A Field Wolf Spider near Walnut Creek, Austin, Texas

BugsInTheNews is a VIEWER-PARTICIPANT WEBSITE. This article by Jerry Cates and Dave R., first published on 14 February 2011, was revised last on 7 July 2012. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 12:02(10)


The field wolf spider (Hogna lenta) was first described in 1844 by the French American arachnologist Nicholas Marcellus Hentz. His description was penned in these words:

3. Lycosa lenta. PI. 3, figs. 1-4. (Hentz made drawings of the specimens he described, but the ones available to us of this particular spider are of very poor quality)

Description. Piceous, hairy; cephalothorax with a waved fascia of a dark color, and several pale marks. Abdomen with two longitudinal rows of indistinct black spots above, beneath with a large black spot, with a yellowish mark in the centre. A pale variety occurred in North Carolina, without the yellow mark.

Observations. This common and powerful species is found wandering in fields, attacking and subduing very large insects. The female carries her young on her back, which gives her a horrible appearance. If caught or wounded, the little ones escape rapidly in all directions ; but the mother is faithful to her duties, and defends her progeny while life endures. It hides under stones, logs, etc.

Habitat. Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, etc.


Lycosidae: Field Wolf Spider (Hogna lenta); dorsum; Dave R., east Walnut creek, Austin TX---13 Feb 2011

Lycosidae: Field Wolf Spider (Hogna lenta); dorsum; Dave R., east Walnut creek, Austin TX---13 Feb 2011

Dave wrote on 13 February 2011:


My beautiful girlfriend and I were hiking in Walnut Creek on the east side of Austin today when she jumped up after seeing a spider.

I took a photo and we just came home to search the Internet for it, and that led us to your website where you very kindly identified other people’s spiders.

How about ours? We were surprised to see some resemblance to the Brown Recluse (Cool! Bragging rights!) but it’s not quite the same looking, either. Whad’ya think?


(Dave’s surname has been shortened to protect his privacy)

I wrote back to tell Dave this appeared to be a field wolf spider (Hogna lenta). I base this on the fact that it was large and light colored, with the markings on its abdomen that are consistent with those of the field wolf spider. As with almost all the wolf spiders, identification from one photograph, alone, is inexact, so this identification is subject to change.

This also appears to be a male, as the palps show evidence of emboli.

I asked Dave (who happens to be both a mathematics professor [with an Erdös number of 3, no less] and a paleontologist),  to elucidate on the experience he and his girlfriend had with this spider. He wrote the following:

Thanks for the ID. “Light tan” is a good description; we were leaning towards “semi-translucent” or something. We are relieved to hear that it is not a Brown Recluse or something equally potent.

Lycosidae: field wolf spider (Hogna lenta); anterior carapace; Dave R., east Walnut creek, Austin TX---13 Feb 2011

Lycosidae: field wolf spider (Hogna lenta); anterior carapace; Dave R., east Walnut creek, Austin TX---13 Feb 2011

Fully extended, maybe 4-5cm (roughly 1.5-2.0 inches).

The spider was first spotted on one of the shoals of the creek (mostly dry, some sand but mostly gravel and calcified shells — I’m going with Exogyra ponderosa (for a few words about this fossil bivalve from the Cretaceous period, click here), but I’m just comparing to pictures).

The moment of human-spider encounter was evidently as traumatic for the spider as it was for the human: it just froze in the bright sun staring back at her as she stared at it. When I approached closer it scurried forward towards a space under a rock but curiously did not really attempt to hide, and did not push on towards safety until I disturbed the rocks around it. Eventually it headed towards the safety of vegetation and we let it be in peace.

We’re both new to Texas, and both of us love nature, so we’ve had some other encounters with interesting 8-legged friends.

We will, no doubt, be seeing more of Dave’s photos in the future. His photo of a mass of daddy longlegs (harvestmen) will be posted soon.


