I suppose it is quite surprising that up until now I haven’t written anything about Wolf Spiders. I was reminded to do so though, when Mike made a comment on my post What It’s Really Like to Be Bitten by a Redback Spider.
Mike was bitten by a spider the other day; he thinks it was a Wolf Spider.
Well, if he was, what is going to happen to him? Are Australian Wolf Spiders dangerous?
That largely depends not on who you are, but what you are.
The Australian Wolf Spider
I’ve probably seen quite a few of these spiders since I’ve been here in Australia, and to be honest, they look just like any other spider. They are big, but not massive. Around 25 mm in length, that’s about 1 inch, although I’ve heard some can get a fair bit bigger than that.
Apparently, here in Australia, we have over 400 species of Wolf Spiders.
I took a photograph of some spiders who intruded into my home in the early days; in hindsight I’m guessing that these are all Wolf Spiders…
These pictures first appeared in my post called Spiders – There’s Good News and There’s Bad News and at the time I speculated that the first picture may even have been a Funnel Web Spider. Today though, I really doubt that.
I put it down to the paranoia of a newly arrived immigrant in Australia.
Wikipedia, of course, have a much better photograph of the Wolf Spider…
Anyway, Mike is almost certainly going to be just fine. According to my critter Bible, the Wolf Spider bite is likely to “Cause mild to local effects, including itchiness, red welts, bruising, a rapid pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, faintness, leg weakness and prolonged headache.”
Not pleasant, but these spiders are not killers, not of humans anyway.
Obviously if you are an insect, then you are likely to be Wolf Spider dinner. But interestingly, if you are a cat or a dog, and you happen to get bitten by a Wolf Spider, you could be dead within half an hour!
That did surprise me, although it is impossible to put a number on it, so I’m not sure how big or small the problem might be.
On the plus side, Wolf Spiders are one of the very few creatures that can actually kill cane toads, as well as taking out other nasty spiders. So for that they should be our friends.
Now, I know I’ve already said this spider looks like any other spider, but the reality is that it doesn’t. It has eight legs like other spiders, but this particular spider also has eight eyes. For a spider, it has pretty good vision and as a hunter, it’s very fast.
Hence the name “wolf”.
This astonishing YouTube video will scare the life out of you if you don’t like spiders, the rest of you will be fascinated though. I don’t know what kind of camera they used for this, but you can make out every single detail of this spider and, dare I say, you can even pick out features of its face.
Spiders with personalised characteristics?
“Is this the spider that bit you sir?”
“No, sorry, it’s not him. The spider that bit me had thicker eyebrows, a bigger gap between its fangs and a cheeky smile!”
Check it out…
the wolf spiders [sometimes called lawn spiders] I know are far more fearful of me – I often sit on the lawn while I pull out tiny leaves: and even when I sweep the pavers around the lawn, there are little scurrying wolf spiders who want to move away from me the giant. generally they go only a few centimetres –v quickly. .
I have not heard of these little friends biting a human or a pet and I’ve been on this earth for many decades….maybe the weather and sandy gardens are kinder to our little wolves – I luv ’em.
as a kid I soon learnt where the red backs lived -I know of immigrant friends who have been bitten by them. black house spiders in my book are the next in line of nasty reactions. we’re led to believe the reds sometimes kill children but rarely adults, unlike the east’s funnel web -shuddderrr
I love the morning sun shining on diamonds left on the webs after a damp night – especially of the golden web’s spiders; they are a work of art. and the sweet little white ‘flower’ spiders etc etc. and the clever use of webs for travel…
have no idea how we managed to breed an ‘arachnaphobic’ daughter – I’m so glad she didn’t live where I was born = occasionally a huntsman landed on my young face while I slept in bed… ho hum
Sounds like you are a lover of most spiders, except, of course, the funnel web. I’m with you on that one, no spider needs to be THAT venomous.
I hardly ever see any black house spiders in my house, I mostly get the Huntsman, which I consider to be the gentleman of the spider world. I still chuck them out though, carefully, with a dustpan and brush. It’s my house!
2 days ago, my cat was killed by a wolf spider bite. 1 hour after she was stalking it, she started fitting, crying loudly , contorted and paralyzed, for 9 hours before i had her euthanized. the spider was in the house.
Oh my, I am so sorry to hear that. I have mentioned in the above article that dogs and cats can die within the hour if they were bitten by one of these spiders, but I’ve never actually heard of it really happening until now.
Very sad Ruth, my condolences to you.
Some absolutely fascinating information on this page. Thank you.
I quite like spiders and am happy to have huntsman and other house spiders around. We have redbacks here, but I’ve not seen one in the 18 years we’ve been in this house (Seaview Downs, Adelaide, SA).
I was interested in some of the stories of spider bites. I have one of those. Some years ago, we were staying on the 18th floor of a hotel in Melbourne. In the evening, I was sat on the balcony reading when I was bitten under my foot by something sharp. I dismissed it as a bad mosquito bite. By the next morning, my foot was bright red and painful (and itchy) and I couldn’t get my shoe on. We were flying home that day so I just put on some Sting-ose or similar.
By the following day, my whole leg was in a bad state so I went to my doctor. I was immediately sent to hospital, where I remained for a week – then at home I had the District Nurse visit every day for 2 weeks. A very nasty experience.
The hospital doctors told me that it was a spider bite as they could see the marks of its fangs. They photographed it for me to see. Very pretty! ? Complete with a deep ulcer.
Anyway, no-one knew what sort of spider it might have been – or what it might have been doing on the 18th floor of a hotel, although probably hitched a ride on my suitcase. ?
