The Girl Who Cried Wolf Spider

Female Wolf SpiderI am a highly superstitious person. I always throw salt over my shoulder when I spill it. I always make wishes on white horses, when I go under train tracks and when I see hay wagons. But there is one thing I never, ever do and that is kill a spider. I am certain Death of Spiders (related to Death of Rats) is waiting to pounce on any unsuspecting human that dares tread (literally) on one of his charges.

Besides, as a gardener, I know that spiders are one of those friendly creatures you are suppose to let live in your garden as they are really good at dining on the not so friendly creatures that also reside in the garden. If I could, I would make tiny little take out menus for all the local spiders.

This past weekend I found a female wolf spider scuttling through the flower beds. How did I know she was a she? As spiders don’t wear skirts, the giant egg sac hanging off her rear end is a huge clue. It brings new meaning to the phrase Baby Got Back.

Female wolf spiders lug their egg sacs around with them and when the babies are mature enough, mom rips open the sac to set them free. Then the kiddos attach themselves to her back and will stay there for several weeks while she resumes daily activities. Where is dad in all this? Probably watching a riveting game of spider football. Then again, maybe mom ate him. How’s that for modern feminism.

The name wolf spider covers a class of spiders. There are in fact over 2000 species of wolf spider. They can be found almost anywhere in the world and are identifiable by the fact that they are very hairy, have 8 eyes of varying sizes and do not spin webs.

That’s right; they lack the artistic stylings of other spiders and could not save a pig’s life if they had too. They do not build webs. They are hunters, who will pounce on passing insects or even chase down an insect that seems particularly attached to its life. In fact, wolf spiders are so named because it was once mistakenly thought that wolf spiders hunted their prey in packs, like wolves do. This is not the case though. For the most part, wolf spiders are solitary arachnids. In fact, they will eat each other if given the opportunity and lack other food sources.

Wolf spiders are not poisonous and tend not to bite, though a female wolf spider with an egg sac is much more aggressive than usual. She will, like any good mother, defend her babies to her death and will fight anything she sees as a threat.

While spiders may be scary looking, the old wives tales knew what they were talking about, almost. These little lovelies will eat hundreds if not thousands of bad buggies in your garden during their lifetime. If you kill one of these spiders, it will be your own fault, not bad luck, that insects demolish your prize flowers.

23 thoughts on “The Girl Who Cried Wolf Spider
  1. gus on

    In my current (indoor) job I encounter lots of spiders and their webs. My co-workers will squash them at will. I, however, simply remove the webs and allow the inhabitants to run free. This is a holdover from my 25 years in the great outdoors.

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  2. I confess I do not love spiders. I do love Terry Pratchett however and I’m hoping that that redeems me a little bit.

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  3. Whenever a spider gets inside here, there is much snickering at watching me try to escort it outside. Total arachniphobe, but I want the little guys to enjoy the garden and do their thing and have great lives! It’s like watching a weird ballet based on fear (mine) and eight legs (theirs). Also funny is watching me pick tomatoes around the spiders while trying not to disturb them or traumatize me.

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  4. I had a bad experience with a crab spider back in college that made me terrified of spiders for years. It wasn’t until I became a gardener that I started liking them again. They still startle me and if they jump at me I’ll more than likely squash them, but I try my best to let them be now.

    Same with bees. We have a few bumbles in our back yard and before I gardened (is that a word?) I kept my distance. Now, if one follows me around, it doesn’t bother me at all.

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  5. Oh dear those crazy wolf spiders come into my house this time of year and they bite! Check out my blog where I talk about “friendly, worker spiders and the garden!

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  6. I grew up in a house where it was a sin to kill a spider. When I was a teenager, I used to roll my eyes and think my mother was crazy. Two years ago, when my wife (then fiance) asked me to kill a spider at our apartment and I took it outside to set it free. She rolled her eyes and called me crazy. At that moment, I realized I really had come full circle into adulthood and was turning into my parents.

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  7. Andy on

    Boy what great blog… I live in Thailand, but I am an old Ohioan (Ashland)… and really enjoy reading your posts… I like spiders, too… although having a few in the kitchen and bathroom the size of US half dollars can be startling… we don’t kill them either.

    Keep up the good writing (I’m a teacher) thanks for the taste of the homeland… (Jeez! I will keep the last word… but, does anyone else feel that that word has been tainted in the last few years?

