Wolf Spiders

Spiders of Victoria series

For most spiders, sons and daughters never get to meet their mum. The spiderlings hatch and are left alone to survive or become prey themselves. One exception to this behaviour is the wolf spiders (family Lycosidae). They provide maternal care that helps to protect the spiderlings until they are older and more able to feed and defend themselves.

Wolf Spider, Lycosa species

Wolf Spider, Lycosa species
Photographer: Alan Henderson, Source: Museum Victoria

The female wolf spider weaves a circular mat of fine silk onto which she deposits a hundred or more eggs. She then weaves silk around the eggs, draws up the sides of the mat and sews it into a silken ball. The size of this silken ball is often about the same as the spider itself.

A female wolf spider (Lycosa sp.) with her egg case

A female wolf spider (Lycosa sp.) with her egg case
Photographer: Graham Milledge / Source: Museum Victoria

Using strong silken threads, she then attaches the egg case to the under surface of her abdomen and carries it with her. She incubates the eggs during the day by facing the egg case towards the sun and slowly turning it. When the spiderlings finally hatch, they crawl up onto the mother’s abdomen, often covering her several layers deep.

Her maternal care extends only to providing the spiderlings with transport and protection from predators. The spiderlings do not share any of the prey that the mother catches, and if they fall off they are not rescued. Still, it’s a better start to life than most other spiderlings receive.

Photo of a female wolf spider, Lycosa godeffroyi, with spiderlings on her abdomen

A female wolf spider, Lycosa godeffroyi, with spiderlings on her abdomen
Photographer: Graham Milledge / Source: Museum Victoria

The wolf spider is not alone in the maternal care department. Scorpions also carry their young on their back, and female huntsmen spiders will also protect their spiderlings.

Further Reading

Brunnet, B. 1994. The Silken Web – A Natural History of Australian Spiders. Reed Books, Melbourne.

Lindsey, T. 1998. Spiders of Australia. New Holland Publishers, Sydney.

Walker, K. L., Yen, A. L. and Milledge, G. A. 2003. Spiders and Scorpions commonly found in Victoria. Royal Society of Victoria, Melbourne.

Comments (11)

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joel 22 September, 2010 13:18
do they borrow under ground when nesting?
Discovery Centre 24 September, 2010 12:43
Hi Joel, there are many species of wolf spider; some construct burrows but many species can be found in leaf litter or are known as vagrants, that is just using whatever shelter they find. As it notes in the sheet above the female wolf spiders construct an egg sac and carry it around with them while they are hunting for food, sometimes 'sunning' it. It is quite common to see these spiders walking around with the egg sac. It's even better to see the female walking around with all her young on her back.  
Geoff Powell 17 January, 2011 15:21
Have had a burrowing variety in my lawns for many years, sometimes with a slik covering over their hole but this would only be about 10% of those noticed. Have seen eggsacks attached to the abdomen and also babies covering the abdomen. do not appear as aggresive either freezing or scurrying down their burrows when they spot me.
Maddie 3 February, 2011 08:46
joel: no, they walk around with their eggsack on their're back stopping at various places to warm it in the sun.
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Gibbo 7 March, 2011 12:52
Just been bitten by a Wolf Spider, has left me feeling itchy and irritable with flu like symptoms, deep red ring around the area where I was bitten. The spider including leg span was 13cm.
Craig 15 March, 2011 20:15
I just caught a quite large one of these inside on my garage wall. Very impressive! Will let her go outside tomorrow.
Jim 29 March, 2011 14:17
Spotted a wolf spider on the side of the alpine walking track not far from falls creek.I photographed it as we did not know it's species. It was promptly identified by the museum discovery centre with a detailed reply as a wolf spider.
Andrew 2 May, 2011 09:04
Hi, I have three good photos of a wolf spider and young which I took near Euroa last week. Would you like me to email them to you?
Discovery Centre 2 May, 2011 10:48

Hi Andrew - feel free to send us the photos you have, you can attach them to a message to us via the 'Contact Us' option at the very bottom of the page.

mapleflame 17 March, 2013 09:18
what do you do if bitten by one????
daniel paton 13 April, 2013 14:04
my friend cault a wolf spider and he got bitten and he was sick for at least a week