What they did diagnose was a golden staph infection, together with toxic shock. I was actually quite ill during my hospital stay. I had intravenous antibiotics and eventually recovered. They said that I didn’t appear to be suffering from any type of venom, but what had happened was that I got a bacterial infection from whatever muck the nasty little blighter had crawled through before it decided to bite me. Apparently, that is what happens in a lot of so-called spider bites – not venom but bacteria. Often if the bite is on the foot, it can be a bit dirty too.
I hope my story interests someone. ?
Well, I’ve been here over nine years now, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a redback spider either. I thought I saw one in the first month I was here, but then in those days I thought every spider was a redback 🙂
I may not have seen one, but I’ve certainly been bitten by one…
If you look at the comments on that page, lots of people have been bitten and have shared their bite stories. And yes, your story was certainly interesting as well, and many people say that it’s wise to get a tetanus injection after a spider bite if you are not up to date with it. As you say, sometimes the bacteria can be more troublesome than the venom.
Anyway, I reckon that spider got the lift 🙂
Very interesting. My colleague got bitten by something and had the exact same issue. He never worked out what it was but could see bit marks.
He was in a lot of pain with swelling etc. Doctors advised he had golden staph infection and prescribed very strong antibiotics. He was supposed to go away for Xmas but doctor would not let him, said he might be hospitalised.
I am out of the country myself so I hope to see him when I am back. Pretty scary stuff.
It is actually very scary stuff as I think golden staph infection is becoming resistant to antibiotics and that can be very problematic.
I do hope your colleague makes a full and speedy recovery.
thanks Bob, yes he seems to be getting better. Now back at work but still hobbling around. Would i be right in thinking it is not just wolf spiders but other spiders as well that might carry infections? I had never thought of that being an issue but now it is front of mind!
Yes, I think you would be right. I’m no doctor, but I think that any insect or animal that bites a human could very well pass over an infection.
So yes, it certainly is something to bear in mind. Glad to hear your friend is recovering well.
Spiders (Wolf spiders or other) do not carry infections. A bite opens the skin and thus secondary infections are possible.
Ruth, I am struggling to understand the specifics – you didn’t say which spider bit you or if you caught it and how it was identified? I mean no harm here, I am simply interested in clarifying facts; misinformation is a huge issue in this area and doctors are some of the worst for it, usually when they can’t explain what caused the problem (or their exorbitant fees). Sadly, it is the patient (and indeed the spiders themselves) that suffers for it.
Interesting comment Bill, I did some further digging because I know for sure that your knowledge of spiders is extensive, you’ve posted many comments here on this website and I know you have studied spiders for many years.
Anyway, you are, of course, absolutely correct and this article makes for interesting reading on the subject…
Thanks for putting us straight, Bob
My pleasure as always 🙂 Very good article you have attached there Bob, a very relevant and interesting read.
Oh… now I know what the identity of the spider in the hole in our yard must be. I shone a torch down the hole to try to see it, and clearly saw two reflective bright eyes looking back. I learned recently that one can hunt down a wolfy in the yard with a torch at night. It will reflect back, but no tail lights I suspect; just headlights.
Same happens with crocodiles though, just saying 🙂
Yes the kids used to get a blade of grass ( long one mind you) and gently tickle the hole that the spider is in and they come rushing out to kill it I’m not sure if it’s defense or attack , if ever you smack a mama spider be sure to have the fly spray ready because a cloud of babies spew forth the wife nearly has a stroke every time I kill one
Not sure who I feel sorry for the most, the spiders or your wife 🙂
I only came on here to share my story… i got bitten by something about 3 months ago… i never saw wat it was but i assumed a white tip or wolf spider.. 3 days later a pimple popped up that looked like a white head… thinking it was a pimple i popped it. From then on it became swollen and necriatic (black and pus and eating away my skin).. i saw the doc on two occasions, and got antibiotics which ended up healing the initial bite scene… but since then, about 5 or so pimples have appeared around the bite, more like welts, as they are just red spots..
Tonite i caught a wolf spider in my home, last night i caught one too. I believe now that i was bitten by a wolf spider. Ive yet to see a white tail in my home so im sure it was a wolf… i live near a lake in Perth, Herdsman Lake. Now that the weather is warming up i fear that these lil buggers will be showing up more often.
If any1 else out there in Perth has had the same expeirence id like to hear about it… as the doctors ive seen were useless in their knowledge of spider bites. As is google, wen it comes to Perth Wolf Spider bites. I can show a pic of my thigh, if any1 out there is studying these lil critters and the effects of their bite.
Sounds pretty awful what you are going through, and it appears to be dragging on a bit now. I do hope you get it sorted and make a full recovery.
Hopefully somebody in the Perth area will read your comment and be able to throw some light on what’s going on here. Get well soon, as they say, Bob
That sounds terrible Daniel, I hope you find the answer to your problem and above all, I wish you a speedy recovery.
Firstly, do not take spider bite as a cause for your condition from your doctor – there is no spider that causes this, neither here or anywhere else in the world. There is categorically no evidence linking spider bite with skin necrosis. As I have stated many times here, don’t take my word for it, check it with an expert – Dr Robert Raven (Chairman, World Spider Catalog Committee, International Society of Arachnology, Founder, Australasian Arachnological Society, Spider Bite Consultant, Royal Children’s Hospital, Brisbane) at the QLD Museum would be a very prudent option in your case; or closer to your part of the country, the Western Australian Museum (not sure who their head curator is, but I have no doubt that he will be happy to help – they always are, trust me). Doctors are all too happy to attribute any problem they can’t solve to spider bite, but the simple fact is, there is no evidence that any spider (or any invertebrate animal for that matter) is capable of doing this.
