How Do Spiders Benefit the Garden?

Creepy crawlies aren’t always a bad thing. Spiders are garden workhorses, aiding your growing efforts in many surprising ways. Garden expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey digs into the benefits of having arachnids in your garden.

spiders. Close-up of an Argiope tiger spider on a spider's web in a sunny garden. The Argiope tiger spider is a visually striking arachnid characterized by its large size and distinctive black and yellow striped abdomen. Its legs are long and slender, adorned with bands of black and yellow.

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Spiders get a bad reputation, but they’re actually one of the most voracious predators of garden pests. There are over 45,000 different species of spiders known globally, but less than 30 of them are venomous. That means less than one-tenth of a percent of spiders are dangerous to humans!

While they pose little risk to people, pests like aphids, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, and wasps should be terrified of spiders. These eight-legged arachnids are hungry predators, weaving webs to capture their prey and sometimes hunting them down. Spiders are among the best pest control officers around and a very important component of a biocontrolled eco-friendly garden. 

If you want to reduce or avoid pesticides and grow a more ecological garden, spiders should be your new best friends. Instead of fearing these creepy crawlies, let’s dig into the benefits of welcoming them into your garden. 

The Short Answer: Spiders Reduce Garden Pests

The most obvious benefit of garden spiders is their ability to capture and eat common garden and household pests. From aphids and mites to mosquitoes and flies, spiders consume a wide range of insects on a daily basis. Embracing these eight-legged predators adds another layer of biological pest control to your garden, so you don’t have to worry about applying pesticides or losing crops to infestations. Whether they weave webs or hunt along the ground, spiders are eager to eat harmful insects rather than harming you.

The Long Answer

Nobody wants to walk head-first into a sticky spider web, but the presence of these intricate traps indicates that you have high-level predators in your garden. If you regularly see webs strung between your tomato plants or scary-looking spiders running across the soil surface, here are the main reasons why you should celebrate rather than fear them.

Free Pest Control

Close-up of Jumping spider eating aphids in the garden on a green leaf. The jumping spider is a small, agile arachnid known for its compact size and keen eyesight. This spider is completely covered in hair and is brownish-beige in color with markings. Their large, forward-facing eyes give them excellent vision.
Spiders effortlessly maintain gardens free of pests, serving as natural guardians.

Research proves that spiders are among nature’s best pest control agents. Their voracious appetite for insects means they are continuously attacking the pests that cause humans the most problems.

In organic gardens, spiders are particularly important because they create ecological balance without the need for pesticides. These predators hunt their prey or lure them into webs so they naturally control the populations, preventing infestations from taking over your garden. 

Spiders can eat:

  • Roaches
  • Aphids
  • Moths
  • Earwigs
  • Mites
  • Mosquitoes
  • Flies
  • Caterpillars
  • Beetles

If you have enough spiders and other predatory insects (like ladybugs, syrphid flies, and parasitic wasps), you may not need to apply pesticides at all. In fact, applying broad-spectrum pesticides can kill spiders and cause things to fall more off-kilter. Without natural predators to eat the pests, harmful insects can rapidly expand their populations, forcing gardeners to get stuck on a “chemical treadmill” where they have to continuously spray to protect their crops.

Fortunately, embracing nature’s free pest control is quite simple. You don’t necessarily have to plant certain flowers or install any sort of house to attract these predators. Spiders naturally find their habitat amongst garden plants and enjoy building their webs while suspended between two surfaces, such as branches or twigs.

Still, you can encourage extra spider habitat by:

  • Applying a loose layer of mulch over your beds (dead leaves work great)
  • Leaving small piles of rocks or sticks around the garden
  • Providing a shallow dish of water or bird bath (this also helps pollinators)
  • Planting structural, tall crops like sunflowers and corn stalks where they can build webs
  • Avoiding pesticides

Reduced Risk of Plant Diseases

Close-up of Araneus diadematus on its web in a garden with growing tomato plants. Its round abdomen features a prominent cross-like pattern, surrounded by dark bands and speckles against a background of brown or orange. With long, slender legs and a relatively small cephalothorax, this spider intricate creates orb webs with a spiral pattern at the center.
Spiders safeguard crops, curbing diseases by preying on garden pests.

As spiders control garden pests, they simultaneously reduce the risk of crop diseases. Many plant pathogens are spread by insect vectors such as aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs. The pests are considered vectors for disease because they spread viral, bacterial, or fungal infections whenever they feed on new plants. Insect-vectored crop diseases include tomato mosaic virus, asters yellows, leaf curl virus, and greening disease of citrus.

