Wolf spiders

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These spiders are real hunters and have excellent eyesight. They are rather big and are easily spotted on places in the sun often at damp places. If you spot spiders speeding away on the ground and several spiders have white sacs attached to their spinnerets at the back of their body you can be sure you deal with wolf spiders. Their name "wolf spider" is derived from the fact that people erroneously thought they hunted in groups like wolves.
In Europe there are living about 81 species in eight genera.

The spider lives in every variety of terrestrial habitats. They can even been found on the water skating over it and even diving under the surface catching small fish and insects. Some of these spider fish, by putting one of their legs into the water. If a fish is attracted and wants to catch the bait the spider catches it.

The cephalothorax (head-breast part) is elongated and usually high and narrowed in the front. They have eight eyes. Four small ones are located at the lower part of the face. Immediately above these there are two large eyes looking forward and father back there are also two big eyes that look upward. In this way the spider can look in four directions and can perceive moving insect at a distance of several inches. The legs and chelicera (jaws) are robust. The spider vigorously attacks her prey crushing it with her stout chelicera.


Mother with egg sac

and youngsters.


The majority of the genera carry their eggs in an egg sac attached at the back of their abdomen. Some genera (Arctosa, Trochosa and Alopecosa) keep their eggs under the ground in web coated holes or tubes. The youngsters crawl on top of the abdomen of the mother and stay there until they change their skin for the first time.

The female spider is a creature with a variable temper. Notorious for her rapacious activities, she displays solicitude for her eggs and young that can scarcely be met by any other spider. Her egg sac, attached to her spinnerets, is a precious thing she will defend with her life. Her instinct is very powerful but she also can be easily fooled. When her egg sac is changed for something artificial, like a piece of cork or a wad of paper or cotton, she also will defend the artificial sac with her life.

After two or three weeks, her young develop to a point where they can leave the sac. The mother bite open the sac and within a few hours all the young has climbed on the abdomen where they will stay until their first change of skin. During that time the mother will engage her normal hunting activities with her young tightly attached to her body. When the young are brushed from her body they will crawl back very quickly. In the time the young are attached at the body of their mother they do not eat. Their bodies are supplied with enough food to live during this period. The youngsters do drink water during their stay by drinking dewdrops in the morning.


pardosa_unknownThis wolf spider lives in my garden and it looks like a Pardosa amentata but I am not sure. Who will and can identify this spider?

Genus Alopecosa

The 17 species living in Europe are larger than the genus Pardosa. The cardiac spot on the abdomen is clearly visible. The female keeps her egg sac in a burrow and periodically exposes the sac to the sunlight.

Alopecosa inquilina? Alopecosa inquilina?
Alopecosa cuneata male. Note the swollen fore legs. Alopecosa cuneata female
Alopecosa pulverulenta Alopecosa pulverulenta


Genus Arctosa

Nine species can be found in Europe. The carapace (the hard shield covering the top of the cephalothorax) usually lacks a definite median band. Their legs are usually clearly spotted. Most species makes burrows in the sand, moss or detritus. The spiders are large (10 - 20 mm).

Arctosa cinerea

Arctosa perita

Genus Aulonia

Aulonia albimana

There is only one species in Europe. Its size is between 4 and 4.5 mm. Both sexes are similar in appearance. It lives between grass and moss amongst stones. The spider may be found running actively in the sunshine.

Genus Hogna

Hogna radiataHogna radiataHogna radiata

This spider lives in the Mediterranean. It is a large spider. The male measures up to 18 mm while the female can be up to 25 mm long. The spider may be found in dry stony habitats. The spider hides during the day under stones and starts hunting at night.

Genus Pardosa

This is the most abundant genus with 39 species. The Pardosa is found running on the ground in sunny warm places. When the weather conditions are poor they hide among the leaves, moss and detritus. In May and June the females can be seen with their egg sacs attaches to their spinners. After 2 or 3 weeks the sac is opened and the spiderlings crawl on top of the abdomen of the mother where they travel with her for about a week. A female may have two or three sacs a year, even after most males may have died off by this time. Their size varies between 4 and 8 mm.

Pardosa agricola

Pardosa agricola

Pardosa amentata

Pardosa amentata

Pardosa monticola male

Pardosa monticola female

Pardosa lugubris

Pardosa lugubris

Pardosa agrestis? Pardosa agrestis?

Pardosa prativaga

Pardosa prativaga

Genus Pirata

Pirata piraticus

Eight species occur in Europe. Almost all species inhabit wet, marshy areas. They are adapted to run across water. They construct silk tubes leading from the surface of moss down towards the water. Their size varies between 4 and 8 mm.

Genus Trochosa

Four species are known in Europe. They hunt at night and spent the day hidden amongst moss and detritus. The females spent most of the day with an egg sac in a burrow but may be spotted during the dull daylight.

Trochosa terricola Trochosa terricola

Trochosa terricola with youngsters and egg sac.

Trochosa ruricola

Ed Nieuwenhuys, October 29, 2000