Now, from what I can gather here, the wound is on the thigh is that right? This being the case, it is almost certainly not a Wolf Spider bite. The only way that you could be bitten there is if you were lying on the ground in your yard – and if that had happened, you would have known about it as soon as it bit you and spotted the spider (more on this in below article).
Wolf Spiders are poor climbers and they only climb if necessary, and with limited success; they don’t simply run up your leg, nor are they capable of climbing a clothes-line (and thus, cannot get caught in your clothes). Wolf Spiders do not build webs, and hence, you cannot simply walk in to them.
White-Tailed Spiders are very slow moving spiders (and thus, are very easy to catch), and while their bite is very painful, it is completely and totally harmless – in fact its bite is described by Dr Raven as ‘one of the most innocuous bites recorded in Australia’.
Tests show conclusively that the venom of this spider is weak and harmless to humans. All of this is covered in the article below and explains it in a bit more detail; more importantly, it covers exactly how this spider received (and continues to receive) such bad press and how skin necrosis is falsely attributed to this spider.
I have linked the article (written by the aforementioned Dr Raven) below, which not only deals with this exact medical problem you are having and its relationship to spiders (specifically the White-Tailed Spider), but also, spider bites in general and some interesting facts about them, all relevant to your situation. Once again, I encourage you (and all) to investigate this matter further with a qualified expert in the field.
I hope this helps,
Okay, doesn’t look like I can post the article here – but I can copy & paste it. Here it is, enjoy:
Putative bites from White-tailed spiders (Scientifically, Lampona cylindrata) are a major concern from two points. First, they hinge on a massive misinformation campaign led primarily by irresponsible media and second, they distract much needed attention from the real causes.
In Adelaide, in August, 2001, a group of scientists, pharmacologists, toxinologists and doctors spoke to the White-tailed Spider Bite Conference which included a number of putative victims of White-tailed spider bite. I was the invited and Plenary speaker. These are the most recent data available on the question.
Putative spider bites vs bites
An important difference needs to be noted here. Spiders bite in one of two ways (Plate of Huntsman & Funnelweb spiders). Funnelwebs and related trapdoor and tarantula spiders bite downwards, like snakes. The spiders are large and heavy and the fangs are long. The event of a bite from these cannot be missed. Even if no venom is injected the depth of the fang penetration is more than enough to draw blood. These spiders are encountered usually only in the bush or bush-side suburbs. Children bitten by these spiders are usually able to find the spider again because the spiders tend not to be hide quickly. Bites from these spiders are far less common than from the related common Araneomorphae (phonetically: a-ray-nee-o-more-fee) which include Hunstmen, House spiders, Redbacks, Daddy-long-legs, orb weavers, Crab spiders, White-tailed spiders, jumping spiders, etc.
The fangs of the Araneomorphae act towards each other and hence make a pinching action. A bite from these spiders, then, is not easily missed. Even the youngest child gets a start or jumps from even tiny spiders. The action of such bite is enough to bring someone out of sleep. Two sharp curved fangs pinch together hard and that alone causes pain, even before venom takes effect.
The reason then that I use the expression “putative bite” is that I do receive a number of calls in which the person claims theywere bitten by a spider but they did not feel the bite or see the spider. In contrast to most spider bites, the person sees the spider either just before, during or just after the bite and, in most cases, they get the spider. It is a prerequisite of empirical science, that before we record a spider bite we must have the offending spider.
In Adelaide, I sought to offer the only possible scenarios for a case where a spider could bite but not be seen or felt (a “spider-less bite”): a, that the person was engaged in rough work during which the skin would not notice a bite, e.g. clearing lantana or heavy thorny bush; b, there was existing skin damage which made the skin insensitive to a bite. Rarely is the first reported but in such cases discussion with the person clarifies how the bite occurred and is evident by a characteristic venom reaction, e.g. Redback. None have offered the suggestion of existing desensitisation of their skin. Almost invariably, the association of a wound of unknown origin with a spider bite comes through uninformed medical sources or is assumed following the protracted media “beat-up” about White-tailed spider bite.
THE TOXIN OF THE WHITE-TAILED SPIDER, LAMPONA CYLINDRATA
The first association of blame was assigned by Dr Struan Sutherland (1983, Australian Animal Toxins). The first necrotic lesion reported was that of Joan Vivian (May 1978) from Chinkapook, west of Swan Hill, northern Victoria. Significantly, Mrs Vivian did not report a spider bite anywhere in her diary of events. Two and a half hours after gardening without gloves, she noted that a finger which she had skinned earlier that week was red and sore. Ten hours later the ever increasing pain had spread and she took first Disprin then Panadol as the pain became excruciating.
Weeks after the event, Mrs Vivian’s husband found several wolf spiders (Lycosa) near the house and inside the back door. Two months later, a careful search of the site yielded 19 wolf spiders, 2 Huntsman spiders (Sparassidae), and one Black House spider (Badumna robusta). In subsequent cases reported by Sutherland (1983), no spider was seen biting the victim. Sutherland (1983) concluded “Because of its ubiquitous nature [Raven’s emphasis], this spider [Lampona cylindrata] must be under suspicion as a cause of massive skin necrosis…”
In contrast, however, a number of studies could find no indication of necrotic avtivity in the venom of the White-tailed spider. First, Atkinson & Wright (1991) found the venom “had no apparent actions on human skin”. Subseqently, a PhD student of Sutherland, Natalie Korzniak (1992) found no indication of any necrotic activity in the venom of Lampona cylindrata. Indeed, she found its venom was amongst the weakest of the many household spider species she had tested. This work was confirmed by Rash et. al (1998). These pharmacological studies resonantly confirmed the envenomation data from doctors who, like the museum arachnologists (Harvey & Raven, 1991), required the offending animal to be presented before a bite would be recorded (White, 1987; White et al., 1989). Those data conclusively show that the bite of White-tailed spiders is one of the most innocuous bites recorded in Australia. A confirmed bite (i.e. the spider was seen biting and captured) from a White-tailed spider results in little more than a red spot and transient local pain both of which soon passed. These reports were further confirmed in Adelaide, August, 2001.
