Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wolf Spider

The Tarantula Wolf Spider, Lycosa tarantula is the very first spider to ever be given the name "Tarantula," due to its native habitat around Taranto, Italy. Interestingly, what many non-Europeans consider to be Tarantulas are not even within the same taxonomic family as the genus Lycosa, and are instead their own distinct family, Theraphosidae. Tarantula Wolf Spiders are often simply called Wolf Spiders because of this.

Image from Wikimedia Commons
There are over 200 species within Lycosa alone, and several hundred more spread throughout the family Lycosidae. Wolf Spiders are large (some can grow to 2 inches) and are distinguished by their large eyes positioned centrally on their heads. Like all spiders, they have two body segments, and eight legs. They are (mostly) diurnal, ground dwelling spiders that hunt down their prey. This differentiates them from many other spider types, as they do not use webs. Another interesting trait is that the females actually carry their egg sacs with them, holding their abdomens up high so they do not hit the ground.

Wolf Spiders are actually really awesome to have around! They are wonderful hunters and can keep pest levels down. They are almost always found outdoors, though sometimes they'll end up inside by accident. If you find one, don't kill it! They can be herded into containers and transported back outside, where they are sure to keep away centipedes, beetles, cockroaches, and all sorts of other arthropods.

Wolf Spiders are abundant. Lycosidae has members across the world, and more than 125 species in the United States alone. Wolf Spiders have been known to bite humans, though it is rare and typically only happens when they are directly handled. They are poisonous, but it is mild and gives a similar reaction to a bee sting.

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