Rabidosa rabida

Geographic Range

Rabidosa rabida is very common and widely distributed. It is often recorded as a wandering spider. It is typically found in east to central Texas and Oklahoma, northward to Nebraska. It has frequently been traced as far east as Maine and as far south as Florida. (Jackman, 1997)


Rabidosa rabida ismost often found in wooded areas, cotton fields, and buildings. These spiders usually reside among litter, rubbish, in holes, under rocks, and on low foliage in these areas. Some individuals have been found around ponds or in deep burrows with a turret of debris. (Jackman, 1997; Milne and Milne, 1980; Parker, 1982)

Physical Description

A typical rabid wolf spider has a dark gray cephalothorax with two light longitudinal stripes extending across the top and a narrow light line on each lateral margin of the thorax. The abdomen has a dark median band, notched on each side in front of the middle of the abdomen, with several pairs of light spots on the rear part of the abdomen. The first pair of legs is often black or dark brown, and the other legs are brown. Females average 16 to 21 mm long, Males are typically much smaller than females, measuring an average of 13 mm in length. (Comstock and Gertsch, 1965; Milne and Milne, 1980)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Average length
    males, 13 mm; females 21 mm


Female R. rabida drag their egg mass around, having spun a silken cocoon around the egg mass and attached it to spinnerets. The cocoon darkens from shiny white to dirty brown before the eggs hatch.

Spiderlings ride on their mother's back until they are ready for dispersal. Egg sacs are from 7 to 10 mm in diameter and contain from 168 to 365 eggs. (Jackman, 1997; Milne and Milne, 1980)


Female R. rabida release a dragline. Males stumble across the line, which leads them to the female. Once courting is over, the male spins a ball of silk and then releases sperm onto the ball. The female attaches the ball and drags it along with her until she is fertilized. (Rovner, 1991)

Reproduction in R. rabida is one of the most commonly debated and studied areas of the animal's behavior. Rabid wolf spiders efficiently detect movements. When males and females are in courtship mode, they use a series of displays to interact and breed. R. rabida perform a series inter-bout turns in which one spider turns in a given direction based upon the direction in which the other spider turned previously. Pheromones also play a role in these intricate courting rituals. Scientists have shown that the intensity of the pheromone is directly related to the turning in males, specifically the degree and time of turning.

Female R. rabida drag their egg mass around, having spun a silken cocoon around the egg mass and attached it to spinnerets. The cocoon darkens from shiny white to dirty brown before the eggs hatch.

Spiderlings ride on their mother's back until they are ready for dispersal. Egg sacs are from 7 to 10 mm in diameter and contain from 168 to 365 eggs. (Jackman, 1997; Milne and Milne, 1980; Rovner, 1991)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from late summer to early fall.
  • Range number of offspring
    168 to 365

The spiderlings hatch and remain on the mother's back until they are ready for dispersal. (Jackman, 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female


Most rabid wolf spiders live up to around two years, six months of which is sometimes spent on the mother's back. The larger, more fit R. rabida can live beyond two years in stable environments. (Comstock and Gertsch, 1965)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 (high) years


Because rabid wolf spiders are among the most common spiders in the United States, they have adapted to many types of environments. These spiders are very aggressive towards humans, spiders,other animals and insects. Because of their wandering habits, these spiders are subject to a plethora of interactions between the same and other species. Although harmless to humans, its bite is often feared. (Milne and Milne, 1980)

Communication and Perception

Rabid wolf spiders communicate in many different ways. One way is through the release of pheromones. Both males and females lay out a dragline and deposit a chemical attractor on the line. Male wolf spiders intersect these lines and use their palps to follow the line for mating. Another type of communication is web vibrations. This type of communication, known as the substratum-coupled vibration system, is used mainly by males to attract females, but is also used for males to communicate with one another. Essentially, a male "plucks" the web fibers to play a "song". (Comstock and Gertsch, 1965; Milne and Milne, 1980; Rovner, 1991; Unknown, 1999)

Food Habits

Rabid wolf spiders usually prefer to eat small insects and other invertebrates. They have been known to eat crickets, locusts, ants, grasshoppers and even other spiders. R. rabida is very strong and is not usually intimidated by larger organisms. These spiders are "sit-and-wait" predators. In order to more easily detect visual and vibratory cues from prey, R. rabida must remain motionless. These spiders do not eat solid material, so once they overtake the insect, they usually suck out liquids and nutrients of their prey. (Jackman, 1997; Parker, 1982; Rovner, 1989)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods


While Rabidosa rabida is nomadic and moves frequently, it does so in a manner that is inconspicious to larger predators. By staying low in the brush, under litter or ground cover, the spider can move efficiently and most often remains undetected. Wolf spiders get their name from they way they stalk their prey slowly and from a distance, which has been associated with wolves and other wild dogs. (Parker, 1982; Rovner, 1989)

  • Known Predators
    • Other Wolf Spiders
    • Dogs
    • Cats
    • Snakes

Ecosystem Roles

Rabidosa rabida has a limited role in th ecosystem. Its main job as a predator is to control the booming insect population. However, as an occasional prey species, it may contribute to feeding other organisms also.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Although it is of little direct benefit to humans, R. rabida is very common among semi-urban and rural areas and is very active in its predation of insects. This can be a big benefit where pests are a problem.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Rabidosa rabida has little adverse affect on humans outside of being pests. These spiders are not poisonous but have been know to bite unsuspecting victims.

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Rabid wolf spiders are not currently endangered or at any prevelant risk of becoming threatened.


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Justin Scarborough (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

delayed fertilization

a substantial delay (longer than the minimum time required for sperm to travel to the egg) takes place between copulation and fertilization, used to describe female sperm storage.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Comstock, J., W. Gertsch. 1965. The Spider Book. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Company, Inc..

Jackman, J. 1997. A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company.

Milne, L., M. Milne. 1980. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Chanticleer Press, Inc..

Parker, S. 1982. Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms Volume 2. McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Rovner, J. 1991. Turning behavior during pheromone-stimulated courtship in wolf spiders. Animal Behaviour, 42: 1015-1016.

Rovner, J. 1989. Wolf Spiders lack mirror-image responsiveness seen in jumping spiders. Animal Behaviour, 38: 526-533.

Unknown, 1999. "Introduction to Ethology" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 3, 2001 at http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/Ethology/introduction_to_ethology.htm.