Those pharmacological data are inescapable and not dealt with by protagonists who continue to consider that White-tailed spider is the cause oft he unresolved necroses (e.g. Pincus et al., 1999).
In Adelaide, both Drs Winkel & White conceeded that in the absence of a spider or confirmed sighting it is impossible to diagnose a wound as having been caused by a White-tailed Spider.
A very recent and thorough classification of White-tailed spiders in Australia (Platnick, 2000) found that 61 species of the genus Lampona are present in Australia. Strictly speaking, the White-tailed spider is Lampona cylindrata but Platnick (2000) found that species does NOT occur in South East Queensland but a closely related species Lampona murina replaces it (see Maps). However, as both species occur together in Victoria where the venom studies have been made it is likely that the venoms of two species at least were mixed in the pharmacalogical analyses and no necrotic activity was found in the probable mixture.
My Interactions with White-tailed spiders
Wherever I am, I am aware of spiders around me and collect those of interest. In my 27 years of collecting and studying spiders, White-tailed spiders are the rarest spiders in urban, building and factory areas in South-eastern Queensland. I found the spiders more common in cooler parts of New South Wales and Victoria or present in natural bushland where they dwell under the bark of eucalypt trees.
White-tailed spiders do bite. However, the bite is immediately painful and the spider is slow-moving and easily caught. They have poor eyesight and feed predominantly on other spiders which they come upon from behind and quickly immobilise. They are far slower than many other spiders which may be encountered in the workplace. (I have supporting Hi-8 video footage, if required.)
IS ANOTHER INSECT, CREATURE OR OTHERWISE KNOWN TO CAUSE SUCH A RESPONSE
No known invertebrate animal (i.e. including insect, centipede) in Australia has been shown (vs is claimed) to cause such a reaction. Many reports have erroneously assigned such reactions to the bite of a White-tailed spiders but the basic scientific research into the venom unequivocally renders those reports as invalid. Indeed, almost all such reports involved no recollection of the spider bite or of a spider. The assignment of the White-tailed spider as the causative agent has been entirely conjecture.
other putative White-tailed spider bites–not just those reported to me but reported elsewhere. Often, the wound is first noticed in bed where it is assumed the bite occurred. However, the extent of development of the wound suggest a development time of hours rather than minutes.
In such cases, I seek to draw the person’s attention to the previous 24 hours to establish what else may have happened in that time that may not have been of concern at the time. Rarely is anything useful recalled. The wound grows and is often unresponsive to many antibiotics but as in this case Golden Stph was isolated from the wound. A variety of solutions/physicians are tested. The wound does not improve and surgical intervention is entered with varying success.
An important paper on Sporotrichosis mimicking necrotising spider bite presents one of the many possibilities of alternative causes. In many of the cases reported by the media, no mention is made of the person’s previous medical condition (e.g. Bruce Ruxton is diabetic; some patients develop wounds at the site of vein removal for by-pass surgery). A recent case was reported by the Queensland Museum entomologist who acquired tropical ulcers from working on a mountain (with annual rainfall of 8 metres!) in New Caledonia. The French physician declared it was White-tailed spider bite but there are none in New Caledonia. The causes of these cases are many and varied but in Australia none are reliably attributable to an insect, spider or other creature.
BITE TO SYMPTOMS TIME FRAME
In all cases of spider bite, one of the following three sequences unfolds. 1, a sudden and severe envenomation develops (a Funnelweb bite has killed in 15 minutes; Redback bites cause almost immediate pain and symptom onset); 2, minor local symptoms develop immediately and pass after from 10 minutes to 2 hours; 3, after the immediate pain of the presumably dry (i.e. venom-free) bite no further symptoms develop. In no cases of spider bite in Australia is there absence of pain and a delay in the onset of symptoms.
Significantly, in one of the more recent papers contending White-tailed spider bite is the cause of these problems (Pincus et al., 1999, attached), the inescapable and universal report was immediate pain from the bite.
CAUSE OF INJURY & … SPIDER BITE
There is no scientific support, circumstantial or otherwise for the attribution of this event to spider bite. The primary problem is the absence of a bite event. In the thousands of cases of spider bite in which I have been involved, the initial pain of the bite is unmistakeable and that minimal association is required to proceed further with consideration of spider bite.
FIDDLEBACK SPIDERS (Loxosceles species)
In Australia, Fiddleback Spiders occur only in Adelaide and the incidence of necrotic wounds is no higher there than elsewhere. Their reputation as causes of necrotic wounds elsewhere (especially in the US) is highly dubious. Once again, without a shred of scientific evidence or rigorous testing, a non-specific necrotic wound is attributed to Fiddleback Spider bite. However, arachnologists report that most are erroneously so attributed as Fiddleback Spiders do not occur in that US state or the bite occurred outside in the heart of winter when spiders are comatose from the surrounding snow!
Like the Australian situation, rigorous scientific research needs to be conducted to solve this most distressing of conditions.
Atkinson, R.K. & L.G. Wright. 1991. Studies of the necrotic actions of the venoms of Several Australian Spiders. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 98C: 441-444.
Gray, M. R. 1989. A significant illness that was reported by the White-tailed spider, Lampona cylindrata. The Medical Journal of Australia, 151: 114-6.