This is where the spiders come in. As their intricate webs capture these pests and they consume the helpless bugs, they effectively stop the spread of any disease-causing pathogens that may have been inside the pest. As a result, gardens with high levels of spider predation naturally have lower levels of plant disease. In simpler terms, more spiders means fewer diseases. This can significantly improve your yields and eliminate the need for chemical fungicides or other sprays.

Ecological Balance 

Close-up of a spider eating a fly in the garden on a blurred green background. The spider has hair all over its body and thin legs. The spider is light brown in color with dark brown markings.
Spiders enrich garden biodiversity, fostering resilience against environmental challenges.

Your garden is more than a food-production zone; it is its own ecosystem! The biodiversity of your garden’s ecology directly contributes to its resilience. A more diverse garden is more resistant to problems such as drought, extreme weather, pests, diseases, and crop failures. Spiders add biodiversity while fueling the natural food web of the native landscape.

Spiders are an important food source for local animals such as centipedes, birds, and lizards. These animals contribute to a diverse, interconnected, balanced ecosystem. Small insects are consumed by spiders. Then, spiders are consumed by birds and lizards. As the food chain moves upward, those smaller animals are consumed by larger animals like bobcats, coyotes, and hawks. 

The benefits continue to compound as you zoom out to look at the broader role of spiders in the ecosystem at large. A balance of each of these species creates a complex network of flora and fauna that provide many benefits, including built-in pest control, pollination, recycling of nutrients, and wildlife viewing.

Aerated Soil

Close-up of a small brown spider running through the soil in a garden. The spider is dark brown in color. The soil is loose, dark brown, and lumpy.
Underground spiders enhance soil health, aiding garden growth invisibly.

While many spiders contribute to above-ground garden benefits, underground arachnids like wolf spiders actually improve the soil. Aeration is the key to healthy, rich garden soil. Aerated soil is fluffy, loamy, and easier for plants to grow in. Soil without aeration is compacted, hard, and difficult to work with. As ground-dwelling spiders tunnel through the soil of your garden beds, they loosen the soil to create more pathways for water and air to reach plant roots.

At the same time, underground spiders aid in the complex biology of the soil food web. Most of us don’t realize that there are billions of microscopic organisms interacting with our plant roots at all hours of the day and night. These predominantly beneficial microbes include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and beneficial nematodes. 

Spiders feed on these organisms, aiding in the recycling and decomposition of dead plant and animal materials. In turn, nutrients can move through the soil ecosystem and become available to plants. The spiders become food for larger underground mammals, which aerate the soil and poop out more nutrients, perpetuating the natural cycle.

Types of Garden Spiders

Most people fear spiders because they group them all together. They assume that any spider could be poisonous, like a black widow or a brown recluse. The truth is that less than one-tenth of a percent (0.1%) of spiders are harmful to humans. The majority are very beneficial. The key to deciphering between the two is knowing how to identify spiders in your garden.

Most spiders fall into one of two categories:

Web-Building

These spiders build intricate sticky silk webs to capture insects and then devour them.

Hunting

These arachnids hunt by chasing prey and attacking but sometimes use silk to retreat.

A diversity of spiders in both categories creates the most benefits for your garden. Here are some common species to look for:

Orb Weaver or Garden Spider

Close-up of a Wasp spider on a cobweb in the garden. The Wasp spider, scientifically known as Argiope bruennichi, is a striking arachnid recognized for its distinctive black and yellow striped abdomen, resembling the coloration of a wasp. Its large, orb-shaped abdomen is adorned with bright yellow bands and spots against a black background.
Th orb weaver spider is nature’s delicate artist, weaving intricate webs.

One of the most common garden spiders in North America is the orb weaver. It is aptly named because its webs are elaborate and concentric, with circular orbs radiating outwards. They include many species of the Neoscona genus, most of which are colorful and large, with yellow or black stripes and spots.

These spiders wait in their webs all day and night for prey to become entangled in the silk. They are docile and not aggressive towards humans. 

Wolf Spider

Close-up of a Wolf spider on green foliage in a sunny garden. The Wolf spider is a robust arachnid with a stout, hairy body and long, agile legs, ranging in shades of brown, gray, and black. Its eyes are arranged in a distinctive pattern, with two large eyes at the front flanked by two smaller eyes on either side.
These agile ground predators are vital for garden pest management.

