When we see spiders, we often do not think, we simply kill them. Even if you’re not particularly scared of the eight-eyed creatures, chances are you probably don’t want to hang out with them in your free time after work. Rightfully so because spiders, regardless of the type, are objectively creepy.
But what about those spiders scattered about your garden? Destroy them into oblivion, right? Hold on there, cowboy. Not so fast. While there are certainly instances where removing certain spiders may be a good idea, on the whole, spiders can be of great benefit to you and your garden.
If you can believe it, the most common spiders you’ll find in your garden (in North America anyway) are drumroll please…garden spiders. While these may be called different names depending on your locale—corn spider, writing spider, zigzag spider, for example—they’re easily identified by their black and yellow color, and also by the fact that, well, they can be pretty freaking huge! The leg span of females is usually about three inches wide, which might not sound like much, but I assure you, is more than adequate to engage most humans’ killing spider instinct.
The Case for Keeping Spiders in Our Gardens Alive
- Most are harmless. Garden spiders in particular, the most abundant of spiders you’ll find, can and will bite humans if threatened, but their venom is harmless to us.
- Think of garden spiders as your free pest control company. Garden spiders gobble up critters that are most likely to damage your garden: aphids, caterpillars, mites, and budworms, to name a few. In addition, they even gobble up the only two insects more hated than spiders themselves: wasps and mosquitoes.
- Other spiders are likely to inhabit your garden, too. Most notably, cursorial (or hunting) spiders—a common one being the wolf spider. While scary looking, it’s unlikely you’ll have too many encounters with these guys, as they usually live under mulch and only come out at night. Wolf spiders truly got the memo about what humans want!
- Through their ability to attack and diminish pest populations, spiders diminish pathogens most likely to harm your garden. Pests like aphids bounce between many different plants in your garden, and when they do, they transfer bacterial diseases with them. Fewer pests = less plant disease = happy and healthy garden and gardeners.
While spiders are objectively good for gardens, there are some kinds, however, to keep an eye on for the safety of you, your family, and your garden.
Venomous spiders. Namely, black widows and brown recluses. While these don’t typically live in gardens, they can. Their venom is quite dangerous to humans, so if you spot any, talk to a local exterminator about removal without harming your plants.
Spider mites. If you see plant damage, webbing, and hundreds of teeny tiny-looking spiders, it’s likely you have a spider mite infestation. Spider mites provide none of the aforementioned benefits of spiders. In fact, they’re not even spiders at all. If you think you’ve got a spider mite infestation, here’s a handy guide to help you get rid of it.
So, when it comes to the spiders in your garden, temporarily mute your spider-killing instinct for the benefit of your beloved plants!