Wolf Spiders (Family Lycosidae)
It is very probable that the spiders running around hunting on the flowerbed, vegetable patch or across a lawn are wolf spiders, which belong to the family Lycosidae. Females can often be seen carrying their egg cases attached to their spinnerets at the rear of their body. The commonest belong to the genus Pardosa, which can be very abundant. It was once believed that these grey-brown spiders hunted down their prey in packs like wolves - hence their name. In fact they are not social but are nomads that hunt on their own.
On warm spring days, they can be seen basking on the soil, stones or on pieces of vegetation when they can be approached and even touched before they flee. On a quiet day in a forest the delicate pattering of their feet on the dead leaves as they hunt can be heard quite clearly. Wolf spiders have excellent eyesight and can run fast and even jump. For the gardener they are very useful pest control agents (see the use of spiders).
The dreaded 'Tarantula' of southern Italy, (see spider bites) is a wolf spider belonging to the genus Lycosa. This species (Lycosa narbonnensis) and other large Lycosa species can give a nasty bite. However, it is likely that the real culprit for the Italian bites was a relative of the Black Widow Spider