(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 31, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)

Image Wolf spiders are hunters. They do not spin webs to capture their prey. Instead, they prowl along the ground in search of insects. They will also eat other spiders since they are cannibalistic. Wolf spiders are found everywhere. In the wolf spider family there are over two thousand species worldwide. Add these to the rest of the worldwide spider population and you have a huge insect eating army. Their predatory habits are crucial to the health of our gardens.

Image Wolf spiders have eight eyes that reflect light when it is shone on them at night. This is an excellent way to determine the wolf spider population in your landscape. Step outside after dark and hold a flashlight level with your eyes aiming it across the garden or yard. The eyes of many spiders will stare back at you because the light will reflect off the cells in the back of the spider's eyes. This is called the tapetum. Fishing spiders and various crab spiders have these reflective cells as well. The glowing eyes are known as eye shine. Wolf spiders are generally brown with gray and black patterns. Their average body length is about one inch. The wolf spider has mouthparts which look like fangs. These are called chelicerae. The wolf spider has eight legs just as all spiders do. Wolf spiders hatch from eggs and live on their mother's back until they can hunt for themselves. It is an interesting sight to see a Mamma wolf spider with the young hitchhikers on her back.

Image This Rabid Wolf Spider, Rabidosa rabida, was in my house. It was dead when I found it. In the fall wolf spiders will often enter homes either in pursuit of prey or in search of a place to overwinter. If you find a wolf spider in your home it is best to herd it into a container (yes much like herding the cattle into a stock trailer) and release it outside. Your garden plants will thank you for doing so as there will be less insect pest to destroy them. Notice the brown and white stripes on the spider? This is a characteristic feature of the rabid wolf spider.

Image Since it is found indoors at times the wolf spider is sometimes mistaken for a Brown Recluse Spider, Loxoceles reclusa. The photo at left is a brown recluse. Although the wolf spider is brown its habits differ from those of the brown recluse. Wolf spiders are often seen in the open where they will chase prey across the floor and pounce on it. Brown recluse spiders prefer to remain hidden from view. Learning to identify the brown recluse is a matter of safety.

Image Not only are wolf spiders beneficial in the garden, but other spiders, such as the Grass Spider, Agelenidae, are as well. Grass spiders create webs like sheets with a funnel at the base to retreat into. The grass spider is also known as the funnel web weaver. Their webs can sometimes be found on the lawn in the morning, often with dew sparkling on them. It is a remarkable sight.

Image This Orb Web Weaver, Araneidae, created a spectacular web in my Dooryard Garden early one morning. They design spiral webs to capture prey. But the beauty of their webs very often captures the attention of people as well.

Image Argiope, the orb web weaver which is active during the day, generally weaves white decorative designs into the center of its web to keep birds from flying into the web and destroying it. Look closely at the intricacy of the design in the photos included.

Image This Halloween don't cringe at the thought of those creepy crawly spiders roaming your garden like a pack of ravenous wolves. Instead, appreciate them. It is their voracious appetite which helps to keep our plants healthy. Spiders are outstanding as biological insect control in the garden.

Enhance the spider population in your garden by following these steps

  • Add mulch to the garden
  • Do not overwork the garden
  • Leave an area of the garden wild for spider habitat.
  • If using pesticides, do so sparingly

Interesting spider facts
Spiders use venom to liquefy their prey.
The silk of a spider web is very strong.
The web is actually a part of the spider's sensory system.
Nearly all spiders have a two year lifespan.
Tarantulas and trapdoor spiders can live anywhere from six to twenty years.
Wolf spiders make interesting pets.

Useful and fun links
Dave's garden BugFiles
Dave's gardening forums to meet other gardeners like you
A slideshow of wolf spiders
Pet bugs, including wolf spiders
Spiders the Ultimate Predator? An article at usda.gov
Various spider photos
The brown recluse spider
Halloween on the web

Photo credits
The rabid wolf spider photo is mine.
All other wolf spider photographs are from Wikipedia commons and are public domain.
The brown recluse photograph is from Wikimedia commons and is public domain.
The orb web weaver and grass spider web photographs are from my gardens.

Pleasant gardening