An Eight-Legged House Guest

Several times during the past week or two I’ve spotted an uninvited house guest in the living room.

(This is the best of about a dozen attempts to photograph it. You try taking a macro photograph on the floor of your poorly-lit living room using a point-and-shot camera.)

To the best of my knowledge, this is a wolf spider, family Lycosidae. The photo doesn’t give a very good sense of scale, but it’s big for a spider in this part of North America, noticeably bigger than a quarter. I pointed it out to my roommate. “Will it bite us?” she asked. When I assured her that wolf spiders are harmless (I suppose if you were persistent enough you could goad it into biting you, which might hurt, but it would be your own silly fault and it wouldn’t be that big deal of a bite anyway), she shrugged and we let it go about its business under our couch. Wolf spiders are active hunters – they don’t build webs to speak of – and having one on patrol is probably a positive thing, really, as they eat insects that we might not be as happy to have in the apartment.

This photo is at least an improvement over what I had to offer the last time I blogged about finding a wolf spider in the house, which was back when I lived in Ohio and had, like, two readers. My housemates at the time wanted the thing gotten rid of as soon as possible, so I had to snap a quick picture and then get it out of the bathroom before someone lost control of themselves and killed it. That same week I had to remove a poor innocent cellar spider from a panicky housemate’s bedroom. It’s nice to longer be living with arachnophobes.

Incidentally, this is not the same as a brown recluse, which might be some people’s first thought on finding a big scary-looking brown spider in their house. Contrary to what many people seem to think, brown recluses have a relatively small native range in the south-central U.S., and they’re probably blamed for a lot of necrotic skin lesions that actually have nothing to do with spider bites. They can be distinguished from wolf spiders by, among other things, the arrangement of their eyes – see this awesome photo at Myrmecos. You can find out more about the myths (and truth) about brown recluse spiders here (thanks to Bug Girl for originally posting this link).

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