A lot of people get automatically hostile when they see a spider, even if it’s just in their garden. The advantages of having garden spiders around are greater than any potential disadvantages, and most garden spiders are not harmful to humans.
So what are the benefits of garden spiders? Spiders are beneficial because they kill pests, increase biodiversity, help with pollination, and reduce the need for pesticides and plant pathogens.
Spiders help to control insect populations in gardens, which is especially beneficial if you are trying to garden without using pesticides. If you’re interested in attracting garden spiders to your property, read on to learn more about these eight-legged creatures.
Are Spiders Okay in the Garden?
One of nature’s first lines of defense against excessive populations of insects that would otherwise decimate food crops are spiders. These pests can harm your garden in many ways, including cabbage moths, aphids, and beetles. There are also insects that can harm gardeners, such as biting flies, mosquitoes, and territorial wasps. Spiders help to keep the population of harmful insects in check by preying on them.
Although most spiders are harmless to humans, some people may be afraid of them because they are creepy. Not only are spiders positive for the garden’s ecosystem, but they also don’t do anything that would hurt plants.
Nobody needs to worry about spiders overrunning their gardens, as they will only ever breed to the point where they can be supported by the local prey population. There’s no chance of unintentionally encouraging spiders in the garden and having too many as a result. If you are getting your garden ready in the spring and see a spider or two when you are turning over old piles of dead leaves or mulch, try not to squish them or drive them away. The beneficial insects listed below help control the pests in your garden by either eating them or parasitizing them. These beneficial insects help to control pests in a garden by eating them or parasitizing them.
Benefits of Spiders in the Garden
Some advantages of having spiders in your garden include: they help control insect populations by preying on them, they provide free organic pest control, and they are generally harmless to humans and pets. Here are some of the benefits you can enjoy by encouraging spiders to visit:
- Insect control: The biggest advantage to allowing spiders in the garden is that they’re such good insect control . Any spider in the garden will consume at least an insect a day, which can really add up over the course of the growing season. Different kinds of spiders can target and go after different types of garden pests, making it a good idea to set up an ideal habitat for all spiders.
- Biodiversity: Predators are an important part in a habitat’s ecosystem, and spiders are one of the major insect predators present in the garden environment. Unfortunately, humans can negatively impact this biodiversity. Without enough predatory insects, smaller insects such as aphids can overpopulate and cause plant damage, throwing the entire habitat out of balance.
- Pollination: Certain spiders such as crab spiders and jumping spiders can actually aid cross-pollination between garden plants. Because they like to hide and ambush their prey from plant interiors such as buds and flowers, it is easy for them to become coated with pollen and carry it from plant to plant as they hunt.
- Reduced need for pesticides: When you encourage natural predators in the garden such as spiders, praying mantises , and ladybugs, the need for chemical pesticides is eliminated. This leads to healthier food plants and a cleaner, more sustainable natural environment.
- Reduced transmission of plant pathogens: Along with eliminating pest insects that feed on food plants, spiders also help to reduce the transmission of plant pathogens. Since many plant viruses and bacteria are transmitted from the soil to plants by foraging insects , using spiders to reduce insect numbers also helps protect plants from the spread of botanical disease.
- Can help reduce insects attracted by outdoor lighting: If you have garden paths or other garden features that are lit up by night lighting, this light can attract unwanted insects to your flowers and vegetables. Allowing spiders to move in on them helps keep the insects down without having to bring in pesticides or other insect control methods.
In contrast to the advantages of having spiders in the garden, there are only two major drawbacks to having spiders in the garden:
- The environments garden spiders enjoy can potentially attract venomous spiders as well.
- Spiders are not picky about what insects they capture and eat and are just as likely to capture beneficial pollinators such as small bees as they are to consume pest insects.
The benefits of having garden spiders outweigh the minor inconveniences that come with them.
Harmless Types of Spiders Found in the Garden
Some spiders that are commonly found in vegetable and flower gardens are harmless. Here are some of the basic general types that might be seen:
- Web weavers: These spiders such as garden orb weavers and grass spiders catch their prey by creating intricate, sticky webs that are used primarily to trap flying insects. These arachnids hunt primarily at night when flying insects are less easily able to see and avoid their traps. The webs of web weaving spiders can often be seen strung between taller plants, such as stalks of corn.
- Hunting spiders: Hunting spiders are spiders that actively travel along the ground and among plants in search of insects to ambush and kill. Two common varieties of hunting spiders include the wolf spider and lynx spider . While these spiders sometimes have a fearsome appearance and can inflict bites if caught or provoked, hunting spiders are shy and generally avoid people.
- Crab spiders: Crab spiders and jumping spiders are known for their ambush hunting tactics and are commonly found inside of flowers and hidden among plants as they lie in wait for passing prey. These elusive spiders have an amazing ability to leap from plant to plant and are often so small they go unnoticed by gardeners most of the time.
As soon as the weather warms up and plants begin to grow and insects become active, spiders come out of hibernation and start to hunt them. A healthy population of spiders in your garden will help keep insects under control.
Most Common Types of Spiders in Lawns and Gardens
There are about 3,000 species of spiders in North America, and any one of them might find its way into your lawn or garden. There are some types of spiders that you are more likely to encounter than others.
