Backyard Buddies

Bugs & Insects

Bugs and insects play an essential role in the web of life. They are an amazingly diverse group of animals that have conquered almost every environment on earth. Find out more about the fascinating world of insects.

Ants

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Photo credit: Jess Cappadonna

Ants

Wherever you are in Australia, you will definitely have seen this little creature in your garden or even in your house (or honey jar). Ants live all over Australia in every single kind of environment. That is because there are so many types of ants - over 1,200 known species in Australia and over 15,000 worldwide. Many kinds of ants love rainforest areas, but ants are also found in the most arid deserts and even underwater. Ants c..

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Blue Ants

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Photo credit: Flagstaffotos

Blue Ants

Have you ever seen a really, really big ant? Have you ever spotted a blue one? Or one that sticks its bum in the air when it walks? It is most likely a Blue Ant. The Blue Ant grows up to 2.5 cm long but there is a secret to its massive growth... it's actually a wasp. They live in Tasmania, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. The male Blue Ant has a darker body with white spots on his abdomen. Males are smaller, only gro..

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Bogong Moths

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Bogong Moths

As the weather warms up in south-east Australia, the well-known Bogong moths are getting ready to make a big journey. Bogong moths migrate several hundred kilometres each year. During spring, they fly from the lowland grassy areas up to the mountainous caves in the Snowy Mountains. As the temperature heats up, Bogong moths sleep in caves, each overlapping one another - just like tiles on a roof. In autumn Bogong moths fly back fr..

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Butterflies

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Photo credit: Jerry Oldenettel

Butterflies

Butterflies are a welcome addition to any garden and like many native buddies, need our help to make sure they remain regular guests. Butterflies are cold-blooded and need plenty of warm sunshine. You may see them in early spring with wings wide open to the warming sun. Or you may see them just touch the top of a bird bath or pond. Purple, red, orange, and yellow flowers attract butterflies. With a few simple changes, your backyard or par..

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Caterpillars

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Photo credit: Christopher Watson

Caterpillars

Love them or hate them, caterpillars are an important part of the Australian environment. They can bring joy in the form of the promise of a beautiful butterfly, despair as they devour tender young broccoli plants, or itching and pain as a spitfire caterpillar brushes against your bare skin. Around August, moths and butterflies are busily searching for a safe place to lay their eggs. Some have already produced eggs, so it's a good time t..

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Christmas Beetles

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Photo credit: Melanie Cook

Christmas Beetles

Christmas beetles emerge each summer around Christmastime after waiting underground all year. They are easy to spot; their shimmering metallic bodies set them apart from a lot of the insect world. If you leave a light on during hot summer nights—especially in the east of Australia - you may find these nocturnal flying Christmas decorations in a bit of a frenzy in its glow. Christmas beetle babies are c-shaped grubs that spend a..

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Cicadas

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Photo credit: David Lochlin

Cicadas

It's not an Aussie summer without the deafening concert of thousands of cicadas. Around October, you can see the first empty shell of a newly hatched cicada on a tree trunk or your fence. They will soon fill the air with their song before they disappear again for winter. But where have they been during the colder months? At the end of summer, each female cuts small slits into plant stems and branches and places her eggs inside. From ..

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Common Brown Butterflies

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Photo credit: Sunphlo

Common Brown Butterflies

Fluttering through gardens, parks and bushland, this beautiful buddy deserves a better name than "Common Brown" The Female Common Brown is larger than the male with quite different markings and more yellow colouring. The male is dark orange all over with darker markings than the female. The Common Brown Butterfly is easy to spot as they search for mates from October through to December. They live in eastern Australia, with a subspeci..

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Crickets

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Photo credit: Arthur Chapman

Crickets

Crickets live all over Australia and you have probably heard them - but maybe not seen one. The most common is the Black Field Cricket. Only the male of this species 'chirp' by rubbing their wings together. They do it to attract females, to woo them, and to warn off other male competitors. Black Field Crickets are widespread in eastern and southern Australia. It's not hard to spot one jumping around as they grow to about 2.5 cm long. ..

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Daddy Long Legs Spiders

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Photo credit: Mad Max

Daddy Long Legs Spiders

Many of our backyard buddies find their way inside our homes and take up temporary residence, and one of the most successful and ever-present is the Daddy-long-legs spider. Almost every house or shed in Australia has been home to the messy, tangled web of the Daddy-long-legs, especially as the weather begins to cool towards winter and the spiders seek warmth indoors. We remove them regularly on the end of a broom and put them outs..

