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Yes, We Have No Tarantulas in New Hampshire

By Chris Williams on May 15, 2014.
spiders

Tarantula

spiders new hampshire

Wolf spider

Question

My husband said he saw a tarantula in our garage! It was about 3 inches across and hairy. He tried to kill it but it got away. I didn’t know we had tarantulas in New Hampshire! Do you think there are others in our garage?—A. C., Dover, NH

Answer

We don’t have tarantulas in New Hampshire, or Massachusetts, or anywhere close to the Northeastern U.S. Tarantulas are only found in 12 states in the southwestern U.S….and in pet stores.

I think what your husband saw was probably a wolf spider which is commonly confused with tarantulas by people who haven’t seen the two side-by-side. A tarantula is a large, very hairy spider with furry legs that makes it seem even bigger. If you include their legs, tarantulas can reportedly be about the size of a fist. Their bodies can be 3 inches long and overall width with legs is about 5 inches.

Admittedly, the wolf spider is also a large, hairy spider, but not as large and not as hairy as a tarantula. The largest wolf spider is about half the size of a tarantula with a body 1-1/2 inches long and a leg span of 3 inches. Wolf spiders are brown and gray, sometimes with stripped or mottled markings. Besides size and hairiness, the arrangement of the eyes and the fangs distinguish wolf spiders from tarantulas. Tarantula fangs move up and down and wolf spider fangs move side to side. Both spiders have large fangs to grab their insect prey. Both are considered to be “active hunters,” meaning they capture prey by chasing them down; they don’t build the typical spider webs.

Seal Openings to Keep Wolf Spiders Out

Wolf spiders live outdoors and can be found resting under stones, landscape timbers, firewood, leaf litter, etc. But, it’s not uncommon to find a wolf spider inside. They get into garages, basements, and crawlspaces when they follow prey inside. They usually enter through openings around doors, especially garage doors.

Indoors, wolf spiders hide under boxes or stored items. They frighten people not only because of their size but also because they are fast. They don’t attack people but if you handle one, it would probably give you a painful (nonvenomous) bite. You often see the female wolf spider with a large, gray egg sac attached to her abdomen (she doesn’t have a web to park it in). When the dozens of spiderlings hatch from the egg sac, they climb onto mom’s back and are carried around until they can fend for themselves.

That spider is probably long gone from your garage and I wouldn’t expect that there was more than one. To keep them out in the future, make sure your garage door seals tightly at the bottom and the sides and look for any other openings where spiders could enter.

By Arpingstone [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Patrick Edwin Moran (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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