  • Kingdom Animalia (ahn-uh-MAYHL-yuh) — first described in 1758 by the Swedish taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), using the Latin word animal = “a living being,” from the Latin word anima = “vital breath”, to refer to multicellular, eukaryotic organisms whose body plans become fixed during development, some of which undergo additional processes of metamorphosis later in their lives; most of which are motile, and thus exhibit spontaneous and independent movements; and all of whom are heterotrophs that feed by ingesting other organisms or their products;
  • Phylum Arthropoda (ahr-THROPP-uh-duh) first described in 1829 by the French zoologist Pierre André Latreille [November 20, 1762 – February 6, 1833], using the two Greek roots αρθρον (AR-thron) = jointed + ποδ (pawd) = foot, in an obvious reference to animals with jointed feet, but in the more narrow context of the invertebrates, which have segmented bodies as well as jointed appendages;
  • Subphylum Chelicerata (Kuh-liss-uh-RAH-tah) — first described in 1901 by the German zoologist Richard Heymons [1867 – 1943] using the Greek noun χηλη (KEY-lay) = a claw, talon, or hoof + the Greek noun κερας (Ser-as) = an animal’s horn + the Latin suffix ata — which by convention is suffixed to the names of animal subdivisions — to refer to animals that have specialized appendages before the mouth that they use in feeding, capturing and securing prey and that — in the case of spiders — are further equipped to inject venom and digestive agents into their prey; 
  • Class Arachnida (uh-RAKH-nuh-duh) first described in 1812 by the French naturalist and zoologist Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier [August 23, 1769 – May 13, 1832], usually referred to as Georges Cuvier, using the Greek noun αραχης (uh-RAH-kes) = a spider, in reference to all eight-legged arthropods, including such disparate animals as ticks, mites, scorpions, harvestmen, solpugids, and spiders;
  • Order Araneae (uh-RAY-neh-ee) — first described in 1757 by the Swedish entomologist and arachnologist Carl Alexander Clerck [1709 – 22 July 1765], who used the Latin word aranea = a spider or a spider’s web, to refer to eight legged arthropods that spin webs;
  • Suborder Opisthothelae (oh-PIS-thoh-THEE-lee) — first described in 1990 by the American arachnologists Richard C. Brusca and Gary J. Brusca, who used the Greek words οπισθεν (oh-PIS-thehn) = behind, at the back, yet to come + θηλη (THEE-lee) = nipple or teat, to distinguish this grouping of spiders from the more primitive spiders in the suborder Mesothelae, in that certain characters (e.g., tergite plates, ganglia in the abdomen, and — in particular, inasmuch as the suborder name is a direct reference thereto — median-positioned spinnerets) of the latter are absent in the former; thus spiders in this suborder have spinnerets positioned at the hindmost portion of the abdomen;
  • Infraorder Araneomorphae (Uh-RAY-nee-oh-MOHR-fee) — distinguished from the mygalomorphae by having opposing fangs that open and close perpendicular to the spider body’s longitudinal axis, in a pinching action, whereas, in the mygalomorphae (e.g., tarantulas and trapdoor spiders), which have fangs that open and close more nearly in alignment with the spider body’s longitudinal axis.
  • Series Entelegynae (inn-TELL-uh-jiy-nee) — araneomorph spiders which, unlike the Haplogynae, have hardened, i.e., sclerotized, female genitalia. Foelix (2011) points out that “entelegyne spiders have more complex reproductive organs (with an epigyne and separate fertilization ducts in the female)…” and that “Male entelegyne genitalia are very diverse…“;
  • Superfamily Lycosoidea (lye-koh-SOY-dee-uh) — a superfamily of eight-eyed entelegyne araneomorph spiders comprising 11 families and about 4,000 species:
    • Family Ctenidae (Keyserling, 1877) — Wandering spiders;
    • Family Lycosidae (Sundevall, 1833) — Wolf spiders;
    • Family Oxyopidae (Thorell, 1870) — Lynx spiders;
    • Family Pisauridae (Simon, 1890) — Nursery web spiders;
    • Family Psechridae (James, 1989) — Lowland funnel-web spiders found only in Southeast Asia;
    • Family Senoculidae (Simon, 1890) — Bark hunter spiders found only in Central and South America;
    • Family Stiphidiidae (Dalmas, 1970) — Tent-web spiders found in Australia, New Zealand, and Mauritius;
    • Family Trechaleidae (Simon, 1890) — a family of 15 genera and 75 species found in Central and South America;
    • Family Zoridae (F. O. P.-Cambridge, 1893) — a family of 13 genera and 73 species of mostly tropical spiders that hunt without webs;
    • Family Zorocratidae (Dahl, 1913) — a little known family of hunting spiders comprising 5 genera and 41 species;
    • Family Zoropsidae (Bertkau, 1882) — False wolf spiders, native to Australia and South Africa, with one species (Zoropsis spinimana) introduced into North America, now found in homes in the San Francisco bay area;
  • Family Lycosidae (lye-KOH-suh-dee) —  first described in 1833 by the Swedish zoologist Carl Jakob Sundevall (1801-1875), who chose the Greek word λύκος (LYE-kos) = wolf, as a reference to the way wolves hunt for and take down their prey, though wolves hunt in packs and the arachnids Sundevall had in mind hunt alone; the spiders in this family are small to large (2.2-35.0 mm) hunting spiders with a distinctive eye arrangement: the anterior eye row (AER) is composed of four small, similarly sized eyes arranged frontally in a line across the front of the carapace just above the clypeus; the posterior eye row (PER) is composed of much larger eyes, such that the posterior median eyes (PME) are arranged frontally, just above the AER, with the posterior lateral eyes (PLE) positioned dorsally, posterior to, generally wider apart than, and forming a quadrangle with, the PME; the egg sac, or cocoon, is carried by the female attached to the spinnerets; when the spiderlings emerge from the egg sac they migrate to the female’s dorsum, where they remain for several days before dispersing; Lycosids come in tan, light brown, to dark charcoal brown background colors, with pale, cream, white, black, yellow or red markings. The carapace and/or abdomen may be boldly or vaguely marked with two or more longitudinal stripes. Legs ar long and stout, and are often supplied with dense scopulae; the tarsi have three claws. Vision is used to detect, stalk, and ambush prey in a variety of habitats;
  • Subfamily Lycosinae (lye-koh-SIH-nee) —
  • Genus Hogna (HOGG-nuh) — first described in 1885 by the French arachnologist Eugène Simon (1848 – 1924), who neglected to explain his rationale for doing so; the name has no known Latin or Greek roots, and though numerous attempts at an explanation for it have been made, none appear convincing; Simon’s usage was as a subgeneric name for the species close to Lycosa radiata, and Roewer later (1954) elevated the name to generic status;
  • Species lenta — first described in 1844 by the French American arachnologist Nicholas Marcellus Hentz (1797-1856); his application of the Latin word lentus = “tough, resistant, slow,” appears to have been inspired by his observations regarding the behavior of this spider;


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