Harvey, M.S. & Raven, R.J., 1991, Necrotising arachnidism in Australia: a simple case of misidentification. Letters to the Editor, The Medical Journal of Australia, June 17, 1991, 154: 856.
Korzniak, N. V. 1992. Investigations of local and systemic effects of venoms of Australian spiders. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Melbourne.
Platnick, N.I. 2000. A relimitation and revision of the Australasian Ground spider family Lamponidae (Araneae: Gnaphosoidea). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 245: 1-330.
Rash, L. D., E. A. Davis, R. G. King, and W. C. Hodgson. 1998. A comparison of the pharmacological aciviity of venom from the male and female white-tailed spider. Toxicon 36: 1311-1312.
Raven, R. J. & M. S. Harvey, 1991. Necrotising arachnidism in Australia [Reply]. , The Medical Journal of Australia, 155: 208.
Copyright Dr Robert J. Raven
Senior Curator (Chelicerata)
March 21, 2002
Interesting read. I found it after I got bitten one night by a spider and wasn’t sure what it was. I woke around midnight and got up to get a glass of water. There was a big wolf spider on the kitchen floor so I put it out. When I got back to bed I noticed a really intense stinging itch on my hand which became an ache that slowly spread up my arm. Followed by back spasms, rapid heart rate, nausea, abdo cramps. The next day and for several days the arm throbbed and especially the armpit. I checked around the backdoor and there was a redback web with a big mamma reddie in it. Either the wolfie came into the kitchen with me on my hand or clothes and got a nip in that I hadn’t noticed or I stuck my hand into mamma’s web when I was putting wolfie outside. Just happy it wasn’t worse.
Interesting, I suppose it could have been a bite from either, hard to call. Check out my page on redback bites…
Lots of comments from people who have been bitten, might help you decide who the culprit was. My money is on wolfie.
Please note that the comments about dogs and Wolf Spiders is incorrect.
Wolf Spiders envenomation works the same with humans as it does in canines.
Older people / Older dogs however might react more severely to a bite.
People / Dogs with an allergic reaction might react more severely to a bite.
People / Dogs with weakened immune systems or auto immune disorders will react more severely to a bite.
Most people commonly confuse the wolf spider with black house spider, white tail spider, or funnel web, all which are deadly to dogs.
Wolfies are nocturnal hunters (mainly to avoid becomming lunch for birds), so its rare to see them out of a day (unless their burrow is flooded).
Our dog has a habit of rolling on the grass. In doing so, she’s picked up a fair few baby wolf spiders in her coat over the years. Then of course you pat her and you get them bite you. End result is a little bit of swelling around the bite (like hives) and itchiness. Same thing with our dog.
Well, you might like to take that up with the Queensland Museum, they clearly state that the bite from the wolf spider is “Fatal to dogs and cats within 1 hour; no serious reactions reported from bites to humans, even to children.”. You can read about it on the Queensland Museum’s page about wolf spiders.
There are quite a few other websites that talk about this problem as well, but to be fair there are also many other websites about the wolf spider that do not mention it. As you probably know, there are many different species of wolf spider, so maybe not all of them are dangerous to dogs and cats, but I’m pretty sure some of them are.
Better to be safe than sorry.
My mum has a book on identifying north queensland animals and it says that wolf spiders can kill cats and dogs.
Spiderman, my comments on Wolf Spiders are quite correct. As I have stated previously, don’t take my word for it – check it out for yourself. Bob has already posted the link for the Queensland Museum website backing these statements, but I would take it a step further, and contact them directly, namely, their head curator, Dr Robert Raven (Chairman of World Spider Catalogue Committee and the International Society of Arachnology; founder of Australasian Society of Arachnology. One of the worlds foremost experts on spiders); this applies to anyone who has any concerns regarding Wolf Spiders or any other spider. They are all too happy to talk with folks about any concerns they may have. Really. They love it.
Whatever is, or is not, happening with your dog is irrelevant; did you see the spiders in your dog’s coat and observe behaviour in the dog to suggest she was bitten? Did you then catch said spider/s and take them to an expert to be put under a microscope and officially identified? Did you take the dog to the vet to have her checked for puncture marks near enough to the area/s that you observed the spiders? If they were, as you claim, ‘baby Wolf Spiders’, then you must have observed the mother Wolf Spider on the ground prior to your dog rolling on it (this is the ONLY way you could possibly know they were Wolf Spider juveniles, as juveniles cannot be identified accurately by anybody, with or without a microscope) complete with juveniles attached to her back, and then, as before, caught said spider and taken it in to an expert for official identification under a microscope? Spider identification is very difficult – so difficult in fact, that in some species, the spiders themselves get it wrong and attempt to mate with the wrong species.
In the highly unlikely event you answered ‘yes’ to all (or any) of those, then it still proves little, as spiders will often ‘dry bite’ when defending themselves (some species more than others, but especially in many ‘roaming’ type spiders) – their venom is not limitless (again, some more than others), so they may conserve it as spiders also require venom to eat.
If you answered ‘no’ to these, then your argument is nothing more than hearsay with zero factual evidence to back it up. All this does is perpetuate myths and make it harder for people to find accurate and relevant information – and if you doubt the impact this can have, then while you are talking with Dr Raven, ask him for a copy of the summary of his study in to White-Tailed Spiders (which are completely harmless by the way) and it will really underline the issue.
Incidentally, Funnel Webs are harmless to cats and dogs – and just about every other creature on earth except humans, chimps, horses, baby mice and various insects and grubs. The only danger to cats and dogs from Funnel Webs is infection from the bite mark itself.
I’ll say it again – don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.
