A lot of people tend to react to spiders – especially big ones – with fear. Garden spiders can get quite large, but before you run, scream, or squish, stop and think about the benefits of having spiders in your garden.
Yes, spiders can be beneficial. They eat insects that cause problems for humans, such as wasps and mosquitoes. They do tend to be secretive and reclusive, which contributes to their creepy reputation. They move quickly when startled, and you never know when you will come upon one.
But spiders are not trying to be sneaky in order to scare you; this elusiveness is how they survive. They can sneak up on their prey and remain still and out of sight for hours, keeping them safe from predators that would like to eat them. Let’s take a look at some of the types of beneficial spiders that can be found in your garden.
- Crab spiders are the chameleons of the arachnid world. They can change their colors and patterns to match their environment, and take up residence deep inside flower blossoms. When one flower fades, they move into another one, changing color and pattern to match whichever flower they are living in. They prey on wasps, bees, flies, caterpillars, and just about any other insect that crawls along the ground (or a flying insect that has landed).
- Wolf spiders are rather scary looking, but you need not fear them unless you are a garden pest. Like crab spiders, wolf spiders hunt their prey rather than spinning a web and capturing it. They lie in wait or stalk their meals that consist of almost any insect pest.
- Yellow Garden Orb-Weavers are spiders that weave large, beautiful webs that sometimes look as if they have writing down the middle (hence another name for these yellow-and-black striped beauties: writing spider). These spiders are quite large, and their elaborate webs are lethal to all kinds of flying pests, such as mosquitoes, moths, wasps, hornets, etc. Such webs can be annoying to humans, but there are few things more breath-taking than one of these orb webs covered in dew drops on a sunny morning.
You can encourage spiders in your garden by not spraying broad-spectrum insecticides (spiders are not insects, but they will succumb to insect sprays). Another thing you can do is spread thick mulch that gives hunting spiders a place to hide and spend the winter. Encourage web-weavers with an outside light that attracts flying insects. Spiders will weave their webs near the light to take advantage of the bugs.
While very few spiders possess the mouth parts capable of breaking human skin, it’s a good idea to leave them alone. Wear gloves in the garden, especially if you are working among wood logs, in mulch, or other spidery hide-outs. Tell your children the same thing, without inciting fear. Spiders are beautiful, beneficial creatures to watch but not touch.