Wolf spiders make up a large family of spiders that are dark, large, and fast. They do not spin webs, but are excellent hunters, using their excellent eyesight and strong bodies to capture prey. They also have excellent parenting habits.
Continue reading to find out more about the wolf spider you may come across in California.
What Are Wolf Spiders?
Wolf spiders belong to the Lycosidae family and are agile and robust hunters with excellent eyesight.
They live and hunt alone and do not spin webs. They are opportunistic hunters and will pounce on prey as they find it, sometimes chasing it a short distance. Some wait for prey to pass their burrow, pouncing on it as it goes past.
They are similar to nursery web spiders, but carry their egg sac on their spinneret, whereas nursery web spiders carry their eggs in their mouths.
They have eight eyes, of which two are prominent with UV, so if you point a flashlight at them, you can see their eyes in the darkest of rooms.
Types of Wolf Spiders in California
Some common wolf spider species in California include:
1. Schizocosa mccooki
Schizocosa mccooki is often found in meadows in California. Their size ranges from one to eight centimeters in length and they tend to be gray or light brown with two bands on the cephalothorax.
They have an oval shape on their abdomen and a light band on either side of the oval shape, along with white dots on the outside bands.
Males have a dark brown tip on their front legs. Their eight eyes are set in three rows with four smaller eyes at the front of the head and fur larger eyes in a square on top of the head.
Males are mostly active from June to July, while females are encountered from June to August. They prefer woodland habitats and prairies.
2. Koch’s Wolf Spider
The Koch’s wolf spider (Alopecosa kochi) can grow to 2cm in body length with females making a burrow to deposit the egg sac. Females stay in the burrow, guarding their eggs until they hatch.
They are mostly encountered outdoors.
Females are larger than males, growing to 16mm in body length, and males to 11mm in body length. They have a tan stripe down the center of her carapace and a pair of white to tan spots on both sides of the abdomen.
They are one of the most common spiders found in pit traps in southern California. They are also the only species of the Alopecosa genus in California.
3. Shoreline Wolf Spider
The shoreline wolf spider (Arctosa littoralis) is also known as the beach wolf spider, belonging to the Lycosidae family.
They can be found indoors during April but are most common near beaches, where they are masters of camouflage. They can hide in the sand and underwood during the day.
They are not aggressive, though they are considered poisonous. They give a painful bite if provoked, which will cause swelling and redness in the bite location. Their bite is not considered a medical emergency.
4. Allocosa subparva
The Allocosa subparva is a small to medium-sized wolf spider that grows between 2.9mm and 9.6mm in body length.
They tend to prefer deciduous woods, swamps, stream banks, fields, pastures, and meadows, usually hiding under stones.
They have a dark red-brown to black carapace with a pale median band with dark lateral margins. They have an orange to black sternum, chelicerae, and legs with a dull yellow abdomen with black spots.
They seem to prefer moist areas, such as swamps, meadows, and pastures often encountered on beaches, lakes, and rivers.
Males have been recorded every month except March and November, while females are recorded throughout the year.
5. Hogna antelucana
The Hogna antelucana is a large wolf spider that is bulky, pale gray with beautiful markings on the cephalothorax and the underside of the abdomen. They vary in size to more than one inch in body size.
They have eight eyes with two large eyes in the middle row, which reflect the light.
They dig deep burrows where they remain hidden and use a pounce approach on prey coming past the opening of their burrow, which is lined in silk.
6. Schizocosa maxima
The Schizocosa ocreata is also known as the brush-legged wolf sider, due to the dark-colored fur around its legs.
They are prey in forest areas by a number of different bird species and the American toad.
They do not make webs to capture their prey, they use their excellent vision and superior speed to capture prey, which they then cover in silk webbing and drag back to their burrow, eating at a later stage.
As with other wolf spiders, the female is very protective of her eggs and young, carrying her young with her for weeks until they are ready to fend for themselves.
They are not dangerous to healthy humans, with bites causing pain, redness, and swelling. Their bites are not considered medical emergencies.
7. Pirate Otter Spider
The pirate otter spider (Pirata piraticus) is a wolf spider that is an active hunter, using its jaw and legs to immobilize its prey.
They are often found near moist habitats, including stagnant ponds and small lakes, along with slow-running streams and wet meadows.
They have a white border on their cephalothorax with a white line on their abdomen, along their cardiac mark. The legs are light to dark green.
