By Bethany Hayes
Let’s be honest; most people freak out when they encounter a spider, whether you’re outside or inside. Spiders have a bad reputation, and some are downright dangerous to touch, but that doesn’t mean spiders cannot help. So, when you find spiders in your garden, you might wonder if that’s a good or bad thing.
It’s not uncommon in late summer to find webs intermingling with your plants, along with black and yellow spiders crawling around. Arachnids are quick creatures, and they can put up webs in what feels like no time at all.
Should you leave them there, or are spiders in your garden a sign of trouble to come? Don’t be so quick to break out the insecticides; here’s what you should know.
Garden Spiders Are Your Friend – Here’s Why
Spiders in your garden are generally considered a good thing, even if they give you the jeebies. Most people assume since spiders are scary that they aren’t beneficial, but that’s not true. There are multiple reasons why you do want to have some in your garden.
The biggest reason is that spiders love to eat, and despite their reputation, they typically have no desire to bother you or even come in contact with you. Spiders prefer to spend their days eating insects and lounging in your garden rather than being problematic and eating all of the vegetables you spent all summer growing.
Here are some of the critical reasons why garden spiders are beneficial.
They Eat Pests in Your Garden
The key benefit of spiders is that they are vicarious eaters who eat as many insects as they can. Many of their favorite snacks are the most likely pests to destroy your vegetable crops, so having arachnids in your garden can save your harvest from destruction.
Some pests that spiders eat include:
Chances are you have or will encounter some of these pests throughout your gardening years, but spiders can keep the population of these pests under control. That means your plants stay healthier, and you have a chance at a larger harvest.
That’s a win-win.
Let’s not forget that spiders eat mosquitoes. Anything that reduces the risk of me being eaten alive while trying to spend time in my garden is a friend of mine.
There is one downfall to their appetite – they aren’t picky and eat even the beneficial insects that might be in your garden. It’s easy to forget that some insects aren’t harmful; some help combat bad ones.
Spiders don’t care what they eat; they trap and eat whatever comes their way. It’s not uncommon to find bees and other friendly insects that you want to keep, trapped inside a spider web.
You Won’t Need Pesticides
With your friendly garden spiders spending all of their days eating pests, it means that you can decrease or stop the use of pesticides. Organic gardeners can appreciate spiders for this very reason, especially if you’re growing food for your family.
When you see spiders in your garden, it means you need to use fewer chemicals.
Spiders Don’t Appear Until Later
Spiders overwinter in your garden, which is one reason that you should leave your fall debris instead of removing it all. You don’t see them in the spring, but they emerge right when you need them.
Spiders come out when the other pests that like to destroy your garden become more active. Pests like to appear in your garden when your plants are larger, typically in full bloom, and at the same time, the spiders come out, ready to eat and devour them all.
They Reduce Plant Pathogens
When you have a pest problem, you also put your plants at risk for bacteria and pathogens. Any injuries to a plant leave them vulnerable and at risk for pathogens that could kill an entire garden. After all of your hard work, that’s the last thing you want.
Having fewer pests means fewer diseases; they aren’t in your garden, transferring fungal and bacterial infections as they hop from plant to plant.
How to Identify Garden Spiders
There are thousands of spiders species, and the most common one you’ll find in your garden is called a garden spider. The scientific name is Argiope aurantia; they’re a species native to North America. You can find them in almost any state, including Hawaii.
It’s easy to identify a garden spider. They are black with yellow markings, making them easy to tell apart from other breeds. If you can get over your fear, their beauty is hard to ignore.
Female garden spiders are more distinctive than their male counterparts with their black and yellow abdomen and eight legs with either yellow or red markings. They have long legs compared to their bodies – up to three inches in length!
On the other hand, male garden spiders are rather dull, lacking attractive colors and large. They tend to be grown and only a quarter of the size of a female.
Males also build smaller, denser webs when compared to the females as well. Females spin beauty, unique webs that secure both their food and a mate. Some webs can measure up to three feet wide, fitting perfectly between two tomato plants or other structures in your garden beds.
Other Spiders That Might Hang in Your Garden
If you pay close attention, you can find other breeds in your garden as well. You might find some hunting spiders, such as the crab spiders or jumping spiders, but their behavior is different.
Hunting spiders prefer to live in burrows under mulch or debris rather than spinning webs. Since they spend most of their time on the ground, hunting spiders attack and eat the pests that crawl along the soil.
This type of spider tends to prefer to hunt at night, so you won’t see them unless you disturb their burrows. The exception is jumping spiders when hunt in the daylight hours, flying through your garden without creating a single web.
Beware: Some Spiders ARE Dangerous
It is important to note that just because garden spiders are safe and beneficial, it doesn’t mean all spiders in your garden are friendly. You should always be cautious when you encounter a spider; you might discover a poisonous breed that decided to make your garden its home as well.
For example, you might find a black widow or a wolf spider hanging out in your garden. While garden beds aren’t their typical homes, it’s not impossible, so make sure you educate yourself on what the dangerous spiders in your area look like so you can avoid them. Be sure to tell your kids as well; kids are vulnerable.
Also, while many spiders aren’t dangerous, that doesn’t mean they won’t bite you if they’re disturbed. Be present when you’re gardening and pay attention to your surroundings. Look before you start to garden and give your friendly spiders time to run away before you get to work.
How to Attract More Spiders to Your Garden
Are you not finding any spiders in your garden? Don’t stress; you can do things to attract them, just like you can with any other insect. Here are some easy suggestions.
Grow Tall Plants and Provide Garden Structures
If you want to attract weaving spiders, such as the female garden spiders, you’ll need to add tall plants to give them spots to anchor their webs. Tomato plants, especially indeterminate tomatoes, are a good start but don’t stop there. Sunflowers and cornstalks are two other options.
Plants aren’t the only structure in your garden. You might have garden arches, an arbor, trellises, posts for lights, and so many other things that also can act as an anchoring spot for garden spiders and their webs.
Plant Things They Like
While spiders do like veggie plants, flowers are one of their favorites. Planting flowers along with your vegetable plants is a great idea. Not only does it beautify your space, but flowers can act as a trap crop for some problematic pests.
Also, consider if you have any shrubs or perennial plants nearby. Since they tend to be larger, these plants end up being fantastic homes for spiders.
You might not ideally want hunting spiders, but they do like to eat some pests that hang out on the soil and destroy your crops. It isn’t a bad idea to keep some of them around.
The best way to do that is to spread mulch on your garden beds. Spiders love to run under it when you’re working. Please don’t kill them! Woodchips, grass clippings, and shredded leaves are all great options for organic mulch that not only will give the spiders a home but also help your garden soil as it decomposes.
Always Leave Webs When You Find Them
At times, a spider will build a web in a horrible spot, and you will have to remove it. However, if possible, try to leave the webs in place, especially if they’re on a garden structure or somewhere that isn’t inconvenient to you.
Leave Fall Debris
When the garden season winds down, resist the urge to remove all of the plants and debris. Some might tell you that it needs to be done, but we do need to leave the debris for our insects and pollinators because they provide a safe place to overwinter. A messy fall garden makes the best winter home for spiders.
Despite your dislike or apprehension of spiders, finding spiders in your garden is a good thing. It’s a sign that your garden is a busy, happening place to be, and the spiders are there to take care of the multitude of insects that want to call this place you all love home. Let them do their job, taking care of the pests that want to eat all of your hard work, and give each other plenty of space.
Ready to learn more about garden spiders? Check out these websites!