Breaking news from my sneakers

As I was putting on my shoes yesterday morning, I noticed that the right one didn't fit quite like it should, like someone had out a cotton ball in the toe, or something. I took it off and gave it a shake, but nothing came out. I'm not much of a problem solver, so I just put the shoe back on. The cotton ball was still there, but it had moved a little. I took the shoe off again, and gave it a really good shake. This fell out:

Aaaah!: A wolf spider. Also known as a were-wolf spider, or freakin' Godzilla.  (photo by ATIS547)
Aaaah!: A wolf spider. Also known as a were-wolf spider, or freakin' Godzilla. (photo by ATIS547)

I don't feel like this picture I found does the wolf spider justice. It looked like Shaq's hand fell out of my shoe.

Anyhow, I was surprised, the wolf spider was surprised, everyone was surprised.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been, though.

Like humans, wolf spiders are found pretty much all over the world (they are grouped by the family "Lycosidae"). Also like humans, they are skilled daytime hunters (they generally chase their prey down, instead of trapping it). Unlike humans, wolf spiders will "inject venom freely if provoked." The venom isn't strong, but it can cause a painful bite. Fortunately, I was wearing sock armor, and my toes were well protected against a poisonous retaliation.

For everyone who doesn't already have them living in their shoes, you'll be happy to know that wolf spiders are more or less harmless and not aggressive towards people.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Ah, yes. Nothing like an unexpected up-close and personal encounter with a giant spider. Summer 2004 was a banner season for Dolomedes tenebrosa--at least at my old house, anyway.

Dolomedes tenebrosa: A giant female "fishing spider" on the inside door of my bike shed
Dolomedes tenebrosa: A giant female "fishing spider" on the inside door of my bike shed

I remember it well. It was Monday, June 21, 2004. My husband, Ken, went to bed, and I stayed up watching the news, reading the New Yorker, tidying up a little, and generally puttering around the house. As I was on my way to brush my teeth and turn in myself, I remembered that there was a load of laundry in the washer, and some more in the dryer, and a swap should happen before I fell asleep.

I had just transferred the wet laundry to the dryer and started it up when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, something moving near my foot. I thought it was a mouse -- they wandered into the basement occasionally from outside -- and I turned to follow it, to see if it was just visiting or bent on taking up more permanent residence. To my horror, the creature now dangerously close to my bare foot was NOT a mouse. It was a HUGE spider.

I know. You're thinking, "How big can it have been? Puh-leeze." But I'm telling you: its cephalothorax and abdomen together were about an inch and a half long and maybe 3/4" wide. It was 4" from tip of leg to tip of leg, and these weren't spindly little legs. She was the size of an Altoids tin, she was beefy, she was FAST, and she was waving her palps at me menacingly, like those radioactive giant spiders in B horror movies always do, and looking at me balefully with all of her beady little eyes. If there's such a thing as a Minnesota tarantula, this is it!

In the interest of NOT passing my ridiculous phobia on to my daughters, I have been making a concerted effort not to show fear of spiders. I've even been smashing my own occasionally. But faced with such a beast I did what any rational person would have done: I fled, crashing up the stairs without turning off any of the lights and finally stopping, gasping, in the hallway between the basement stairs and our bedroom.

The commotion woke up Ken, who sat up, alarmed. "What?!? What's going on?!?" he asked, wondering maybe if I'd discovered an axe murderer lying in wait in the basement. I opened my mouth to explain, but only gibberish came out. "Basement....washing machine...foot...big...spider...stupid...can't help it...coming to get me..." He looked at me with equal parts sympathy and amusement as I frantically swatted at myself, the prickling of my skin making me imagine spiders EVERYWHERE. (It's a sickness, I know...)

"It's OK," Ken said. And he went to the bathroom to get a handful of Kleenex, knowing full-well that I'd never go to sleep in such a state. And, used to my exaggeration in pursuit of a good story, he figured it was just a little thing and that I was a total and complete freak.

"It's by the trash can near the dryer," I said, following him gingerly back into the basement. He started to ask, "Where?" but the words died in his throat as he spied the monster with no direction from me. Even Ken looked daunted.

Seeing it again, I started dancing around, desperately wanting to make a run for it, but also needing to prove myself and stand my ground. "It's just so BIG!" I said.

"Yup, it's big."

"Are you really gonna smash it? Maybe you should scoop it up in something and put it outside. OH MY GOD I CAN'T STAND IT..."

Ken adjusted his pathetic little wad of Kleenex, trying to maximize both its thickness AND its area. And then, with lightning quickness, he moved in for the kill.

And just like that, the monster was dispatched. Granted, its horrible legs extended beyond the Kleenex, twitching, but there was no way it was going to drag its broken body upstairs to eat me while I slept.

"It's OK," Ken said. "It just came in from outside, and now it's gone."

But as I lay awake later, scanning the corners of the room for other vile and hungry members of the Arachnid clan, I started thinking about a Turkish proverb that my childhood friend, Hande, used to recite: "If you kill a spider, his friend will come." I don't know exactly what it means. You shouldn't kill a spider because you won't really be getting rid of it anyway? You shouldn't worry about killing spiders because there are always more to replace the ones you kill?

I warned everyone in the office that, should I fail to report to work that week, the EMS team that came to investigate would probably find Phoebe screaming in her crib, and our dead, oozing bodies at the bottom of the basement stairs. And everyone would know that a posse of humungous spiders had exacted vengeance for the death of their buddy.

Was that the end of the story, though? NO! Because later that same week, another of the monstrous creatures took up residence in the shed where I kept my bike. This one agreed to be photographed. But when we tried to hold a common object up next to it, for scale, it took off down the driveway at lightning speed, never to be seen again.

For all my drama, Dolomedes tenebrosa IS harmless. And it WAS very cool, as long as it kept its distance. I was a little concerned to discover that Dolomedes is a "fishing spider" (time to buy a new dehumidifier?), but I learned that they can roam great distances from water. More disturbing was the fact that both my encounters were with female spiders, and they can carry hundreds of spiderlings around with them. Eeek! Thankfully, none were found, and I haven't had another encounter since.

posted on Mon, 07/16/2007 - 11:07am
mentor's picture
mentor says:

Evan--do you think your bite is from a wolf spider?

posted on Tue, 08/28/2007 - 6:44pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

It's even more surprising to see one of these spiders with hundreds of babies on its back! If you startle the spider, all the little babies scurry away. Unsettling if it happens inside the house.

posted on Thu, 12/10/2009 - 7:52pm
William Sebren's picture

I just had one of these things in my shoe for over an hour! I put my shoes on and went about my day. It wasn't until I went to Walmart and stood for a while that I felt a wiggle like a small mouse in my shoe. The feeling was revolting. I put on quite a spectacle as I tried to hurriedly undo my laces. I was clawing like a maniac and my sister thought I had lost it. Luckily I wear really thick socks.

After dumping the thing out and snapping a few glamour shots of it I decided the little guy (or monster-demon) could spend the rest of his life in the light bulb department and left him to his business. I couldn't kill it after it had an adventure like that. It rode in my shoe for twenty miles. I don't know why that cracks me up and freaks me out at the same time.

The picture (well one of them):


Also if this isn't a wolf spider I'd be happy to know from someone else what exactly was in my shoe.

posted on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 4:33am

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