Bug of the month

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by Chloe
Publish date
1 July 2011
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This guest post is by Chloe, a Live Exhibits keeper at Melbourne Museum.

Garden Wolf Spiders, Lycosa godeffroyi, are commonly found on the prowl around Victorian gardens at night. They are modern spiders, or araneomorphs, in the family Lycosidae and they differ from many other spiders through their prey capture technique. Wolf spiders are active hunters that chase down their prey.

Wolf spider, Lycosa godeffroyi	Wolf spider, Lycosa godeffroyi
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife
 

During the day wolf spiders seek cover in vertical burrows, often utilising discarded invertebrate burrows, however they will dig their own if necessary.

Wolf spider emerging from its burrow Wolf spider emerging from its burrow
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria

Wolf spider peering out of its burrow Wolf spider peering out of its burrow, using its posterior eyes
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Wolf spiders are attractive spiders, ranging in colour from black to orange-brown with striking grey patterns on their carapace. Males have large bulbs on their pedipalps and females are typically larger and more robust than males. They are common throughout southern Australia in a range of habitats.

Wolf spider Wolf spider
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife
 

Males court female through a series of leg drums and vibrations while ‘dancing’ with his forelegs.  If the female is receptive she will allow him to approach.  The male will then present the female with a sperm package on one of his palpal bulbs, (as spiders do not have penises) which she will store and use to fertilise her eggs.

Female wolf spider carrying her egg sac Female wolf spider carrying her egg sac
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Sometime after fertilisation the female produces an egg sac, which she carries with her (even while hunting) under her abdomen. 30 – 40 days later the eggs hatch producing up to 200 spiderlings. The spiderlings do not immediately disperse; instead they ride on their mother’s back for a few weeks.  When they are ready to fend for themselves they disperse via silk strands.

Female wolf spider with spiderlings Female wolf spider covered in her spiderlings
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Female wolf spider carrying her spiderlings Female wolf spider carrying her spiderlings
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Wolf spiders are not aggressive by nature; they will however defend themselves if provoked. The anatomy of their feet – they have three claws and no hair tuffs on the tips of their legs – means they cannot negotiate slippery surfaces. This makes them good pets because they are easy to house and care for in a glass jar or terrarium.

Wolf spider, Lycosa godeffroyi Wolf spider, Lycosa godeffroyi
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Minibeast Wildlife
 

 

Links:

Victorian Spiders

Wolf spider infosheet

Comments (6)

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Maree Sommerville 12 February, 2012 19:46
My mother told me a story about her experience with a spider while living in country Victoria. It was before I was born. She was in the kitchen when she heard a click, click, click on the lino floor. When she turned around she saw a huge spider. As any self respecting arachnophobe would do, she jumped on the kitchen table with the fly spray (in the old pump) and sprayed it. That one spider became hundreds. I always wondered about the truth of the story but now I know it was a wolf spider. Sorry I ever doubted you MUM!
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Discovery Centre 25 January, 2012 17:28
Hi Michael, thanks for your comments, the pictures are pretty spectacular. There are many species of spider in Australia who like the wolf spiders do not spin a web and wait for their prey to come to them. The white-tailed spider is one example as are the large number of spider species commonly called hunstmans. This hunting behaviour can bring these spiders into our homes but they do not feed on people and see our homes only as somewhere where their next meal might be waiting. 
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Michael 24 January, 2012 08:50
This is one of the best articles that I came across in recent times if we consider your pictures. I would also like to see some more content with these beautiful pictures. I think that most there are lots of people who who that wolf spider do not make webs. Is there also some other kinds of spider who don't make webs like wolf spiders. I would also like to a website "wolfspiders.org" where you will find lots of useful information about wolf spiders.
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Lucy 4 July, 2011 16:02
Looks just like Charlotte :)
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Jacki 1 July, 2011 12:42
This entry is one great example of why I follow your blog. I find spiders particularly fascinating and beautiful, and am often alone in my sentiments. Wolf spiders are among my favourite of the modern spiders, mostly due to the female's endearing practice of carrying her young on her back. Thanks for the close up pictures of these graceful creatures.
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Katiefoolery 1 July, 2011 12:07
This was such a fascinating article about the wolf spider and I think I will be looking at them differently should one appear in my house again. The photos of the spiders, especially the ones with the baby spiders riding on mum's back, are so detailed and intriguing. Thanks for teaching me a bit more about the wolf spider.
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