The Carolina Wolf Spider was named South Carolina’s official state spider in 2000.
Also known as the Giant Carolina Wolf Spider, the Carolina Wolf Spider is the largest wolf spider in North America and is one of the largest of the 2,200+ species of wolf spiders found worldwide.
This 3-inch to 4-inch terrestrial spider lives across the U.S. and southern Canada and, like other wolf spiders, has eight eyes that are arranged in three rows. The bottom row has four small eyes, the middle row has two very large eyes, and the top row has two medium-sized eyes.
You can use their eyes to find them at night because their eyes reflect light well. A great way of finding them is with a flashlight held at eye level to reflect light back from their eyes directly toward yours.
Identification can be tricky, but look for a gray-brown body with a dark center stripe on the abdomen, long, hairy legs; and eight large, dark eyes of unequal size. Because they depend on camouflage for protection, they do not have the flashy appearance of some other kinds of spider and their coloration generally blends with their habitat.
Wolf spiders are thought to look similar to brown recluses and are often killed because they resemble these dangerous spiders. With a little practice, it is easy to tell the difference between the two. For one thing, if the spider you see has a body that’s longer than a half inch in length, it’s not a brown recluse
When people hear the term “wolf spider,” they may think these spiders hunt in packs. However, they actually hunt alone and get their name because they run down their prey instead of trapping it in a web. Agile hunters, they rely on their good eyesight for hunting at night.
Wolf spiders are unique among their species because the females carry their eggs along with them in a round silken egg sack attached to their abdomens. The abdomen must be held up in a raised position to keep the egg case from dragging on the ground, but they can still hunt. Also unique among spiders is their method of infant care. Immediately after the babies hatch and emerge from their protective case, they climb up their mother's legs like a ladder and all crowd together on her back. Here they'll stay for a few weeks until they’re large enough to hunt on their own.
Although not too aggressive, Carolina Wolf Spiders are skittish and leery of humans. Because of their nervousness (and speed), they shouldn’t be handled. Typically a bite from this species will only cause some itching, BUT it’s important to remember that ALL spiders carry some venom. Some people may be allergic or sensitive to this venom, making a bite a dangerous situation.
The venom from this species has been known to cause necrosis lesions in some, although people’s responses vary widely. All spiders should be considered dangerous because you don’t want to find out if you’re allergic or particularly sensitive the HARD WAY!