Wolf spiders are large, scary-looking arachnids. Have you ever wondered if their diet matches their appearance? Just what does a wolf spider eat and drink? How often do they eat, and how do they hunt? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
What Do Wolf Spiders Eat and Drink?
Like many predators, wolf spiders are opportunistic feeders; they will eat whatever they can get in a particular region, as long as they are able to catch and subdue it.
These fierce hunters of the insect world generally eat whatever is most available and easiest for them to catch, though they may be willing to work harder for their next meal and eat a wider variety of things in times of food shortage.
Some of the foods wolf spiders will eat include:
- Ground-dwelling insects: This food group makes up the largest portion of their diet, as wolf spiders live on the ground and prefer to hunt prey that stays on the ground. Some of the ground-dwelling insects they eat include beetles, centipedes, grasshoppers, pill bugs, and even other spiders.
- Flying insects: Wolf spiders will sometimes eat flying insects if they land and stay on the ground long enough for the spider to attack. Some of the flying insects they will eat include flies, mosquitoes, and butterflies.
- Water-dwelling insects: Certain species of wolf spider are able to swim and walk on the surface of the water. These spiders will sometimes hunt water-dwelling insects such as water striders and mosquito larvae.
- Insect eggs: Some wolf spiders, especially smaller ones, eat the eggs of various insects. Though they usually prefer live insects that they hunt down, insect eggs can provide energy and nutrients when food is more scarce.
- Small frogs and toads: Some of the larger wolf spiders, especially those found in Australia, have been known to hunt small animals. In particular, they seem to enjoy eating frogs and toads, as long as the amphibian in question is small enough for them to subdue.
- Small mammals: The same large wolf spiders that eat frogs and toads may eat other animals as well, particularly small mammals such as mice and moles. Though they can’t actually eat the meat of these animals, they will suck out the blood and other bodily fluids.
Now that we’ve discussed what wolf spiders eat, you may still be wondering, what do they drink?
Wolf spiders occasionally drink water from ponds, puddles, and other bodies of water. They may also drink bits of dew or rainwater on plants, or water that is on their prey.
They get some of the liquid they need from the prey they eat, as regardless of the size or type of prey, wolf spiders suck out their insides. If they need any more fluids beyond this, they can usually get it from their environment.
Do Wolf Spiders Eat Ants?
Yes; in fact, ants are a favorite food of wolf spiders.
There are thousands of ant species; much like wolf spiders, they are found all over the world. Many of these ants are ground-dwelling insects, so they are easy for the spiders to get to.
What’s more, ants generally can’t outrun wolf spiders. Some species may be faster than others, but wolf spiders have longer legs and can easily catch even the fastest running ants.
Like wolf spiders, ants come in different sizes; this means that even small and young wolf spiders can enjoy them. Depending on their size and appetite, wolf spiders can eat as many or as few ants as they want, especially if they find a nest.
For all of these reasons, ants are one of the staple foods for wolf spiders.
Do Wolf Spiders Eat Their Young?
Wolf spiders are known for caring for their babies more than other spiders do; the mothers carry their young on their back and care for them until they begin to mature. You can see an example of this in the video below:
So, would adult wolf spiders really eat their own young?
Some research does suggest adult wolf spiders may cannibalize their babies. This is a very rare occurrence, and they will only do it in times of extreme food shortage.
Evidence suggests that wolf spider babies may eat their mother as well, but most likely, they will be eaten by the mother first.
Again though, both of these behaviors are extremely rare and unusual, and are only the result of desperate arachnids doing what they have to do to survive periods of famine.
What Do Baby Wolf Spiders Eat?
As mentioned above, baby wolf spiders spend their first few days to weeks riding piggyback on their mom, who provides the food. Babies learn what to eat and how to hunt during this time.
Young wolf spiders generally eat the same thing as adults do–insects, insects, and more insects. That said, the insects they choose are generally smaller to account for their smaller size.
Baby wolf spiders don’t eat frogs or small mammals, as they are simply too small to eat these things. They won’t eat larger insects either, such as grasshoppers or large spiders; when they are very young, they may only be able to eat small sugar ants or gnats.
They will start eating larger and larger prey as they grow. They are instinctive hunters, and as they mature they begin to hunt their own prey much as the adults do.
How Do Wolf Spiders Hunt?
Wolf spiders are called wolf spiders for a reason; they stalk prey much like wolves do. Once they spot their next meal, they start chasing it.
Wolf spiders are fast runners; typically, they run down insects and pounce on them when they get close enough. They may even flip over onto their back and wrap their legs around it to help bring it under control.
Some wolf spiders make burrows and wait for insects to pass by the openings of these burrows. The insects may fall into the opening, or the spider may lunge out, pouncing on the prey before it can get away.
Wolf spiders will inject venom into the insect or creature to paralyze it and break down its insides. This allows the spider to eat the prey without having to constantly fight it.
How Often Do Wolf Spiders Eat?
The answer to this question depends on the size of the spider and the size of its last meal. Generally speaking, they don’t eat a whole lot, though larger wolf spiders eat more than smaller ones.
Wolf spiders typically eat about half their own size in food every other day or so. The largest ones may eat more than that and may need to feed every day.
On the other hand, baby wolf spiders only need to eat about once every 5 days.
Again though, wolf spiders and insects come in many different sizes, and how much they eat may depend a lot on these factors.
For example, a medium to large wolf spider may eat several small ants, then need to eat several more the next day. If the same wolf spider were to eat a grasshopper close to own size, it may not need to eat again for a few days.
Wolf spiders eat many different kinds of insects, and some species may also eat insect eggs and small animals. They are opportunistic feeders that will generally eat whatever they can find and capture.