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  8. I would never, ever dream of killing a spider. My wife has given up on trying to convert me to the evil cult of arachnid homicide and just shrieks in disgust as I safely relocate any ‘invaders’ out to the garden :)

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  9. I can’t kill wolf spiders simply because that would mean I have to get close enough to it to somehow end its life. And I almost can’t bear to look at them. It’s one of my only flaws 😉

    The old house in the woods where I grew up left me slightly scarred by the beasts. Almost every morning in the summertime you’d find one in your sink or in your shoe. Once I woke up thinking I felt something crawling on me in bed, but tried to dismiss it, until finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and got up and turned on the light. A giant wolf spider was in the bed with me, and I had a goose-egg bite on my thigh to prove it. I screamed so loud, my dad came in with a baseball bat, thinking I was being murdered.

    People love to tell their spider horror stories, non?

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  10. Hi I put my blog, then my website. I’m loving your blog. Can I list you on my favorites list?

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  11. It’s so interesting to hear people’s spider stories. (And yes, I also really enjoyed the original article–I learned a lot.) Spiders and snakes both seem to be creatures people have instinctive reactions to. Most of those reactions are about immediately killing them–I don’t know why. Very few spiders (or snakes) are dangerous, at least in temperate zones, and generally they’re more afraid of us than we are of them. Given that we outsize them by a bajillion times, small wonder.

    @Andy, yeah, I’m one of those who feel that “homeland” has gotten a serious dip in a bath of…well, this is a fair-speaking blog, I won’t continue. It’s too bad. It’s a lovely word, really.

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  12. Hanna,

    Personally I think the are Hungarian ping pong spiders headed for the game..

    They can stay as long as they invite all their zipper, and orb web spider friends. Especially the big golden orb spiders. That will set the proper mood to enjoy the spider daylilies.

    There were 493 teen tiny spider babies camped out on top of the compost pile the other night. The were moved to the iron weed and the feeding of Seymour’s smoldering breathern continued in ernest.

    PS that was ernest with as small e, not Ernest.

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  13. I do not like spiders and snakes,,,and Thank Goodness, in my garden I don’t run across any..we did have snakes,,baby water moccasins, in our yard one time, after it flooded. I don’t know what my DH did with them and I don’t want to know.
    I had one experience with spiders in our yard one time,,,I overturned a small can to pour out the water so we wouldn’t get mosquitoes and there was a black widow spider. I just put the can back down on her or him, and ran..I avoided that spot for years…LOL…

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  14. What a great blog. Really off-the-wall and different from the typical gardening blog. Spiders are great creatures as they eat other pesky insects like flies (I hate flies). I have heard of a superstition that if you kill a spider, it will rain. So if you want to keep those storm clouds away…..
    Thanks again for a great blog. Keep up the good work!

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  15. I love the wolf spiders. I am always coming across them, occasionally I see them feasting on Japanese beetle larvea, yeah!

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  16. I also had a wolf spider in my little pond last year and I saved her. She had babies crawling all over her!
    I do not ever want to encounter a brown recluse though.

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  17. Hanna on

    gus – Good for you letting them go free. Some people just don’t know a good thing when they see it.

    Daphne Gould – If you are a Pratchett fan, all is forgiven. 😉

    Lemon Tartlet & Brandi Mills & Andrea & Daisy – At least you give them a chance. They are a little intimidating looking.

    MamaBird – You know, I am not sure. Several weeks at least.

    Sparkles – We will have to do that.

    Jeremy – Isn’t that the sign that we are truly grown up. When we become our parents? hehe

    Andy – I am so jealous of you! I loved Thailand when I visited there. The snakes there worried more than any of the big spiders.

    Matt Says – She will learn someday that they are good. 😉

    Judith – Of course you can. If you send me your blog through the contact form, I will add you to mine as well.

    Pomona Belvedere – You are so right about that.

    M Sinclair Stevens – OMG, that is a big spider. Very cool looking though.

    John – 493 spiders! You are so lucky. A few family meals and all the pests will be gone from your garden. 😉

    eve – They can be a little scary.

    Laurie – Thanks for stopping by!

    HeirloomGardener – Bad bug larva. A spiders favorite meal. 😉

    Dianne – I want to see the babies on the wolf spider. I have seen the pics and they look cool.

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  18. That’s ‘my’…I swear my brain doesn’t see the mistakes right away.
    And she has the babies crawling on her here.

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