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 (24)

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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.
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
Rebecca Cooper 25 April, 2014 10:18
I have lived in Werribee for about 3 years and I have noticed that all the wolf spiders here, there are quite a few, have seven legs. All the same leg too the left leg so it cannot be that they all lost the same one. Is this usual in their breeding? Do some just have seven legs? I have searched the internet and I cannot find a reference that's why I have come to the experts.
Discovery Centre 26 April, 2014 15:12
Hi Rebecca,

Wolf spiders, like some other species, have the ability to sacrifice a body part in order to escape prey. It is not uncommon to see spiders with less than a full complement of legs, due to this natural defence. As explained by Brueseke et al in their research article “Leg Autotomy in the Wolf Spider Pardosa milvina: A Common Phenomenon with Few Apparent Costs”, the loss of a leg does not cause significant detriment to the spider. You can read an abstract of this article here.

Olivia 25 May, 2014 21:17
I live in point cook and have seen several larger spiders around the house and in the garage over the last few weeks. I'd love to get the spider identified, so I know if it is a risk and how to manage it around the home. I have tried online identifying but still not sure. Would appreciate any advice in getting the spider identified. Thanks Can you suggest
Discovery Centre 26 May, 2014 09:11

Hi Olivia,

If you can take a clear photograph of the spiders and send it through to us via our Ask the Experts page we can try and identify it for you.

Megan 8 June, 2014 14:08
Whats the usual number of young
Discovery Centre 8 June, 2014 14:23

Hi Megan,

Wolf Spiders can have up to three hundred young, but only about half survive to become adults.

Melissa E 12 June, 2014 00:27
hey about 2 months ago I was at a friends house and she asked me to catch a spider and I did and we brought her home just to scare my girlfriend but ended it up keeping it later realize that she was laying eggs one week is passed and she has made herself a barrow I'm eager to see what this is going to come too but I don't want them to die so I need to know what I should do about feeding spiderlings " spidareris" has been so much fun to look after and my boys have loved so much wolf spiders rock
Discovery Centre 19 June, 2014 09:55
Hi Melissa, female Wolf Spiders generally carry their egg sac with them wherever they travel and, after hatching, the spiderlings climb onto their mother's back. Whilst on her back they don't feed, but will need to feed soon after dispersing. They are quite difficult to feed in captivity at this stage as they require very small prey. If you're concerned about their survival the best option is to let them go back where you found them.
Connor Guy-Smith 15 December, 2014 16:02
I live in a town in Victoria called Shepparton, and I really love catching spiders to study them. One of the spiders I want to catch the most is a wolf spider, I would really love to know if there are wolf spiders in Shepparton?
Suez 23 October, 2015 10:58
Hi there, I've searched for an answer to this but so far no luck. I had a little female wolf spider with babies onboard in the garden the other night. On 2 nights in a row she tried heading over to my little snail community (& I chased her off, which I feel bad about because I thought she was going to dump all those babies and they'd end up eating my snails, but if they're ground-burrow-ers maybe she was just looking for shelter for them?). Question: would they grow up and prey on the snails, and 2nd Question: in every photo (incl the ones I took of my visitor) there seem to be tiny eggs as well as spiderlings on Mum's back. Is that what the little white bits are in the photos (because I thought they all came from one big egg sac, or is that just the container with little eggs inside)? Would appreciate some info on these amazing little mothers.
Discovery Centre 24 October, 2015 17:13

Hi Suez,

Wolf Spiders (Family Lycosidae) are active hunters that run down their prey at night. They have large forward-facing eyes for detecting movement and judging distances, and apart from a few specialist Wolf Spider species they are generalist predators of insects and other spiders. So snails are generally safe from Wolf Spiders. The egg sac, filled with dozens of eggs, is carried around by the female and as soon as they hatch they climb onto the mother’s back and the egg sac is discarded. The abdomen of the female has specialised hook-like hairs onto which they cling, so we’re not aware what the white bits might be but it might help if you sent in a photo. The young remain on the mother’s back for up to a month, depending on the species.

Gavin 28 February, 2017 22:11
Just caught a huge possibly wolf spider in my kitchen on the floor , the abdomen on this thing would be almost the size of my thumbnail . He's chook food in the morning .....
Darren Caldwell 21 April, 2017 11:53
I've found a spider and not sure what it is
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