Recognized by their elongated hairy legs, these hunter spiders are mostly found running along the ground. They are truly the wolves of the arachnid world, as they are furry, they run very quickly (up to 22 mph!), and they don’t build webs. However, some wolf spiders will weave a silky retreat where they return after hunting down prey. 

These arachnids don’t threaten people and are not poisonous. They sometimes jump if they need to catch prey. The females will carry their young perched on their backs. You definitely want wolf spiders in your garden because they are aggressive hunters of grasshoppers, earwigs, crickets, flies, and ants.

Sac Spiders

Close-up of a Sac spider on a curled green leaf on a black background. The Sac spider has a medium-sized body with a slightly flattened appearance. Its coloration is pale yellow with darker patterns on the cephalothorax and abdomen.
Sac spiders, with their signature sacs, inhabit gardens worldwide.

These spiders are named for the fat pale sac on their backside. They are about the size of a nickel and can be bright yellow or bright green. Sac spiders live in gardens and sheds across the world. They create silky tubes between structures, beneath plants, or on the bark of woody perennials. 

Unfortunately, some sac spiders will bite humans (and can be painful), but the venom is not harmful to humans. These nocturnal creatures are mostly active at night when they hunt all sorts of insects in the garden. 

Daddy Long Legs

Close-up of Daddy Long Legs spider among green foliage in the garden. The Daddy Long Legs spider is characterized by its long, spindly legs and small, elongated body. It has a distinctive appearance due to its thin legs, which span several times the length of its body.
Cellar spiders, famous for their delicate appearance, serve as insect interceptors.

Also called cellar spiders, we’ve all likely seen the famous daddy long legs around the garage. There is an urban legend that these spiders have the most potent venom, but in reality, their fangs are too tiny to even bite a human.

Instead, these skinny creatures hang out in dark corners or underneath logs, feeding on tiny flies, mosquitoes, ants, and any other insects that wander into their messy webs.

These spider-like creatures aren’t actually spiders, but opiliones. While they’re in the same family as spiders, they don’t feed on live insects. Instead, they consume decaying plant matter, dead insects, and fruit. This makes them important garden cleaners.

Crab or Flower Spiders

Close-up of a Crab or Flower Spider on an Oxeye Daisy flower. The Crab Spider, scientifically known as Thomisidae, is a small, crab-like arachnid with a flattened body and stout, powerful legs. Its color is a whitish-gray almost imitating the color of the petals of a flower.
Flower spiders are garden hunters with crab-like front legs.

These species have enlarged front legs resembling crab claws (but not quite as “pinchy”). They are hunter spiders you are more likely to see in the garden because they’re active during the day. They especially love mulched or grassy areas where they can attack mites, wasps, mosquitoes, flies, beetles, and other small pests. They are sometimes called flower spiders because they will wait for their prey while sitting on flowers.

Jumping Spiders

Close-up of a Jumping Spider on a yellow leaf against a blurred green background. The Jumping Spider is a small, compact arachnid known for its large, forward-facing eyes. Its body is stout and hairy, ranging in colors from black to brown, with vibrant patterns and markings adorning its cephalothorax and abdomen.
Day-hunting jumping spiders are effective predators against common garden pests.

These hairy black or shiny spiders hunt during the day and pounce on their prey. They are great predators of common nuisance pests like flies and mosquitoes. These predators do not spin webs, but they may make silken hangouts under bark or leaves, which is why mulch is important. Jumping spiders especially love roaches, worms, moths, and crickets.

Lynx Spiders

Close-up of a green Lynx Spider on a flower bud. The green Lynx Spider is a striking arachnid with a vibrant green body adorned with intricate patterns and markings. Its long, slender legs are banded or speckled, adding to its visual allure.
Green lynx spiders are beneficial yet complex and maintain garden insect balance.

These bright green spiders are a mashup of good and bad. They eat a variety of insects, including annoying caterpillar larvae that often attack brassicas and corn. However, lynx spiders sometimes prey on bees and wasps, which can be problematic for pollinator gardens.

These spiders rarely bite humans and are not dangerous. They are typically well-camouflaged amongst plant foliage and hunt their prey without a web.

How to Embrace More Spiders for Garden Benefits

Spiders provide lots of benefits for very little effort. Embracing these creatures requires a mindset shift away from fear and towards curiosity. Here are a few ways to welcome these natural pest control agents into your garden to create a healthier, balanced ecosystem:

Prioritize Diverse Plantings

Close-up of a white Crab Spider on a Calluna inflorescence in the garden. The Calluna inflorescence presents a stunning display of tiny, bell-shaped flowers of delicate pink color densely packed along upright spikes. The Crab Spider is a small, crab-like arachnid with a flattened body and stout, spiny legs.
Thriving ecosystems in diverse gardens offer abundant habitats and prey for spiders.

