, including human-made structures, and produce egg cocoons the following May or June. The spiderlings hatch in June and July and will attain only half of their full size by the following winter. They too will overwinter in protected sites and complete their growth the following spring and summer. The females may live for several years beyond the year in which they reach maturity. It is common to find the females carrying their young spiderlings on their backs during the summer months.

Medical Importance

Wolf spiders will bite if mishandled or trapped next to the skin. Typical reactions include initial pain and redness with the potential for some localized swelling. Symptoms generally subside within 24 hours. No serious medical consequences of these bites have been noted.

Reference

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Authors

Steve Jacobs