The female pirate otter sider can grow to 9mm in body length with males being smaller and growing to 6.5mm in body length.
They are mostly seen from May to early September.
8. Funnel Web Wolf Spiders
The funnel web wolf spider (genus Sosippus) is unique when compared to the other spiders in the Lycosidae family. They create large funnel webs using their elongated spinnerets.
They have eight eyes arranged in three rows with the four smallest eyes at the lowest point, above that are the two largest eyes, and then two smaller lateral eyes above. Their eyes reflect in light, which can help you find one should it get into your home.
Are Wolf Spiders in California Venomous?
Wolf spiders are not considered deadly to humans, but their bite can still cause pain and uncomfortable symptoms. A bite from a wolf spider in California is not considered a medical emergency unless the symptoms get worse.
The symptoms can be managed at home. If your symptoms do get worse, then you should call your doctor.
What to do when you are bitten by a wolf spider
The good news is that wolf spider bites are not that common, but if you provoke or threaten the spider, especially if it is a female protecting her eggs, you may find yourself with a bite.
A wolf spider bite looks the same as any other bug bite, it is usually a swollen red bump that disappears after a few days. If your face and throat start to swell, seek immediate medical attention, as you could be experiencing an allergic reaction to the spider’s venom.
Some people experience an allergic reaction, which means you may need emergency medical care. This includes a red line running from the bite, which is an early sign of a blood infection. The bump turns to hives, problems breathing, or dizziness.
Treat the bite with warm soap and water, covering it with a bandage to reduce the risk of infection. If the bite starts to itch and becomes uncomfortable, then take an over-the-counter antihistamine.
Where To Find Wolf Spider in California?
Wolf spiders are common throughout California and prefer living outdoors, even though they are known to sometimes wander into homes, usually searching for a mate. They are mostly encountered under rock or woodpiles, leaf litter, and fallen trees.
When To Find Wolf Spiders in California?
Wolf spiders in California do not come into the home intentionally. As the summer turns to autumn and the temperatures cool, they look for a place to hide and a mate, which means they may find a crack and get into your home.
They are active at night, so if you want to find a wolf spider, take a flashlight with you and search at night. The UV in their eyes reflects the light. They are active throughout the year, often coming out in winter to search for food.
What To Do If You See a Wolf Spider In California?
The first thing you probably want to do if you see a wolf spider is to squash it. They are large, fast, and look scary. You must never squash or stamp o a wolf spider, as you can make matters much worse, sending hundreds of spiderlings into your home.
Remember the female wolf spider is an excellent parent and will carry hundreds of her spiderlings on her body. Stamping or squashing her will only result in the babies getting away. The spiderlings usually survive the impact.
If you find a wolf spider in your home, consider the catch and release method or use a pesticide or a trap. Remember the wolf spider wandered into your home unintentionally, so if you can try and release it back into the wild.
Wolf spiders play a vital role in reducing harmful insects while being food for some birds, which are declining throughout the world.
How To Prevent Florida Wolf Spiders in Your House
Wolf spiders can be found in the thousands in grassy areas, where they dig burrows under the ground. They are also known to build burrows under stones and wood, sometimes making their way indoors.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to reduce wolf spiders entering your Californian home, these include:
- Clean your home thoroughly and regularly. Dust hidden areas.
- Vacuum regularly
- Reduce the clutter in basements, attics, garages, and closets
- Move your firewood away from the home
- Keep your lawn short, as wolf spiders are often found in longer grass
- Remove building materials and debris, pack them as far from the house as you can
- Fix any gaps under doors with door flaps. Gaps under doors are the most common entry for wolf spiders who are wandering looking for food or a mate
- Use your screens on windows and doors
- Ensure your trees vines and shrubs around the home are clipped back
- Do not use incandescent bulbs outside, they attract insects, which can attract wolf spiders
- Place eucalyptus plants on your windowsills and close to doorways, spiders don’t like the smell
- You can also spray peppermint oil around window and door frames or a vinegar and water solution, both of which are natural repellents.
Using the preventative measures above can help you reduce the risk of a wolf spider getting into your home.
Wolf spiders are wickedly fast, large and scary to most. They can move at excellent speeds to escape from predators, including unsuspecting humans.
While they look scary enough, bites from wolf spiders are very rare in California, as long as you don’t threaten or provoke them. Their bites are not considered dangerous to humans and they are excellent at keeping pest insects at bay.
Using the preventative measures recommended, you can help reduce the risk of a wolf spider making it into your home.