Wolf spiders are the sprinters of the spider world. Most of the thousands of species in this family don’t spin webs; instead, they chase and pounce on their insect prey like the wolves that inspire their name.
Once wolf spiders catch their prey, they either mash it up into a ball or inject venom into it, liquefying the internal organs into a wolf-spider smoothie.
All wolf spiders have eight dark eyes arranged around their heads, or cephalothorax. Two large eyes gleam from the top of the head; two more large eyes peer out the front; and four smaller eyes form a row just above the spider’s mouth.
Most wolf spiders spend their time on the ground. The dark, mottled colors on their bodies help them blend in with decaying plant matter while hunting or avoiding predators. Sometimes they dig burrows or make holes under rocks or logs to live in.
Wolf spiders have figured out how to live just about anywhere. While some species are found on cold, rocky mountaintops, others live in volcanic lava tubes. From deserts to rainforests, grasslands to suburban lawns, wolf spider thrive; there’s likely one nearby. One species has even been found living in wheat crops, feeding on pests such as aphids.
When it’s time to mate, male wolf spiders attract females by rhythmically waving their long mouthparts (palps) or drumming them on leaves. Once mated, the female spins a round egg sac, attaches it to her abdomen and it carries around with her. The young hatch inside, then emerge and climb on mom’s back until they’re old enough to live on their own.
Many species are considered to have stable populations. But some, such as the desertas wolf spider of Portugal and the Kaua’i cave spider of Hawaii, are endangered.