Monday, July 9, 2018

Wolf Spider

While doing a soil survey in our freshly mowed hay field, Richard Locke spotted a large spider skittering over the duff.  After multiple tries we had it in a box.  While few spiders are distinctive, this wolf spider had unique markings of a male rabid wolf spider, Rabidosa rabida.

First the eyes have it.  Wolf spiders have a distinctive row of 4 small eyes on bottom, then two large eyes above and finally medium eyes on top and a little lateral.  The palps are large, typical of male spiders.  In addition to the dramatic light and dark stripes along the large cephalothorax, there are the series of large paired light stripes on the abdomen.  Finally, R. rabida males have black front legs.

Wolf spider eye pattern
Note eyes- click to enlarge
According to Bradley* "The spider is usually found in open habitats such as pastures and prairies, and even open woodlands.  It is most common in tall grasses where it climbs in the vegetation at night."  We would likely never found this one except for the mowing.

R. rabida with babies - Ralph Arvesen CC
According to Wikipedia, "During breeding, the male performs a "dance" in front of the female, and makes a noise with its legs. If mating is successful, the female will begin to lay its eggs and build an egg sack out of silk, which she will use to carry her young. When the spiderlings are born, they ride on the mother's back until they are old enough to be on their own."

The abdominal markings looked familiar so I went back in my files and found photographs of this little lady R. rabida in 2016.   She was slowed down by her burden (some of you ladies will probably sympathize), and willingly posed on my hand, even climbing up my finger to demonstrate her hold on the egg case.  Ever the gentleman, I gently returned her and today's find to their home territory.

* Common Spiders of North America, Richard Bradley, p. 160.