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What You Need to Know About a Wolf Spider Bite

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Wolf spiders are the most common spider species in the world. They’re usually dark brown with pale markings or stripes on their back. Their colors vary based on where they live, since it mainly serves as camouflage for protection.

Understanding Wolf Spiders

Like most spiders, they have a long torso and eight legs. They grow to be one-quarter of an inch to 2 inches long. They’re found across the U.S. and around the world.

You can distinguish wolf spiders from other spider species because they have three rows of eight eyes each. They also have two larger eyes in the middle. If you’re walking around in the dark and suspect wolf spiders may be nearby, use a flashlight. You’ll be able to see the light reflect off of their large eyes.

Wolf spiders are unique to other spiders because they don’t spin webs to catch prey. Instead, they run very fast and chase down prey. They are often alarming to people, because they can grow to be large and hairy. But they’re more of a nuisance than a danger.

Habitat. Wolf spiders live on the ground and like to hide in places like:

  • Grass
  • Under leaves and plants
  • Under rocks‌
  • Inside logs

They may even burrow into the ground or live in the crevices of trees. When they live in homes, you’re likely to spot them in warm, humid areas like:

  • Garages
  • Sheds
  • Doorways and windows‌
  • Basements

These places let them hide and give them easy access to prey.

Impact of a Wolf Spider Bite on Your Health

‌Wolf spiders don’t pose a threat to people. It is possible to be allergic to a wolf spider’s venom, but they are not poisonous. Since wolf spiders are large, their bite may be painful.

If you have mild pain, swelling, or itchiness around the bite, it shouldn’t last long. The pain should go away within minutes. The swelling should go down slowly, and the itching may last a few days as the skin heals.

Signs that your spider bite needs medical treatment include:

  • Cramping or having tight muscles around the bite
  • Headache or feeling dizzy
  • A rash that spreads outward from the site of the bite and may include itching that spreads
  • Sweating whether you feel hot or cold
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever
  • Weakness or uncontrollable shaking

If your symptoms don’t improve, get medical help right away. Your doctor may:

  • Prescribe stronger antihistamines to relieve itching on the wound site.
  • Prescribe antibiotics if they suspect an infection or want to prevent one.
  • Recommend surgery in the rare case that the wound is deep with a severe infection that is getting worse despite other treatment‌.
  • Give you a booster to the tetanus vaccination for added protection.

Benefits of Wolf Spiders

Many people consider wolf spiders a beneficial species because they eat other bugs and insects that we consider pests, like:

  • Crickets
  • Cockroaches
  • Mealworms‌
  • Beetles

Risks of Wolf Spiders

Wolf spiders aren’t poisonous to people, although they do have a very painful bite. It’s also possible to have an allergic reaction to spider venom. If you think a spider bit you, watch for signs of a severe reaction or infection.‌

In general, wolf spiders aren’t aggressive, so they’ll only bite if they feel threatened. But you may get close to a wolf spider without realizing it and get bitten.

If you suspect a spider bite, wash the wound area right away, and use a cold compress to reduce swelling and inflammation. You can take pain medication or an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory.

If you get bitten by a wolf spider, the area will have two marks from the spider’s fangs. It will be red and may be swollen and painful. If your condition gets worse, call your doctor immediately right away.

Prevent Wolf Spider Bites

Be aware of your surroundings to prevent a wolf spider from biting you. If it’s dark, carry a flashlight with you so you can easily see anything around you.

You can also:

  • Make noise as a way of warning any spiders that you’re nearby and moving toward them.
  • Shake out items like boots and boxes before picking them up.
  • Clear clutter that provides a place for wolf spiders to hide.
  • Hire a pest control service if you have a spider problem in your home.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Spider bites.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Venomous spiders.”

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County: “Wolf Spider: Friend or Foe?”

Michigan State University: “Wolf Spider.”

Pest World: “Wolf Spiders.”

University of Nebraska-Lincoln: “Wolf Spiders (wolfspider).”

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