Albury-WodongaNE VictoriaSouthern New South Wales


A fine line between courtship and consumption


By Jonathon Howard

Wolf spiders are small to medium sized spider that are generally grey or brown with a series of black stripes. You may find them in your garden and lawns. The two most common species around here are Tasmanicosa godeffroyi and Venatrix furcillata.

Wolf spiders have eight eyes: four eyes in front and another four arranged in a square on top. They are vagrant hunters that search for prey on the ground, and this arrangement of eyes provides them with an exceptional ability to spot and catch their prey.

The exceptional eyesight also means the spider also has an interesting behaviour.

You see courtship among spiders is no simple business. The males must deal with the same problems any invertebrate does when it approaches a spider.  A male has to ensure the female does not see him as food.

I told you wolf spiders are generally regarded as vagrant wanderers, but it is only part of their story. Many build burrows which are capped with a trapdoor. So, when a male is out hunting as the night, he might stumble across a web dragline on the ground.

Amazingly, the males can read the chemical signatures left in that silk. He can tell if it came from a female spider, whether she is the same species, and if she has chowed down on a male before.

This information is extremely important, for if he advances on a female prematurely, he will almost certainly be eaten. Depending on the information received, he will either avoid the female, hide and act invisible, or else court furiously and seduce her.

If he does decide to court, he does so with caution. He makes his intentions known before he gets close by tapping his legs on the ground or on fallen leaves. This sends a long sound signal to the female. Some species have small corrugations on their palps creates a buzzing sound. As he gets closer, he begins to take advantage of her excellent eyesight and starts complex leg and palp movements.

If he does get close male mates and leaves as quickly as possible. Eventually she will produce a silk egg mat that she attaches to her abdomen and carries around with her. When the eggs hatch, the babies crawl onto the mother’s back and remain there for several months.

spider with many spiderlings carried on her back

Huntsman spider carrying her young on her back, by Jonathon Howard