Have you recently started noticing things quickly scurrying over your floor? Have little furry things been startling you as they brush across your feet while you try to watch tv? Have there been dark blobs dropping from above every time you open the garage or outside door that then disappear so quickly you hope you imagined it??? Well, I certainly have.
My house has recently been inundated with unwelcome 8-legged invaders. The super fast, very sneaky, and completely startling: Wolf Spider. Now I’m used to the cellar spiders that have been in residence since we moved in and the occasional jumping spider that accidentally gets on the wrong side of the window, but frequent, LARGE, wolf spiders skittering across my floors is new. And I really don’t like these new visitors. In just the last week or so, I’ve had seven (seven!) wolf spiders in my house. That I know about 😱 Two running across the living room floor disturbing our evening wind down, one in the bedroom making a beeline for under the dresser, one running in through the house to garage door, one that dropped from the kitchen door and scurried out of reach before I could get it (it was super fast so I tried to convince myself I imagined it, but I know what it was), and three in the basement near the walkout. That’s a lot of wolf spiders in a really short time!
Normally, wolf spiders prefer to be outside and are beneficial predators helping to keep pest populations under control (and hopefully chowing down on our bazillions of crickets). Wolf spiders are in the taxonomic family Lycosidae, which comes from the Greek word “lycosa” and actually means “wolf” like we call them. There are more than 200 species of wolf spider found in North America! Unlike most spiders that spin webs and sit and wait for unsuspecting critters to become their dinner, wolf spiders actively hunt down their prey. Kinda like lone wolves. That’s why they are usually so fast - and hard to catch in your house if you’re not quick.
When not creeping you out by sneaking about in your house, wolf spiders have a number of interesting and unusual behaviors for arthropods. Wolf spider females actually exhibit parental care. They not only carry their egg sack around with them to protect it until the babies are ready to hatch, they actually will help open the sack for their babies to get out when ready, and then let the babies ride on their back until they are larger and able to defend themselves. That’s one good mama! If you’ve ever seen a large spider covered in tons of tiny spiders, that would be a mama wolf spider with her young (sorry, no pictures). While wolf spiders don’t spin webs to catch prey, they do often leave single strand silk trails to communicate with other spiders in the area. And, last fun fact, female wolf spiders are less likely to eat males trying to mate with them if they know them. How crazy is that? According to research at Cornell University, males that try to mate with females who are strangers are much more likely to get eaten by the larger female than males the female is familiar with. Guess it pays to get to know a girl first, huh? Lol.
Ok, so wolf spiders are pretty interesting, but back to my problem of the recent home invasions. WHY the wolf spiders all of a sudden in my house?? Well, I don’t like it, but the answer is simple. Like so many other critters that are acting differently this time of year, it’s because winter is coming. Mating season is ending and the short-lived male wolf spiders are desperately searching for females to get their last chance to mate before they die this winter. Longer-lived female spiders will live until next year, so they are looking for warm sheltered areas to overwinter in. This results in both male and female spiders frequently getting in the nice, warm, dry, house. My house :( * sigh *
Luckily, despite being great predators, wolf spiders very rarely bite people or animals. Since they have really good eyesight in order to see and chase down prey, they can also tell that we’re much bigger than them and try to run away and hide if at all possible. Or just freeze and pretend to be part of the background since most have cryptic (camouflage) coloration and they think we can’t see them. They only bite if directly handled when scared. That’s all well and good, but if you’re like me and don’t want them regularly hunting through your house, they still need to be caught. The easiest way to catch and remove wolf spiders is just with a cup and piece of paper. Grab a cup, quickly place the cup over the spider, then slide a piece of paper between the cup and floor (or occasionally the wall) and quickly flip the cup over (so the spider is in the cup). Take the spider outside, preferably far from the house so it doesn’t come right back in, and dump it in the grass/woods/garden/etc.
Wolf spiders usually get in the house through doors, windows, or other cracks and opening in the house. So if you really want to try to keep wolf spiders from getting into the house in the first place, you’ll need to seal up your house better. Try re-caulking any cracks that have developed around doorways, fixing any screen holes, and adding door sweeps to help keep them out. Probably good things to do for winter proofing your house anyway I guess. Supposedly, wolf spiders don’t like strong scents either, so you could try spraying citrus, marigold, or minty smelling things around the insides of your doors and windows. I still have a little mint oil leftover from the yellowjacket nest I had to remove earlier this summer (for my homemade mint oil recipe click here), so I’m going to try spraying some around my doors. About a tablespoon of mint oil diluted in a dollar tree spray bottle filled with water…. Worst-case scenario, my house smells more minty, best case, I have fewer spiders. I’ll let you know if I notice a decrease.
To read more about wolf spiders check out:
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Researchers are constantly trying to learn more about species and the insect diversity around us. Sometimes there is by-catch from these studies or the specimens are no longer needed after the research is complete. When this happens, I try to recycle the specimens. Here are some recycled specimens looking for forever home:
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