ARACHNOLOGISCHE GESELLSCHAFT

Spider of the Year 2022

The drumming wolf spider Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata (Ohlert, 1865)

The drumming wolf spider, Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata (Ohlert, 1865), belongs to the wolf spider family (Lycosidae). This family of spiders has 2440 species throughout the world, of which 352 species are known in Europe. In the genus Hygrolycosa there are only five species world-wide and two species in Europe, of which Hygrolycosa strandi is found only in Greece. Thus the drumming wolf spider is the only representative of this group from Central Europe.

The drumming wolf spider is distributed across the Palaearctic. In Central Europe it is typically found in plains and foothills (up to 800 m above sea level). In Austria, for example, it is one of the rarest spiders with a few records from Vorarlberg, Styria and Burgenland, all associated with its specialized habitat. Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata prefers damp habitats and is thus only found in selected near-natural places such as moors, swamps, wet meadows or wet (canyon) forests. Because of the increasing threats and destruction of several of its preferred habitats, the drumming wolf spider has often been placed on the Red List of endangered animal and plant species. For example, it is rated as threatened by extinction in Austria and as endangered in Germany.

Text: Christoph Hörweg

Description

The body length of Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata is 5 – 6 mm. A difference between the sexes is not – as is often the case in spiders – related to body length (normally females are larger), but instead relates to differences in colouration and markings. Males are almost black. The cephalothrorax has three weakly-defined pale stripes along its length. The abdomen is dark brown to black, with four connected rows of white spots along its length. The legs have two colours, being black and becoming light brown. Females have a light brown cephalothorax, with three pale lines along its length, plus two thin rows of flecks. The abdomen is also pale and the legs are pale brown with dark spots.

Ecology

 

Like most wolf spiders, the drumming wolf spider does not build a web, but is active during the day as an ambush predator waiting for its prey: principally insects. 

During the mating season in spring males drum with their abdomen on dry leaves, making a noise which is audible even to humans as a ‘purring’ drumming sound. This suggests its common name of the drumming wolf spider.  

After mating, females lay around 60 eggs in a cocoon. Female wolf spiders are widely known for their careful brood care. They attach the cocoon to their spinnerets and carry it around with them. After the young have hatched, they typically climb onto their mother’s back and are carried around with her. In Hygroylosa rubrofasciata there is a slight difference in this behaviour. Here, the spiderlings do not hold onto their mothers back, but instead grasp the empty cocoon – possibly an adaptation to their damp habitats.

Adult drumming wolf spiders can be found from March to November. Males usually die after mating, but females can often survive the winter.

Similar species

In (Central) Europe the drumming wolf spider is the only species within its genus and is reasonably easy to identify based on its colouration and markings. For inexperienced observers, Hygrolycosa rubrofasciata could be mistaken for the prowling spider Zora spinimana (family Miturgidae), which is found in similar habitats.

Text: Christoph Hörweg

This highly endangered species, which in countries like Austria is close to extinction, should draw attention to the effect of threats and destruction of these animals’ relevant habitats – in this case the drying out of moorlands.  This is especially relevant in terms of climate change in that moors have been shown to be increasingly important for carbon storage.

Additionally it is exciting and curious to actually hear a spider drumming. And the behaviour of the spiderlings is also something unusual among wolf spiders, namely the fact that after hatching they remain attached to the cocoon. 

By choosing the Spider of the Year a ‘less popular’ animal group should be placed in the spotlight and attention should be drawn to its threatened habitats, but at the same time it is also hoped that scientists will contribute up-to-date information about its distribution. In this context, enjoy the Spider of the Year and help us with locality information or a photograph to document this species.

Text: Christoph Hörweg

Countries involved

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

Supporting societies

Contact for Europe

Dr. Milan Řezáč
Biodiversity Lab, Crop Research Institute
Drnovská 507
161 06 Praha 6 – Ruzyně
Czech Republic
reza(a)cvurv.cz

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