A diversity of crops, flowers, shrubs, and trees creates a multi-dimensional garden with a wide range of insects and habitats. Diversity is better than monoculture (planting large pieces of land with just one or two species) because it promotes a more sustainable ecosystem that can function without as much human interference. For spiders, diverse plantings mean more places to hide and hunt and a wide range of food sources.

Avoid Chemical Pesticides

Close-up of spraying apple tree with pesticides in a sunny garden. The young tree has thin vertical branches covered with oval, bright green leaves with finely serrated edges.
Chemical pesticides harm beneficial predators, disrupting garden pest control.

Pesticides don’t just kill pests; they harm beneficial predators, too. If you want to create a more natural bio-controlled garden, it’s essential to reduce or eliminate chemical pesticide sprays in your garden. These chemicals will kill spiders and make it more difficult for them to return to the garden to serve their pest control duties.

Leave Webs Intact

Close-up of a spider weaving a web in a sunny garden against a blurred background of blooming pink flowers. The spider is large, with a striped brown-black body.
Respect spiders’ work as natural pest controllers in your garden.

Whenever you encounter spiders, consider leaving them undisturbed so they can do their job. Most spiders don’t want to hurt you. Rather, they want to attract insects for a feast. Spiders spend a lot of energy and time weaving silky webs to trap their prey.

Imagine spider webs like natural insect sticky traps; they are working in your favor to capture annoying pests! It’s OK to knock down a few webs on accident when moving through your garden, but avoid intentionally removing these silky insect traps.

Add Mulch and Compost

Close-up of a jumping spider hiding in straw mulch. The jumping spider is a small arachnid with a compact, squat body and stout legs. Its body is covered in dense hair, and it exhibits vibrant dark brown color and intricate pattern, including spots and stripes.
Mulch enhances gardens, fostering soil health and providing spider habitat.

Applying mulch has so many benefits to your garden, including weed suppression, soil insulation, and moisture retention. Leaf mulch, straw, grass clippings, wood chips, and compost all provide valuable sources of organic matter for your soil while also creating a habitat where spiders can hide

Provide Shelter and Hiding Spots

Close-up of Pardosa milvina among branches and foliage in a sunny garden. Pardosa milvina displays a robust body covered in dense hair, ranging in shades of brown or gray with darker markings. Its elongated legs are stout and agile, facilitating rapid movement across various terrains.
Provide shelters for spiders to thrive as natural pest controllers.

Spiders are not sociable creatures; they like to hide and burrow when they aren’t hunting. Plant ground cover plants and leave around small piles of sticks or rocks where these eight-legged predators can hide out. These shelters provide safe areas for spiders to build webs, eat food, and lay their eggs so they can produce more pest-controlling allies.

Limit Outdoor Lighting at Night

View of decorative small solar garden lights in the garden. These lamps have vertical thin black legs on top of which there are transparent bulbs with yellow lamps inside. The garden has an ornamental pond, paths of decorative stones and ornamental grasses and ground covers.
Minimize nighttime light to support nocturnal pest-controlling predators.

Many spiders are nocturnal, which means they cannot do their job when it is bright outside. Avoid excessive light in your garden after the sun goes down. This is also beneficial for nocturnal predators like bats, which prey on mosquitoes and moths.

Provide a Water Source

Close-up of a dark brown spider drinking water from a tap in the garden. A large stream of water flows from the tap.
Add water sources to attract and retain garden spiders.

Like pollinators and birds, spiders appreciate a little water to keep them hanging out in one area. Shallow dishes of water or a low-lying bird bath can help keep these arachnids in your garden.  

Final Thoughts

The aggressive “kill all bugs” philosophy of gardening is outdated and unproductive. Many pesticide companies have convinced the public that all insects are bad when in reality, most insects (especially predators) are vital parts of the ecosystem. When you are killing spiders or spraying broad-spectrum pesticides, you’re killing potential allies that can actually help your garden stay pest-free

Embrace spiders so you don’t have to worry as much about pest infestations! Take the time to recognize different species so you don’t get beneficial spiders confused with potentially harmful ones. Install a bug finder or spider ID app on your phone to take a picture and quickly determine if a spider is beneficial for your garden.

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