The most common spiders in Connecticut are the brown recluse spider, the American house spider, and the northern black widow. Another common spider is the wolf spider, from the Lycosidae family ("lycosa" means "wolf" in Greek). The wolf spider is from a huge family; there are over 100 species of the Lycosidae family in the USA and Canada.

Wolf Spider
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Wolf spiders can be found inside during Connecticut's colder fall and winter months.

Physical Description

Wolf spider over white. Macro
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Wolf spiders can have stripes and are hairy.

Wolf spiders are usually mottled, ranging in color from brown to gray. They may also have stripes. They can be anywhere from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches in size and are hairy. They have a total of eight eyes, with four in the first row and three in two rows set above the first. The eyes vary in size. Although it is easy to confuse the wolf spider with the more poisonous brown recluse spider, wolf spiders lack the recluse's distinctive violin-shaped marking right behind the head.

Habitat

Spider eating in a web den.
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Wolf spiders live in burrows.

The wolf spider's natural habitat is soil surfaces and grassy fields, making all of Connecticut a perfect hunting ground. Since this spider doesn't spin a web, it needs territory in which to hunt. It lives on the ground and keeps a burrow or other dark place for retreat. Wolf spiders can be found in homes and garages in the fall as they seek a warm place to spend the cold Connecticut winter. The burrow is usually lined with silk and covered with grass or fallen leaves.

Hunting

Spider feeding on a centipede
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A wolf spider feasting on a centipede.

Wolf spiders are nocturnal and do most of their hunting at night. They are extremely quick and chase their prey, overtaking them and then biting. Their venomous bite will kill their dinner for them. Wolf spiders normally spend most of the day sunning themselves, saving energy for the hunt. When not hunting, the spiders tend to be shy and run away when unexpectedly disturbed. Wolf spider eat insects, favoring crickets. Fly-grubs, cockroaches, assorted beetles and mealworms are also on the menu. In addition, some wolf spiders are cannibals and will eat other wolf spiders in their territory.

Wolf Spider Bites

Gray Wolf Spider
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The wolf spider may bite thinking a finger or toe is an insect.

The wolf spider has sharp vision but may mistake a finger or toe for an insect, giving the spider an undeserved reputation for aggression. The wolf spider usually bites only if it feels threatened or cornered. It is a venomous spider, producing a poisonous bite. Although the wolf spider's bite may be painful, it is nonlethal. If bitten, wash the area with soap and water. Don't apply a bandage; instead, apply ice to reduce swelling. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems should seek medical treatment as a precaution. If there is any doubt as to the type of spider or the pain persists, seek medical attention. The bite could be from a brown recluse spider and is potentially lethal.