Yes, I can confirm that as well, funnel webs are harmless to cats and dogs and many other animals. According to scientists, funnel web venom is very effective against other spiders and insects, the fact that it is deadly to us humans is just a case of ‘bad luck’.
It is important to get information right about various spiders otherwise misinformation can be damaging, so that’s good advice Bill, if in doubt call the experts.
get heaps of wolf spiders on the central coast. they loved the buffalo turf, everytime I pulled some up they would come out of it. I sat on the lawn and one bit my leg, I put vinegar to stop the sting but a small red lump remained on my leg for a little over a year was rarely itchy but its gone now. I didn’t get sick. bees sting hurts more than this did. just to note im allergic to bees venom and this spiders venom didn’t react badly to me.
moved house and same issue – all in the lawn. would come in occasionally but I had one small stair and they don’t like climbing much. moved to place with no stairs, everytime one is pregnant she comes in to try and birth her babies! I have dogs around so im not impressed but to kill them is genocide so out to the garden with them. ive seen a few with egg sacks stuck to them, they don’t drop them easily. I studied them and they have pretty markings, and 4 little white dots on the underneath abdomen but when I photograph they never show up. it was difficult for me to identify them in comparison to pictures on the internet, they don’t photograph well.
Sounds like a nasty nip you got from that critter for it to leave a lump on your leg for so long, but as your incident proves, the venom of these things isn’t too harmful to humans. Bees cause you more problems.
I like your attitude, there’s no need to kill these things, but as you clearly know, you need to keep your dog away. Cheers, Bob
The spider in that video is a Grey Huntsman – harmless and very timid. I’ll see if I can find a video/picture of a Shield Huntsman for you. Thay are very common out your way, I lived in Brookfield for a while and there were plenty of them there.
Sounds good, if you find a video or a picture, maybe you could send it to me and I’ll post it somewhere on this website.
Fortunately, the Shield/Badge Huntsman is easy to identify (usually green to fawn, rarely brown or grey, and it has a very distinct orange and black ‘shield’ or ‘badge’ on the underside of it’s abdomen), and that is the only one you really need to be concerned about, so you should be okay…
Maybe I’ll stick to my glass tumbler and old Christmas card for picking them up. 🙂
I think I saw a Shield/Badge Huntsman a while back, I made a video of it, maybe you could check it out, but it definitely looks like a Shield/Badge on his back, clear as day…
Is that one?
Probably want to put them under a microscope too actually, as to be 100% certain of the species, that needs to be done…and it needs to be an adult male also…but otherwise, it’s as simple as that!!! 😉
Lol, thank you kindly Bob, I should have emphasised the Flat Huntsman a little more – they are so friendly, you can actually handle them!!
Hilary, it is wonderful to see someone take an interest in spiders, they are fascinating creatures! If you see a spider, catch it if you can (trap it with a plastic container of some kind, then slide a very thin piece of cardboard under the container where the spider is trapped and flip it over; put a damp cotton ball in there for the spider and when transporting it to the musuem, keep it out of direct sunlight as that will cook it in minutes!) and take it in to the museum for identification, you can learn some amazing things about them that way!
Kate Sparks handles this sort of thing at the South Australian Museum, she will be able to point you in the right direction. Also, they have a very large collection of specimens there too, that you can view. Or feel free post here, and I will do my best to help also.
So, all I’ve got to do now then is learn to tell the difference between a Flat Huntsman, a Grey Huntsman, a Giant Green Huntsman, the Brown Huntsman and the Shield/Badge Huntsman, not make a mistake in my identification either and also remember which ones are placid and aggressive. Then I can pick one up?
Bill, thanks for the info about the Museum and Kate Sparks. I will definitely go to the Museum asap and hope to make some contact, and make sure I look at the specimens. I thought for some reason I might have to go to the Zoo but the museum is nearer so that’s good.
Had my first meet-up with ‘proper’ spid the other evening. Just doing the washing up and from under the draining rack came, very slowly, a nice looking spid, not very big, I’d say just a little larger than 50 cent piece. She stopped half way along the draining board and I stopped too as it had surprised me. Not sure at all what she was but was a soft grey/pale brown colour, no clear markings from what I could see. I was really pleased as a handy glass and postcard made sure she went outside into the garden in one piece to live another day… To get a plastic box and cotton wool and go to the museum on the bus would take a bit longer but will try do that if I can one day. Again thanks for info!
That was meant to be factual, not condescending by the way – I hope it didn’t come off that way. I sincerely apologise if it did, totally unintended. I am on the train, so didn’t review it properly…
Bill – this is fascinating stuff. Do you know anyone in Adelaide’s Museum that could teach me more about spiders? I don’t have a particular fear of spids (yet) and in the UK would never kill one, but here is different. I thought if I could get to see some in real life in a ‘contained’ setting, like a zoo perhaps, then I wouldn’t get such a fright if I came across a huge Huntsman for the first time. Though I know Huntsman spids are valuable house guests and best to make friends with them. Great info in your post above to get me started, thanks!
Bill, as Hilary has said, your post was fascinating. You really had no need to apologise, it was not condescending in any way. I think a good proportion of us do want to understand spiders much better, and I think we have been doing that already on my page about the Huntsman spider.
By the way, please don’t go mentioning about that aggressive breed of Huntsman on that page, we’ve only just got people starting to appreciate their beauty 🙂
Anyway, that you have taken the time to ad this information about the Wolf Spider and other spiders is fantastic and I appreciate you doing that.
