Arachnophobic Ohioans have something else to keep them up at night, a spider originally thought ‘extirpated’ in Ohio has been discovered in the Edge of Applashia Nature Preserve - the Carolina Wolf Spider, Hogna carolinensis.
‘Extirpation,’ or local extinction, is a term used when a species ceases to exist in a geographic area, while still existing elsewhere. The Carolina Wolf Spider hasn’t been seen in Ohio for more than 60 years until this recent discovery.
A team of naturalists familiar with some of the large, burrow dwelling spiders in Southern Ohio were exploring some of the burrows that have been seen along field edges, in dry wooded areas, and in open prairie areas with a borescope. A borescope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end.
Many of the large spiders are common; however, they are rarely seen as they spend most of their time in underground burrows. Jim McCormac with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Jorn Howard, an Adams County resident, were among the team members.
“We were in the power line cut there by the shelter looking in the burrows of Geolycosa missourinesis, and noticed an enormous but similar looking burrows,” Howard said. “When [we] ran a borescope down the hole, we found a different spider, one we believed to be the elusive Hogna carolinensis.”
The Carolina Wolf Spider can grow to be as large as the palm of the hand. However, it appears larger and more intimidating due to the length of its legs. The body of the spider is usually only as large as half the size of a person’s thumb.
Howard continued, “After lots of photos and videos in the burrown, [we were] able to coax it out with the borescope without injuring it. We photographed it, and we were even more convinced of its identity. This thing is a real horror show if you don’t like spiders.”
Visitors to the area may have spotted a similar spider along Ohio Brush Creek called the Fishing Spider. This spider, which is similar in size, can be seen “walking” or “hopping” on the water when disturbed. Unlike the Carolina Wolf Spider, the Fishing Spider does not live in a burrow, but rests along the water’s edge. Neither spider is aggressive and will retreat to cover if disturbed.
Richard McCarty of the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve said, “Since the Nature Conservancy acquired its first tract of land in what is now the Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve in 1959, scientists, experts, and average hikers have explored areas of the preserve looking for the beautiful to unusual things that might be found outdoors. As we continue to search or explore protected lands, we find that we sometimes discover a plant or animal that was believed to be lost. These discoveries lend support to the opportunity that exists by managing some of our county as a nature preserve.”