A lot of people are scared of spiders, and even those who don’t have arachnophobia don’t usually want to get too close. After all, spiders can bite, and some of them are quite dangerous. If you’ve ever seen a wolf spider, it probably looked pretty dangerous. But are they really as scary as they look? What happens when a wolf spider bites you, and what should you do to treat the bite? Keep reading as we answer these questions and more!
What You'll Learn Today
How Dangerous are Wolf Spiders?
When compared with other types of venomous spiders, wolf spiders are not considered particularly dangerous to humans. Can a wolf spider kill you?
While some types of spider bites can cause severe nerve and tissue problems and even death, wolf spider bites do not cause these symptoms. They are painful, but they are extremely unlikely to cause any serious symptoms, much less kill you.
Wolf spider bites may cause minor, localized swelling, and some can cause very minor skin cell death (necrosis) immediately surrounding the bite. But in most cases, you can self-treat these symptoms at home and the bite will heal within a few days.
The only time you really need to be concerned about a wolf spider bite is if you are allergic to its venom. Allergic reactions such as hives, dangerously low blood pressure, increased pulse, widespread swelling, and trouble breathing can occur.
If you know you are allergic to wolf spider bites, it would be a good idea to keep an EpiPen on hand. If you’re not sure whether you’re allergic and you are bit by a wolf spider, monitor yourself for any symptoms that might develop and get to the hospital quickly if they do.
Again though, severe allergic reactions are rare with wolf spider bites. In most cases, you will suffer nothing more than some momentary pain and minor localized swelling.
Is a Wolf Spider Poisonous?
Wolf spiders are not poisonous, though they are venomous. What’s the difference, you ask?
The word “poisonous” refers to anything that can cause negative symptoms if you touch, smell, or eat it. Wolf spiders will cause you no harm just from touching or handling them, they produce no toxic fumes, and they are even safe to eat.
“Venomous” means that an animal can inject toxins into your bloodstream that may cause symptoms, such as a rattlesnake biting you or a scorpion stinging you.
Wolf spiders do release a mild venom when they bite; this venom paralyzes the insects they hunt and can cause mild pain and swelling in humans.
The venom is also responsible for prompting an anaphylactic reaction, as described above, in those who are allergic to it. The venom itself doesn’t cause these more serious symptoms; instead, the symptoms are a result of the allergic individual’s body overreacting to the venom.
Why Are Wolf Spiders So Aggressive?
Most of the time, wolf spiders aren’t very aggressive at all. They don’t like people and they prefer to scurry away and hide over trying to pick fights with much larger creatures.
That said, there are moments when wolf spiders do display some aggression. Why is this?
Like all arachnids, wolf spiders will do what they have to in order to defend themselves and their babies. If they are unable to escape or they feel acutely threatened, they may raise their front legs in a defensive posture or charge at the threat in an effort to scare it off.
Say you’ve captured a wolf spider in a jar and are poking and prodding it with a stick. The spider will feel backed into a corner, with no possibility of escape; it will raise its front legs and attempt to attack the stick, as shown in this video:
In this case, though, it could be argued that the wolf spider isn’t actually behaving aggressively; it is simply attempting to defend itself from an unknown and imminent threat.
Wolf spiders may behave aggressively during breeding season, particularly when a female is rejecting a male’s advances or cannibalizing him after mating. You can witness this aggression between spiders in this video:
Wolf spiders may also appear aggressive as they hunt their prey. They will run after insects, pounce them, and even flip onto their back and wrap their legs around the insect before injecting venom to subdue it.
Despite these behaviors though, wolf spiders rarely behave aggressively toward humans unless they have no other options. Most of the time, they will run away rather than stand up and fight.
What to Do if a Wolf Spider Bites You?
Even though wolf spiders try to avoid encounters with people, these encounters do occasionally happen and bites can occur.
So, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a wolf spider’s defensive mechanisms, what should do you?
If you know you’re allergic to wolf spider venom, use your EpiPen to delay and reduce the anaphylactic reaction and get to a hospital immediately.
If you’re not sure whether you’re allergic to wolf spider venom, monitor yourself for any symptoms that might develop. If you are allergic, you will likely begin experiencing breathing problems, swelling, hives, and other systemic symptoms within 10 to 30 minutes.
If any symptoms begin to develop, get to the hospital immediately. Call an ambulance or have someone drive you if you aren’t able to drive yourself.
Even if you don’t have an allergic reaction, you will probably still experience some pain and localized swelling in the area of the bite.
Wash the bite with soap and warm water, then treat it with an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin. You’ll want to reapply this ointment repeatedly over the next few days to keep the bite from getting infected.
To reduce localized swelling, apply a cool compress, such as an ice pack wrapped in a towel, for 15 minute intervals; you can do this as often as once every hour. Keeping the bite elevated, if possible, will also help reduce the swelling.
If you need to, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If the bite begins to itch, apply an antihistamine cream or take an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl.
Again, if no serious symptoms appear, the bite should heal up within a few days to a week.
Wolf spider bites are painful and annoying, but they are not particularly dangerous unless you are allergic to the venom. Most wolf spider bites can be treated at home using basic first aid practices, and the bites will usually heal quickly and completely.