You are welcome to post any time, cheers, Bob
I live in Sydney in the inner west in a pretty leafy suburb with river & parkland at the back. I have lived here for over 10 years but in the last two have had so many wolf spiders come inside. Last summer I had on average three a week (which I killed). Not a nice spider inside in my experience. They run like the wind and can be pretty aggressive, not like a happy huntsman. Impossible to catch & put outside like I would a huntsman. I didn’t have screens on a couple of windows but now have screens on all. Still I have been getting one every 2-3 weeks. I’m gradually sealing up all the door cracks now. The other day the cleaner found one hiding under my bed – that was not nice.
Next door neighbour had one bite his 5 yr old daughter who had a pretty strong reaction to it. Guy at the servo had an allergic reaction to one & in hospital for a few days.
Why the sudden change in their numbers and why are they wanting to come inside? My termite inspection company (non insecticidal) thought maybe with a demographic change in the area, there is now a lot more garden.
Any ideas?? Thank you
No ideas I’m afraid, it just sounds like you’ve had a bit of a population explosion of wolf spiders in your area. All you can do is keep trying to close those little gaps to stop them getting in, and maybe consider using a stronger pest control. Spiders shouldn’t be able to survive more than 24 hours in your house if you’re pest control is up to scratch.
It all sounds very unpleasant and you are right, these spiders are nowhere near as nice as the Huntsman.
Good luck, Bob
I study spiders at UQ, I may be able to help here. One of the biggest problems we face with spiders is the myths and misinformation that has made education about them extremely difficult. Here are a few facts about some (there are plenty more though!) of the spiders you mentioned
1.Wolf Spiders may look mean, but they ARE NOT aggressive – at all. In fact, they are one of the most timid spiders on earth, and seldom bite. If they are acting aggressively, unless it is a mother with spiderlings (they ride around on her back, so you’ll know if you see it), I would say you have them mixed up with another spider.
2.Wolf Spiders are poor climbers and will do very little of it unless absolutely necessary. If your bed is off the ground, there is little chance you will wake up with a Wolf Spider in your bed. For the same reason, if you plug gaps in the lower wall and floor, you won’t get Wolfies in your home.
3. Wolfies have a distinctive behavioural pattern – they race out accross the floor, and then about halfway out they stop; a couple of seconds later, they continue to where they were going, racing for cover under the nearest fridge/couch etc. All spiders have very poor eyesight, so to them we are just giant shapes coming towards them, hence they race for cover. That ‘jumping’ style of running is not aggression, it’s a full throttle sprint for cover – it is almost literally blind panic.
4. There is no better way to control cockroaches than with Wolf Spiders – they are ground hunters and catch their prey live. About 10 years back I lived on a property backing on to a massive national park in a house so old, it had been scheduled for destruction in the 60’s (because it was too old even then!) – it was infested with spiders of all kinds, but in particular, Wolf Spiders. It occured to me much later that I had seen more snakes in the house, than fully grown roaches. Wolf Spiders wipe out roach populations.
5. Venom of Wolf Spiders is generally not dangerous, but of course, people react differently to different venoms, so in some rare instances, it can make you pretty crook. I would be extremely wary of others who say they have or know someone who has, been bitten and had bad reactions; unless they had the spider officially identified by an expert, there is a very high possibility that the spider has been mistaken for another or was a spiderless-bite – this kind of bad press has done all kinds of damage to spiders in general, but inparticular, the poor old White-Tailed Spider (which is completely and totally harmless by the way). Their venom is extremely lethal to cats and dogs however, so that is something to keep in mind – it can kill them inside 30 minutes. Again, rare, as they rarely bite – I had a dog that used to chase them and try and pick them up with his mouth and play with them, and he was never bitten (although I shooed him away when he did it though, and I certainly don’t suggest you encourage it).
6. Most pest control is generally ineffective against spiders (especially Huntsmen), as they only die from a direct hit. Spiders can shut off their lung for a time if required. If you have ever tried to spray or remove a Huntsman, you will often see them slam their bodies up against the edge of a ceiling or wall, helping to close the lung.
7. Huntsman can be very aggressive, depending on which type of Huntsman it is – Flat Huntsman (known as the Avondale Spider in NZ – was used in the movie Arachniphobia due to their placid nature), Grey Huntsman and Giant Green Huntsman are all quite placid, but the Brown Huntsman and in particular, the Shield/Badge Huntsman are very aggressive – and their bite is readily delivered. Bites from the Shield/Badge Huntsman should be treated with great caution, because although symptoms usually subside by themselves after a few hours without any complications, several serious envenimations have been reported.
8. Huntsman are homing spiders, so it doesn’t matter how many times you put them out, they will come back in.
9. This is probably the most important, don’t take anyone else’s word for it (including mine), talk to an expert if you are concerned – The NSW Museum should have a department specialising in Arachnids, and it’s head curator will be only too happy to help however he can – trust me, these guys LOVE discussing and identifying spiders. Failing that, contact the QLD Museum, who’s head curator is one of the world’s foremost experts on spiders, Dr Robert Raven (his resume is unbelievable!) – and he will be happy to help. He helped me so much, that I not only got over a crippling fear of them, but now, I can’t get enough of spiders and am at university studying them!
Wow, that went on a little bit, sorry.
It sounds like ur just repeating wat google says too…. come to my place, and look for a wolf and let it bite you… then you can make ur own judgement.
That’s a little harsh Daniel, Bill has made quite a few insightful comments about spiders around my website, he clearly knows his stuff and as he says, he has studied spiders at UQ.
