These are wolf spiders, and they are wonderful to have in any garden because they are a natural form of pest control. They belong to the family Lycosidae (Greek for “wolf”). I’m not usually bothered by creepy-crawlies, but occasionally we will see a wolf spider that is just so incredibly large it is startling. Wolf spiders have very good eyesight which helps them in hunting their prey, and eight eyes arranged in three rows… there are two medium-sized eyes in the top row, two very large eyes in the middle row, and four small eyes in the bottom row.
I was trying to photograph a tiny, tiny toad that was hidden in some very dense ground cover. Imagine my surprise when suddenly this large spider darted out of the vegetation and paused obligingly for a moment on my open hand. I already had the camera focused so I took advantage of the opportunity to take this picture!
When I first saw this second spider, which was quite a bit larger than the one that jumped onto my hand, it had newly-hatched babies clinging to its abdomen. As soon as the babies sensed my presence as a threat, they quickly jumped off the mother and disappeared into the vegetation.
Wolf spiders inject a venom into their prey, and in humans the venom can cause swelling and pain, so it is a good idea to give these spiders their space… which is why I was not exactly happy to unexpectedly find myself with a handful of spider!