Some of the most common spiders found in lawns and gardens can be classified into three categories based on how they catch their prey.
1. Orb-Weaver Spiders
Orb-weavers are the spiders you’re probably most familiar with. They weave classic spiraled, circular webs that are most often seen. The spiders waits until their web catches an insect before coming out to get it.
You can expect to find these species of orb-weavers helping out in the garden:
- Garden spiders: Scientific name Argiope aurantia ; yellow and black spiders that grow up to about 1 inch long; found throughout North America; bite is harmless to humans
- Banana spiders: Scientific name Nephila clavipes ; yellow, black, orange, brown, and white spiders that grow up to 3 inches long; found in the southeast U.S.; bite is harmless to humans
- Joro spiders : Scientific name Trichonephila clavata ; yellow and silvery-gray spiders with red markings on their underside that grow up to 8 inches wide; new invasive species currently found in the southeast U.S. but expected to spread up the East Coast and possibly across the whole country; bite is harmless to humans
2. Funnel-Weaver Spiders
Instead of producing sticky silk from their abdomen as most spiders do, these spiders secrete a liquid from their jaws that hardens into a sticky substance. Funnel-weaver spiders spin webs using a liquid secreted from their jaws that hardens into a sticky substance, instead of producing sticky silk from their abdomen like most spiders do. The spiders build their webs in a three-dimensional tangle, often in denser vegetation, where the webs may appear as a kind of mat on the ground, on a tree, or on a bush. The other, or “capture” side of the web is sticky, due to the spider’s adhesive silk. At one end of the web, the spider hides from its prey, while the other end is sticky due to the spider’s adhesive silk. Although funnel-weaver spiders don’t spin sticky webs, they more than make up for it with their speed. If an insect wanders into their web, they will pounce on it.
The most common type of funnel-weaver spider is the grass spider. They have light brown fur with dark brown stripes, and they can grow up to about one inch in length. You can find grass spiders throughout North America. Grasshoppers live up to their name by often living in tall grass, but they are also comfortable in trees or bushes. Grass spiders’ bites are harmless to humans.
3. Hunting Spiders
Hunting spiders are more proactive in pest control than other kinds of spiders because they don’t just wait for prey to come to them. They travel through your grass and plants, looking for all kinds of insects. Since they’re always hunting, spiders don’t weave webs that would blemish your landscape.
These are some of the most common hunting spiders found in lawns and gardens:
- Wolf spiders: Members of the Lycosidae family; brown spiders with paler markings along their backs (colors vary by species) that grow up to 2 inches long; found throughout the U.S.; bites may be painful because of wolf spiders’ large mandibles, but the venom is harmless to humans
- Crab spiders: Members of the Thomisidae family; spiders of varying colors with wide, flat, crablike bodies that grow up to ½-inch long and walk sideways and backward like a crab; found throughout North America; most crab spiders are too small to pierce human skin, but even the larger ones have venom that is harmless to humans
- Jumping spiders: Members of the Salticidae family; appearance varies by species but often features bright colors and striking patterns and ranges from about 1/10-inch to just under 1 inch long; found throughout the U.S.; bite is harmless to humans.
Dangerous Spiders to Watch Out For
The spiders that are dangerous to humans would prefer to avoid contact with humans, just as humans are often scared of spiders. Getting too close to a spider’s hiding place or accidentally touching them can make them feel threatened and they will attack.
If you think that the spiders in your garden or home have venom that could be harmful, it would be a good idea to try to get rid of them. This is especially important if you have young children or pets who might not be aware of the dangers and could get hurt. The negative effects of pesticides on one’s health and safety outweigh the benefits of pest control.
Watch out for these spiders whose bites can potentially cause serious damage:
- Brown recluse : Scientific name Loxosceles reclusa ; brown spiders with a violin-shaped marking along the back that grow up to just under 1-inch long; found from Texas to Florida in the South and from Nebraska to Ohio in the North; bite may cause fever, muscle pain, convulsions, nausea, itching, or, in rare cases, open skin lesions
- Black widows /brown widows: Scientific name Latrodectus spp. ; brown or shiny black spiders that grow up to ½-inch long with various red or red and white markings on the back or underside; different species found throughout the U.S., bite may cause severe muscle pain, cramps, spasms, extreme sweating, or increased heart rate that can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks
- Yellow sac spiders: Scientific name Clubionidae mildei or Clubionidae inclusum ; light yellow or pale beige spiders that grow up to about ¼-inch long with a dark, lance-shaped marking along the back; found in the eastern U.S.; bite may cause intense burning, rash, blistering, fever, muscle cramps, or nausea (although symptoms are usually less severe than black widow or brown recluse bites)
Contrary to popular belief, it is rare to become severely ill from a spider bite, even if the spider is a brown recluse or black widow. Symptoms that are considered extreme are most prevalent in young children or older adults. The symptoms of a mosquito bite can be worse if you happen to be allergic to them. Spider bites almost never result in death.
A common misconception is that the hobo spider, which is common in the Pacific Northwest, is dangerous. Hobo spiders are no longer considered dangerous or toxic to humans by medical professionals.
As humans, we are much larger than arachnids and insects. It’s easy to forget that they live a life almost completely outside of our perception. Although some people are afraid of spiders, they are interesting creatures that play an important role in the ecosystem.