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Dainty Swallowtail Butterflies

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Photo credit: Michael Jefferies

Dainty Swallowtail Butterflies

The Dainty Swallowtail Butterfly is also known as the Dingy Swallowtail or Small Citrus Butterfly - but it isn't dingy at all. You'll see these stunning butterflies in flight across eastern Australia right up until May Adult Dainty Swallowtails are black with grey, white, and smaller blue and red spots on their wings, and yellow markings along their bodies. The female's wingspan is up to 7.2 cm while the male is slightly smaller, with hi..

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Dragonflies

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Photo credit: R Nicolai

Dragonflies

Neither dragons nor flies, dragonflies are insects with more than 320 species known to live in Australia. Different species of dragonflies also have distinctive markings and colours, so with practice, you'll be able to recognise one type from another, just like birds. Different species emerge at different times of year, so keep a look out no matter what month it is. Watch out for dragonflies wherever there is water such as a pond, stream..

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Earthworms

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Photo credit: Schizoform

Earthworms

There are over 1000 species of native worms in Australia and approximately 80 introduced species that are beneficial as well. Earthworms are excellent buddies to have in your garden. They return nutrients to the soil from organic matter such as fallen leaves, vegetable peelings, fruit scraps, hair clippings, and even old paper. These nutrients are important for plants and will greatly enrich the soil in your backyard. They are not..

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Grasshoppers

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Photo credit: Charles J Sharp

Grasshoppers

During the hot nights of summer, grasshoppers are getting ready to breed. Around dusk in the disappearing light male grasshoppers sing romantic serenades to attract females. Their range of pitch and calls are endless. The male grasshopper creates music using his legs. Like a bow drawn across violin strings, the grasshopper draws his legs across his front pair of wings to make buzzes and trills. It may help attract a mate but this noisy b..

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Huntsman Spiders

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Photo credit: Bill & Mark Bell

Huntsman Spiders

Huntsman spiders have an unfortunate reputation. One is their name. The other is a tendency to take up residency in your home or your car and scare the bejesus out of you. But they are harmless to humans and very useful in controlling mosquito and cockroach numbers. May signals the end of the busy season for a lot of spiders. For many, life will end, while others will start seeking a secure shelter to sleep through winter. But not..

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Ichneumon Wasps

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Photo credit: John Tann

Ichneumon Wasps

As the days get warmer, colourful Ichneumon Wasps become a common sight in many Aussie backyards, hovering above your lawn on a warm day or trying to mate with your orchids. There are around 2000 species living all across Australia. These stingless insects are Mother Nature's pest control for your garden and provide fascinating entertainment for those prepared to sit still and watch the show. At up to 12 cm in length and with br..

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Is This Spider Dangerous?

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Photo credit: E Monk

Is This Spider Dangerous?

Many native spiders are harmless, and are great buddies to have around the garden, as they will eat bugs, flies, mosquitoes, and in some cases - even other spiders. But there are definitely some spiders that you don't want to get too close to, such as Funnel-webs or Redback Spiders. So please be careful. You can find out what spider you have at your place by viewing the Find-a-Spider guide (http://www.findaspider.org.au/find/find.htm). ..

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Katydids

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Photo credit: Bill & Mark Bell

Katydids

The Common Garden Katydid is a quite common backyard buddy and garden visitor. It's a cousin to the grasshopper and cricket, about 4 to 6 cm in length with extremely long, thin antennae, and powerful back legs for jumping. There are about 1000 species in Australia and they are part of the orthopteran group of insects, which means 'straight wings'. Like crickets, male Katydids play songs to attract females by rubbing their wings t..

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Lacewings

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Photo credit: Mathias Krumbholz

Lacewings

Some bugs are not only good bugs but great bugs that will eat other insects and keep your overall pest numbers down. Such a buddy is the Green Lacewing. This fascinating insect is as helpful as it is pretty. The larva of the Green Lacewing is a very efficient method of bug control for your garden, and they grow into delicate, winged beauties. Their vivid green colour and distinctive wings make them easy to spot. October is a great ti..

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Ladybirds

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Photo credit: Emily

Ladybirds

Ladybirds are great to have as buddies in your backyard. In many cultures they are considered so lucky that killing one will bring sadness and misfortune. There are about 6000 species of ladybird in the world, with around 500 species in Australia. You might know ladybirds as ladybugs or ladybeetles, but whatever name you use they are the fantastic at keeping your garden healthy. You might think of ladybirds as being red or orange wit..

