Wolf spiders are a fairly large and hairy spiders of the family Lycosidae found on multiple continents including North America. Their appearance often has them mistaken for tarantulas, but they're actually a different species. The wolf spider enjoys preying on crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers, beetles, ants, other spiders and even small amphibians and reptiles. On the other end of things, they've also got a hefty number of predators to deal with themselves.
Wasps as Predators
Wolf spiders are a choice incubator for various wasp species. While the mother wasp won't eat the wolf spider, it will temporarily paralyze the spider with its stinger before injecting its egg into the spider. As the wasp larvae mature, they feed off the wolf spider, eating it from the inside out. Depending on the wasp species, the practice differs slightly. Some wasps drag the spider to a nest and completely trap it, protecting the larvae inside. Alternately, some species inject the egg then let the spider run free. Either way, the spider slowly dies as the larvae mature inside it.
Amphibians and Small Reptiles
Amphibians also enjoy the tasty meal the wolf spider provides. Creatures like frogs, toads and salamanders have all been known to eat multiple species of spider. Amphibious predators typically eat any creature small enough for them to swallow whole so whether the wolf spider gets eaten depends more on its size compared to the individual amphibian rather than the species of amphibian. Similarly, small reptiles like snakes and lizards also eat wolf spiders, though larger species may pass this particular spider up in favor of a larger meal.
Shrews and Coyotes
Belonging to the order Insectivora, the name implies that shrews typically eat insects. While wolf spiders are arachnids, they're close enough as far as the shrew is concerned. Shrews are tiny and require almost constant food intake to keep their energy levels up, making them a voracious hunter, with some even having venomous saliva for larger or well-defended food sources. While they're too small to provide a full coyote meal, coyotes have also been known to devour wolf spiders.
Birds are found throughout the world and, overall, they've got a very diverse appetite. While some prefer seeds and plant matter, others enjoy live prey. Multiple bird species, including screech and elf owls, are predators of the wolf spider. Wolf spiders don't use webs so they typically have to physically go out and hunt for their food, leaving them vulnerable to bird attacks from above.
Defenses from Spider Predators
Though they have plenty of predators who'd love to make their next meal a wolf spider, these spiders have a few defense mechanisms to help protect them from becoming victims of the food chain. Wandering wolf spider species use their agility and quickness to escape death, also using their environment to blend in. Their vibration sensitivity and excellent vision also aid in their defense, though if they're forced to fight, they'll bite their opponents with their large jaws. If faced with death, they're willing to sacrifice losing a leg to immediately survive the situation, though losing a leg makes them slower and vulnerable to future attack.
About the Author
Matt Koble has been writing professionally since 2008. He has been published on websites such as DoItYourself. Koble mostly writes about technology, electronics and computer topics.