The typical home gardener is not likely to run across lions, tigers or bears. Hopefully, however, he or she will run across spiders. In fact, spiders can be found in all healthy gardens.
With the exception of the brown recluse and black widow, few spiders are dangerous to humans. But, these creatures are dangerous to many plant pests, eating more insects and other invertebrates on an annual basis than the weight of all humans combined! Despite this amazing fact, spiders will not be able to control large outbreaks of a single plant pest. Their appetites are limited by the fact that spiders don’t track their prey but must wait until the pest insects find their way into the web.
A few simple practices will encourage spider activity in the garden. The most important of these is to limit pesticide use to prevent harm to spiders. When unavoidable, spray at midday when fewer spiders are active. Second, allow spiders to over winter by avoiding tilling at the end of the growing season. Finally, remember to mulch. Mulch is not only good for plants; it also provides moisture and nesting places needed by many spiders.
As predators of pest insects, spiders are tremendously beneficial to gardens and landscapes. So, enjoy and appreciate these fascinating creatures without worry or fear. The lions and tigers on the other hand….
Mary Green, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service