Creating a garden environment that is attractive to spiders is probably not the first priority of most gardeners. After all, spiders are creepy looking and poisonous, right?
However, the reality is there are many myths about spiders that are just not true. Here we look at the facts about common garden spiders and discuss how to create a spider-friendly environment to attract these beneficial critters.
Spider Wanna-Be: Daddy Long LegsCredit: Daniel Ullrich, ThreeDots, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pholcus_phalangioides.jpgCredit: Daniel Ullrich, ThreeDots, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pholcus_phalangioides.jpg
How to Create a Spider Friendly Garden
Creating a habitat that encourages spiders is easy. Rock gardens are the perfect environment for spiders that like to hide under rocks and stones. Garden ponds and fountains will attract the types who like to live near water, while fences provide the type of environment that jumping spiders prefer.
Ornamental statues, garden water features, and garden stakes are good web friendly structures. In addition to creating a spider friendly environment, these water features and statuary can transform an ordinary garden into an outdoor wonderland without busting your budget or creating more upkeep chores.
Mulch and compost piles are spider friendly environments that provide protection, safe breeding ground, and moisture. Spider friendly plants like sassafras, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, and red clover attract spiders.
Leave the spider webs alone when you discover them, but do observe them from a distance as watching them scurry around and build their webs is quite fascinating, especially to young children. Your spiders will be more energetic in warm weather and more lethargic in cooler weather. Combine a day in the garden spider watching with a reading of Charlotte’s Web, and you have the makings of a science lesson with which few science teachers could ever compete!
Always avoid using pesticides that contain any of the following ingredients: bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, permethrin, and tetramethrin to provide the best growth environment for your spiders.
What Is the Spider's Role in Pest Control?
Spiders play an important role in garden pest control because they are such skillful predators. Some spiders are content to spin their webs and wait for an unsuspecting victim to become entangled, while others actively stalk and kill their prey. Spiders eat other insects, other spiders, invertebrates, and even small vertebrates. Unlike other biological predators, they are active all year. Spiders will rid your gardens of pests such as aphids, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, and thrips, just to name just a few.
What Characteristics Distinguish Spiders from Insects?
Spiders are arachnids, and they are distinguished from insects by the following characteristics:
- Six to eight eyes
- Cephalothorax (combined head and thorax)
- Unsegmented abdomen
- Eight jointed legs
- No antenna
- Spider silk spinnerts
- Digest food externally
Now, let’s do a little myth busting before we talk about the best types of spiders for organic pest control.
Myth number one: the Daddy Longlegs spider is the most poisonous of all spiders. The truth is, the Daddy Longlegs, or Harvestmen as they are also known, are not spiders. They cannot be spiders because they have a segmented abdomen and two eyes. They are opilionids from the family Opiliones, and they have no fangs or venom. (However, because of their sheer size, they are still rather creepy looking!)
Myth number two: There are many species of poisonous spiders in the United States. According to Dr. Raynor, assistant professor of entomology at Cornell University, “Of the 38,000 spider species described, there are only four species in the USA which are poisonous (black widow, brown recluse, hobo, and yellow sac spider.”1
Next, let’s talk about which are the fiercest hunters and the best web builders among common garden spiders. Learn more about the best beneficial spiders for organic pest control and you can have a healthy, productive organic garden patch that is also spider friendly.
What Types of Common Garden Spiders Are Most Beneficial?
To have the most successful spider garden, you need both hunting spiders and web building spiders. Hunters stalk their prey, do not make webs, and have excellent eyesight. Web builders prefer to spin their webs and wait for their prey because they have poor eyesight. It is also wise to have daytime and nocturnal spiders to provide the highest level of pest control.
The best hunting spiders for gardens are jumping spiders. Jumping spiders (Salticidae) are voracious hunters, and climb or jump to pursue their prey. They are the fastest and most skillful of all spiders, and feed on pests like ants, crickets, and flies. Although they are sometimes confused with the brown recluse, their bite is not poisonous. Other beneficial hunting spiders are wolf spiders and crab spiders.
Best Web Building Spiders
The best web builders are orb spiders like the Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope auranthia). These spiders favor habitats full of vegetation like gardens and fields. They build a new web each day, and trap their prey in the web, and then bite them. They rid gardens of pests like mosquitoes, gnats, yellow jackets, carpenter ants, grasshoppers and wasps. Other beneficial web builders are barn spiders and grass spiders.
Be sure to check out the video below to watch an arigobe spider wrapping up her next meal.
Argiope Spider Shrinkwrapping Dinner
Arachnophobia or Fear of Spiders?
While you may or may not feel that you suffer from arachnophobia—or an intense fear of spiders or spider-like objects—if you do not like these creepy crawlers, you are not alone. According to the article "10 Most Common Phobias," fear of spiders is pretty high up on the list of the top 10 phobias. The statistics that are quoted show 50 percent of women and 10 percent of men have an abnormal fear of spiders. However, spiders seem to be more the victims of bad publicity than a real threat when you examine the scientific evidence.
Now that you know more about spiders and you realize that they can do much more than just scare the living daylights out of you, why not try to attract some to your garden. After all, they eat harmful bugs and predators so you don’t have to use harmful chemicals and pesticides around your flowers and vegetables. To find out more about spiders, visit your public library or search the Internet.