I got a bit of a shock the other morning when I went to pick up a stray bit of laundry on the bedroom floor and found this fellow scrambling around in it:
I trapped her in a clear plastic container so I could examine her more carefully. As a result, the photos are not as sharp as they might be.
The first thing you’ll notice is that she’s huge. That’s part of what makes me believe she’s a female. If I’m correct in my identification, she is a female Hogna carolinensis, or Carolina wolf spider. Females of this species have bodies between 22-35 mm (.8–1.4 in), while males are smaller, at 18-20 mm (3/4″) in body length. I would estimate this one to be close to 35mm long, about the length of my thumb from the first joint to the base of my thumbnail.
She’s also quite beautiful, with elaborate markings on her cephalothorax and slightly less extensive markings on her abdomen. Her legs are hairy but without stripes. She scrambled frantically inside her plastic trap and was strong enough to push the container around on the wood floor when I didn’t hold it down.
Carolina wolf spiders are the largest wolf spiders in North America (oh, good!), and they are hunters, not passive web-weavers. They’ll eat large insects and even small rodents. They like arid areas, which perhaps is why I found this one inside my house. It’s been really wet lately; perhaps she needed somewhere to dry out. I’d rather not reflect on what she may have been eating while I sleep.
Carolina wolf spiders dig burrows six inches deep in which they deposit egg sacs of 100-150 eggs. Wanting to find neither a six-inch-deep hole in my house nor 150 baby spiders like her, I slipped a piece of tin foil beneath the edge of the container, onto which she jumped, then slid it across the opening to secure her within the container. I took her outside and dropped her into the vegetable garden, where I hope she’ll terrorize every flea beetle in sight.