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Leafhoppers

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Photo credit: John Tann

Leafhoppers

If you see a spot of yellowy-green, brown or red on your plants and it's jumping from place to place and when you take a closer look it quickly scuttles around to the other side of the leaf- it could be a leafhopper. Leafhoppers bite through leaves, stems and bits of tree trunk to suck up the delicious and nutritious plant sap, particularly Eucalyptus trees. Leafhoppers often work with ants. While they're drinking they excrete honey..

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Leopard slugs

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Photo credit: Doug Beckers

Leopard slugs

In February you can witness a spectacular event in your backyard. Mating Leopard Slugs must be one of the most bizarre and fascinating displays of animal behaviour you can ever observe. The male and female become entwined and lower themselves from their branch on a thread of mucus to exchange sperm. Then they return to the branch via the mucous thread, eating it as they go. Like all slugs and snails, they are hermaphrodites - they have b..

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Mantids

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Photo credit: David Cauchi

Mantids

You may see them in the grass, among leaves, on walls, near lights at night or in your veggie patch. Wherever there are insects to eat you might find a mantid. There are about 2,000 different species across the world, ranging from 10 to 120 millimetres in body length and their characteristic way of standing with forelegs held together as if they were praying. Only the males have wings fit to fly, helping them to move around looking for a ..

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Millipedes

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Millipedes

Millipedes are myriapods, meaning 'many pairs of legs'. They survive over much of the country and evolved from ancestors that were the first creatures to make the move from water to land millions of years ago. Australia is home to approximately 2000 species, most of which are nocturnal. Millipedes are most common in areas with a milder climate and plenty of moisture. They are common under rocks and logs, in leaf litter and soil and un..

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Monarch Butterflies

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Photo credit: Arthur Chapman

Monarch Butterflies

During summer, for just six weeks, the Monarch, or Wanderer, Butterfly lives its short, busy life in many Australian backyards. They are not Australian natives, but arrived in Australia from North America as recently as 1871. Once its host plant, the Milkweed of the genus Asclepias, arrived as well, the butterflies began to flourish. Monarchs are very common and perhaps the most recognised butterfly, especially in urban areas. Al..

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Moth or Butterfly?

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Photo credit: Alves Gaspar

Moth or Butterfly?

Although they are very similar, there are a few ways you can tell a moth from a butterfly. The most obvious is when you are likely to see them. Butterflies are active during the day and most moths at night. Though there are a few moths, such as the Queensland Day Moth Alcides metaurus and the Jacob's Coat Moth Agarista agricola, which fly during the day. If you are able to take a closer look, the antennae of moths differ from that of..

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Mud Wasps

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Photo credit: Rosie Nicolai

Mud Wasps

If you hear a wasp buzzing loudly in your garden or find a wasp's nest under your eaves or attached to your house or shed, don't panic. They may be Mud dauber Wasps which look a bit scary with their bright yellow and dark black colouring, but are actually quite harmless and non-aggressive if you leave them alone. Like all wasps, if they feel threatened, they will give a painful sting, so best to observe them from a distance. During April..

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Native Bees

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Photo credit: Louise Docker

Native Bees

Commercial honey bees came to our shores from Europe in 1822, but there are over 1,500 species of native bees across the country. Australian bees can be as small as 2 mm in length. About 10% of Australia's native bees are 'social', meaning that they form hives, and have a queen, infertile female worker bees and male drones which fertilise the queen. They are completely stingless. Stingless bees are quite a sight when they'r..

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Painted Lady Butterflies

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Photo credit: David Cook

Painted Lady Butterflies

The Australian Painted Lady butterfly migrates from place to place and loves to visit gardens. In southern Australia, the best time to spot them is after a few warm, sunny days at the end of winter, and from spring to autumn. In the northern part of the Painted Lady butterfly's range, they live in the same spot year round. Whenever they rest or stop to feed, they spread their wings out low to keep predators away. The vibrant colours ..

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Paper Wasps

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Photo credit: David Finnegan /OEH

Paper Wasps

Native Paper Wasps are found all over Australia except in Tasmania and, although only aggressive when defending their nests, it is best to steer clear of them. But their behaviour can give you a clue to how they spend their lives. The female wasp is always busy. If she's tapping her way along a leaf, she'۪s probably looking for a caterpillar to feed her larvae. If she's fossicking on an old fence paling, chances are she's scraping up..

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Rhinoceros Beetles

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Photo credit: Donald Hobern

Rhinoceros Beetles

At first glance Rhinoceros or Rhino Beetles might seem a little antisocial, but they are not only harmless but truly fascinating. These quirky shiny-black beetles grow to around 6 or 7 cm in length so you will definitely see them when they fly about. In fact, they are Australia's largest beetle. Rhino Beetles only live in warm coastal tropical or subtropical climates, so in Australia they are mostly found in Queensland, the Northern Terr..

