Spiders in the Garden

Pest outbreaks could be rare if you have lots of beneficial insects and spiders in the garden. Learn how to attract various types of garden spiders.
By Barbara Pleasant
February 6, 2013
Add to My MSN

There are more than 3,000 types of spiders in North America, including the crab spider, jumping spider, wolf spider and orb-web spider. These eight-legged predators will eat all kinds of insects in your garden.
Illustration By Keith Ward

Content Tools

Related Content

What Are Your Best Tips for Sustainability in the Garden?

Considerations of sustainability factor into countless supplies, tools and methods present in your g...

The Two Kinds of People

Non-gardeners and gardeners are very, very different creatures.

Spiders in Your Bathtub?

Suddenly it seems like spiders are everywhere, which makes many people uneasy. Fear not! Autumn's aw...

This Lawn is Your Lawn: Let's Grow a Food Garden on the White House Lawn

Help grow an organic food garden on the White House lawn. Here are some easy ways you can participat...

This article is part of our Organic Pest Control Series, which includes articles on attracting beneficial insects, controlling specific garden pests, and using organic pesticides.  

Garden Spiders (Aranea

Unlike insects, spiders have eight legs rather than six, and they probably are the most abundant predators in home landscapes. Arachnologists estimate that at any given time 100 to 200 spiders live in an average house; about 10,000 spiders live in one acre of typical forest habitat; and between 1.5 and 2.5 million spiders can be found in an acre of grassland.

Any garden will be home to several dozen types of spiders, and the most common garden spiders do not spin webs. Wolf spiders are the brown spiders with dark stripes that gardeners often disturb when raking up mulch or renovating garden beds. Females often carry their egg sacs with them, scurrying to find cover when disturbed.  For two weeks after her eggs hatch, the mother spider carries her young on her back. Wolf spiders live in shallow underground burrows, and are very common beneath mulch.            

Also common in gardens, jumping spiders do not make webs, but do use a string of silk to tether themselves to vegetation in case they miss a jump. These energetic spiders hunt during the day by pouncing on prey, which often includes flies and other small winged insects. A recent study found that jumping spiders are able to learn colors associated with prey. If they accidentally jump on your shoulder, the color of your shirt may be perceived as a happy hunting ground. Blow them off if you don’t like their company.

Crab spiders have oversized front legs, giving them a crablike appearance. Often called flower spiders, crab spiders hunt during the day by ambushing small insects. Perhaps in response to reflected light, many crab spiders are able to change color to precisely match the flower they have chosen as a hunting perch. 

What Do Spiders Eat?

While web-spinning spiders consume whatever they catch, recent research from Texas suggests that many jumping spiders, crab spiders, wolf spiders and other garden spiders are not indiscriminate diners, but in fact develop rather narrow tastes in prey. For example, a crab spider may stay on a certain flower after it learns how to capture insects that visit that blossom. Wolf spiders wander the soil’s surface by night, or simply wait by their burrow for unsuspecting insects or slugs.

How to Attract Spiders to Your Garden 

Spiders are naturally attracted to the good hunting available in a diversified garden. Perennial herbs that grow into lush bushes often make good spider conservatories, and biodegradable mulches like grass clippings create an ideal habitat for wolf spiders. Give spiders a few minutes to run away when renovating expired plantings or pruning large bushes. Avoid using pesticides in the garden, which are usually lethal to spiders.

More information about garden spiders is available from Colorado State University, University of California, University of Michigan, and the University of Kentucky.

Previous | 1 | 2 | Next

Post a comment below.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.