Just getting spider information from Google sounds like something I would do though and probably did when I wrote this article 🙂
Am in complete agreement with Daniel’s sentiments about wolf spider bites. I am frequently bitten while gardening, usually on the legs or arms. It usually takes half an hour or more before any symptoms arise, and even then it seems more like an ant bite. A few hours later it is a different story : swelling, redness, a hardening of the tissue at the bite site, and serous exudate. These symptoms can last for several days. The severity varies and I suspect it may depend on whether or not an ice pack is applied without delay. I usually have to take an antihistamine to get some relief from the intense itching at night. Apparently it is an allergic reaction, but a very common one as I have heard of many others with a similar experience. Our couple of acres has many burrows and the spiders resent any disturbance ( watering, standing on burrows etc.). They also like to come inside the house during prolonged wet weather.
Nobody is arguing with either of you about the pain, I just wanted to point out that Bill knows a great deal about spiders and if you read his point number 5, he does say that on rare occasions bite from this spider can cause a reaction and make you quite crook.
Both you and Daniel have been bitten and didn’t like it much, but in your case Alan, all you needed was to take an antihistamine and ride it out. It’s not exactly funnel-web/redback like is it?
I also clearly stated in my article that the bite from the spider can “Cause mild to local effects, including itchiness, red welts, bruising, a rapid pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, faintness, leg weakness and prolonged headache.”
So by agreeing with Daniel I am hoping you are only suggesting that this spiders bite can be quite nasty; we know that. Hopefully though you are not suggesting that Bill got his information from Wikipedia as well, because he didn’t 🙂
I must say that sounds a little flippant and quite unnecessarily so. I suspect this is in relation to your other post about what you believe to be a Wolf Spider bite (I will answer that fully there), but these kinds of remarks just cloud the issue and make finding relevant information much more difficult. It’s this difficulty that Bob eases for those looking to come to this wonderful country through this site, with his own first hand experience and by diligently and responsibly engaging those in relevant authorities/communities.
I have a little article from Dr Robert Raven (Chairman, World Spider Catalog Committee, International Society of Arachnology) that deals specifically with White-Tailed Spiders, but it also has a little on spider bites in general which is quite relevant to this situation – in fact your reasoning for attributing the wound to a Wolf Spider is in exactly the same manner in which the White-Tailed Spider was originally (and falsely) blamed for the symptoms of ‘patient zero’. I have copied & pasted it in response to your original comment.
Once again, and as always, I encourage you not to take my word for it, but rather, investigate the matter on your own with the relevant people – such as with the Western Australian Museum who will be all to happy to help you. Failing that (not that it will), you can call any other state museum and they too will assist – if you contact the Queensland Museum, you can get on to Dr Robert Raven and he’ll give you the same article he gave to me, I suspect.
I encourage you (or anyone else for that matter) to read the article, it really does have a lot of good information. As I had to copy & paste, it can be a little difficult to read as it is not in the format that is ideal.
Accidentally scared off a spider guarding her eggsac and I want to try to save the slings. Eastern Australia Wolf spider how can I give them the best chance for surviving? 🙁 Advice please
Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe the mother will return if you leave the baby’s where they are? Probably the best chance, I don’t think feeding them warm milk will work 🙂
From what I can gather here, you saw a spider in a web with an eggsac and scared her off – now the web and eggsac remain, but the mother is nowhere in sight, is that right?
If this is the case, then it is not a Wolf Spider – they don’t build webs. More likely to be a Black House Spider (I say that, as they are often mistaken for Wolf Spiders – no way of knowing what spider it is without the spider itself though). They build a messy sort of web with a clear ‘hole’ in it. You’ll know what I mean if you see it.
Regardless of the type of spider, unless something has happened to the mother, she won’t be too far away, don’t worry.
I had an early childhood run-in with spiders, which eventually lead to nightmares and finally grew in to a paralysing fear of them. So 10 years ago, I began studying them to overcome the crippling fear – now I’m hooked, and I just can’t get enough of them. I am now at university studying them and intend to make a career from it. What really got me though, was just how many people in this industry got their start the same way, which goes to show just how effective it is.
Learning about them doesn’t equate to immediate love, it simply removes the irrational and the fear it brings; the uneasiness and fear of the unknown will remain initially (for some species more than others). But with the irrational gone, you can then see them for the amazing creatures they are – it’s from here that the love of them and what they do, comes from. This is easily the most effective way to deal with spiders. FAR more effective than any spray.
Surface sprays are useless against spiders, as they only die from a direct hit. You can kill them, but others will soon move in to replace them, and the problem with that is, that you don’t what type of spiders will be moving in next time? They could be far more dangerous than the ones you got rid of?
By learning about them and living with them, you can control to some degree, the types of spider you have in your home – having the presence of certain spiders, discourages the presence of some others. You will also learn ways to discourage types of spiders from coming near you and things like that.
The Queensland Museum here in Brisbane have been simply amazing and only too willing to answer my endless questions, requests, and ID specimens for me, as well as helping me through the appropriate career steps. I don’t know wherabouts in the world you live, but you will probably find your state museum (or equivalent) will be more than happy to help you and answer any questions you might have about spiders in your area (whether for a career or just for peace of mind!)
Great article Bob – I love Wolfies, one of the most timid spiders known, and hence, seldom bites. What I love about these guys is, they just wipe cockroaches out. Simply no better way of controlling roaches, than a large Wolf Spider presence.
Just wondering how you deal with the spiders and other insects in your area?
I know you spray and have posted about it in the past, but how do you deal with them if the spraying doesn’t succeed?
I’m scared to death of spiders and I’m trying to find the best way I can to deal with them.
The spraying does succeed, so there’s very little else to do. Very occasionally I will see a spider in my house, but that’s normally when a new pest control treatment is due, we have them done once a year.
I honestly see fewer spiders in my house then I ever did in England, so we don’t really have any special ways of dealing with spiders at all, we just get on with enjoying living in Australia 🙂