Wolf Spider

2009 May 16

Last week, I was laying on the floor[1] when suddenly this fellow scurried right under my nose:


and Sam yelled, “A spider! Can we keep it?” So, we got out a little half-gallon plastic aquarium that we’ve had laying around for some years, put in some of Sam’s foam alphabet puzzle pieces to give him something to crawl on, and popped him in. We gave him a cotton ball soaked in water so he would have something to drink, and have been feeding him flies:


Looking at the eyes, this is quite clearly a wolf spider, family Lycosidae. He has the characteristic two large eyes, which give him excellent vision, unlike most spiders. They are active hunters, chasing down and grabbing their prey. When we pop a fly into his aquarium, this one goes right after it, and usually catches it within a matter of minutes.


That picture came out a bit less sharp than I would like, because I was photographing through the side of the aquarium (which is not exactly optically flat glass), but it still shows the eyes and pedipalps (and part of the hapless fly) pretty well. I think this spider is a male, because he has a bulge at the end of his pedipalps.

I’m not quite sure which genus of wolf spider this might be, there are several kinds of wolf spider and several other unrelated “grass spiders” that have a similar coloration and pattern[2]. He’s a pretty good size, the body is a bit over a centimeter long and the legspan is a couple of centimeters, so he is obviously one of the larger species.


Some wolf spiders have alarming common names, like “rabid wolf spider”, but this is almost completely unjustified. Sure, they can bite, but their venom is unexceptional. They actually make pretty good pets, assuming you have a decent enclosure. They are clean, easy to feed, not dangerous, and live quite a long time. I understand that some species of wolf spider can live for up to two years. As long as we have a steady supply of flies, this one looks to be perfectly happy. For that matter, he didn’t seem to mind when one of the flies we gave him was dead – he ate it anyway. This implies that we could probably freeze a bunch of flies to feed him through the winter!

There’s a lot more to say about wolf spiders, but we also have several more species to go (there are a bunch of them around here that are smaller, jet-black, and blindingly fast that I need to catch), so I’ll save it for them.

[1] With one daughter who is just under a year old, and another who is three-and-a-half, I spend a lot of time laying on the floor with little girls crawling over me these days.

[2] I see a lot of spiders with coloration similar to this one. They all tend to be species that live down in the grass, scurrying amongst the elongated shadows and brown dead stalks down there. It’s pretty good camouflage in that environment, they are hard to see until they move.

13 Responses
  1. May 21, 2009

    The photos came out with a distinctive blue tinge. Is he really blue-gray?

  2. May 21, 2009

    More gray than blue-gray, I think. The blue tinge might be an artifact of the fact that he was being illuminated by sunlight instead of artificial light, and I think I had the camera set for artificial light. The plexiglas that the aquarium is made out of might have some effect on the color, too.

  3. May 22, 2009

    That is awesome. I never thought you could actually capture and feed a wolf spider! Is this the beginning of spider domestication? 🙂

  4. May 22, 2009

    He’s taking very well to domestication, it turns out he likes the same crickets that we buy for the tarantula (he eats the smaller ones that are about the same size as he is).
    The Univesity of Kentucky has a nice writeup on keeping wolf spiders as pets for anybody who wants to go into this in a serious way.

    That same page has instructions for keeping several other Kentucky arthropods in captivity. Huh. I didn’t know there were scorpions in Kentucky.

  5. May 22, 2009

    Given their tiny mental powers, I wonder if they can be trained to do anything. Hmm. Could they learn to navigate a maze?

  6. May 22, 2009

    I just read the UK link. They eat worms? Amazing!

  7. June 2, 2009

    Hi, loving the site. Speaking of wolf spiders, one of my favorite things to do is to go “spider spotlighting.” Any wooded area, or even a back yard will do. Go out after dark with a flashlight, which you hold up to the side of your head even with your eyes. Shine the light over the grass and you may see HUNDREDS of wolf spider eyes shining back at you. They don’t seem to mind this, or even really notice. I’ve walked up to many wolf spiders and watched them hunt and eat this way. This is a great activity for a party if you like to amaze (freak out) people about how many spiders there are around us all the time.

  8. Heather K. permalink
    June 10, 2009

    This has been a highly entertaining and informative piece on your wolf spider. My son and I discovered one on our sliding glass door this evening. We at first thought that it was a tarantula. (The size of our wolf spider compares to one). We or should I say I am not brave enough to keep one as a pet. Thanks for the info…

  9. June 10, 2009

    Actually, you may be more right than you know in calling yours a tarantula: I understand that the original “tarantula” is actually a very large Italian wolf spider, that isn’t really related to the very large, hairy spiders that we currently call tarantulas.

  10. Kristi permalink
    August 4, 2009

    Thanks so much for the link on tips for keeping wolf spiders as pets. My daughter is a bug lover and we have a wolf spider. She loves to catch grasshoppers for “Rosie” to eat. The other day Rosie made an egg sack, so now we get the privilege of seeing her with her babies. Everyone at our house is excited. Do you still have your wolf spider? Thanks again for the information.

  11. February 27, 2011


    One species of Wolf Spiders had the name Tarantula in it although Wolf Spiders are not Tarantulas.

    That type of Wolf spiders looked like Tarantuals though.

  12. Jon Gardner permalink
    December 7, 2011

    Here is a video I took of a wolf spider in the wild that turned out pretty good. I was wondering what the heck he was up to so I set my camera on the ground next to him and filmed.


    Hope you like it.

  13. December 7, 2011


    Oho, I see! There’s a lady down there!

    To people watching, think of it like this: he’s seducing a lady who is bigger and stronger than him, who is waiting inside her fortress-like bedroom, and who has knives in both hands that she may just decide to use on him at any moment . . .

    Thanks for letting us know about your video!

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