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Slaters

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Photo credit: Franco Folini

Slaters

Have you ever lifted a pot plant or scraped back some mulch and found some curious little 'Roley Poley' bugs underneath? These are slaters, also known as Roley Poleys, Pill Bugs, or Wood Lice. Just like worms, slaters are great for your garden as they eat organic matter and return nutrients to the soil. Having a few slaters around will keep your plants happy and healthy. Slaters need moisture and mostly come out at night when the risk of ..

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Snails

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Photo credit: Doug Beckers

Snails

The leaf litter in your garden is perfect for snails who need a moist atmosphere to survive in. Snails can be infuriating when they graze on your newly planted veggie patch. But they also like to feed on dead plant and animal material and fungi. There are over 1000 species of native Australian snails and slugs but most of the snails and slugs we find in our gardens are not natives. Introduced snail species generally arrived accid..

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Spiny Leaf Insect

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Photo credit: David Sindel

Spiny Leaf Insect

If you are in Queensland or northern New South Wales in January, you might be lucky enough to spot one of the most interesting insects that Australia is home to. Don't be alarmed by this weird looking buddy. The Spiny Leaf Insect is also known as Giant Prickly Stick Insect or Macleay's Spectre Stick Insect. The name may change, but their odd appearance stays the same. When laying her eggs, the female flicks the eggs from her abdomen ..

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St Andrews Cross Spiders

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Photo credit: James Niland

St Andrews Cross Spiders

St Andrew's Cross Spiders are fantastic backyard buddies as they spin big webs that easily snare insects such as flies, mosquitoes, moths and other bugs. They are not aggressive towards people and their bite is not toxic. The webs of St Andrew's Cross Spiders are also fascinating to look at because of their decorations. These spiders get their name from the bluish-white cross pattern that they create in the centre of their web, which look..

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Stag Beetles

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Photo credit: Arthur Chapman

Stag Beetles

There are over 1,200 species of these big-jawed beetles in the world, and maybe even more than 85 different species just in Australia, but even though there are lots of different types of Stag Beetle, many are facing a loss of habitat that is threatening their survival. Stag Beetles love to live in damp woodland areas with lots of leaves and rotting wood on the ground, but unfortunately, these are also the kinds of areas that humans like..

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Stick Insects

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Photo credit: CSIRO

Stick Insects

Somewhere amongst the leaves in your backyard is a camouflage master. Even though there are around 150 stick insect species in Australia, it's still difficult to spot one. Look closely at gum trees, rose bushes or fruit trees for these green or brown buddies. The stick insect is a Phasmid - insects that eat leaves and resemble leaves or sticks. It is a master of disguise and remains still during the day. Look for them at night by torchlig..

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Termites

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Photo credit: CSIRO

Termites

As the weather warms up in spring and summer, termites commence their social swarming. In order to create social swarms, the colony emerges from being underground after at least three years. Flying termites are at their reproductive stage and are short lived. A swarm can be quite a sight, one minute it's clear outside and the next you may think that a part of the sky has greyed as the sheer mass of a swarm can be truly spectacular. ..

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Tiger Moths

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Photo credit: Donald Hobern

Tiger Moths

Tiger Moths live on the coastal areas of eastern Australia. They love to drink the nectar from wildflowers and prefer an established garden, where they can also eat lichen. Lichen occurs when fungi and algae grow together. In rainforests and alpine forests it forms a large carpet on the ground. Keep a look out for grey, green or yellow patches on your backyard rocks and trees. Unlike many other moths, the tiger moth has bright colour..

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Trapdoor Spiders

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Photo credit: Bill & Mark Bell

Trapdoor Spiders

A common resident of the garden, trapdoor spiders are often encountered whilst moving rocks or digging soil. At night, shining a torch across the lawn may pick up two rows of tiny shining eyes staring up from inside a hole. These burrows can be as long as 40 cm and are lined with soft silky web. There are many different species of trapdoor spider. Some don't actually make a hinged door, but all have one thing in common: they dig a bu..

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Wolf Spider

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Photo credit: Cassidy Photography

Wolf Spider

Wolf spiders get their name from their hunting preference of stalking down their prey much like a wolf does, making them the top predators in your lawn. They will go after crickets, flies, ants and even other spiders. The wolf spider is a solitary buddy who enjoys hunting by itself. They live in holes in the lawn but will often roam about looking for their next meal. This buddy does most of its hunting at night, so while you're asleep, t..

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