10 Beneficial Spider Species in the USA

When we talk about microorganisms and insects in the garden, it is quite easy to overlook one type of animal that is not actually an insect. Belonging to the biological classification of arachnids, spiders are predatory creatures that have an important role in controlling populations of pest insects on the permaculture plot. Utilizing either webs to capture prey, or simply striking on the ground or in plants, spiders all have some form of venom with which to kill their prey. All spiders will, once they have made a kill, use enzymes to break down and liquefy the prey in order to consume it. Most spiders will take almost any other insect that happens to come across their path so they will inevitably predate some other beneficial species, but their role in keeping pest populations down should not be underestimated, and permaculture gardeners should view spider sightings on their plot as a good sign indeed.

Every country, bar Antarctica, has its own indigenous arachnids, as well as other species that have been introduced from elsewhere. Here are some of the more common ones that permaculturists in the USA may come across.

Whitebanded Crab Spider
Crab spiders are ambush predators, with the whitebanded among the most common varieties. They tend to sit in the centre of flowers, waiting for insects to come to the bloom to feed on the nectar. Then they strike, seizing the victim in their front two pairs of legs and injecting them with venom. The females of the species are able to change their body coloring between white and yellow to camouflage themselves against the flower. Adult males are much smaller than the females.

Grass Spiders
There are 13 species of grass spider in the U.S., and all of them look similar and exhibit the same behaviors. Grass spiders are members of the funnel weaving family, creating sheets of silk webbing that stretch between the branches of vegetation and lead to a small retreat at the base. The grass spider’s web is not sticky; the spider is alerted to the vibrations of an insect on the web and rushes out to catch it. Grass spiders have brown and grey markings and can be identified by their three rows of eyes – two on the top, four in the middle and two on the bottom –

Carolina Wolf Spider
Wolf spiders are among the most abundant spider species in U.S. gardens and fields. The Carolina is the largest, with adult females growing up to 35 millimeters in body length. They have brown and white markings on the top half of their body, while the underside is solid black. They do not make web; instead during the day they lurk in their burrows waiting for unsuspecting insects to wander past, while at night they go out to actively hunt.

Orchard Orb Weaver
Orchard Orb Weavers have striking coloration, with white, green, and gold markings on their elongated abdomen. Like other orb weavers it spins a circular web that is positioned horizontally, with the spider hanging beneath it. They build their webs on small trees and low-lying shrubs, and feed predominantly on flying insects.

Hacklemesh Weaver
The Hacklemesh Weaver is actually indigenous to Europe, but through global trading it has established itself in other parts of the world, including China and the U.S. A relative of funnel web species such as the grass spiders, the Hacklemesh differs in that it prefers to spin its web on logs, in crevices and in deep leaf litter, rather than up on vegetation. It has a reddish-brown colour and eight eyes arranged in a kind of ‘smiley’ pattern on the front of the head.

Black Widow
Arguably the spider with the most daunting name, the Black Widow actually gets its moniker from the habit of the female to eat the male directly after mating. The males are small and brown, but the females are identifiable from the crimson spot on their bellies. This species hides in crevices by day, and then comes out at night to hang upside down in its web and catch flying insects like moths.

Ant Mimic Spider
The clue is in the name of this spider species. The Ant Mimic not only has a body shape that looks like an ant’s, it comports itself in an ant-like manner as well, holding its first pair of legs aloft as it moves so that they resemble antennae. This behavior is not, as first might be suspected, so that the spider can prey on ants; rather it is to protected itself from predation, as many ants are not preyed upon due to their pungent taste. Instead the Ant Mimic Spider eats small insects like aphids.

Tan Jumping Spider
Jumping spiders can leap up to forty times their own body length. They are also distinctive for their jerky movement when moving across the ground. The Tan species has grey and black mottling on its legs and body, with a scallop-like design on the abdomen. It hunts bugs and other small insects by patrolling vertical surfaces such as walls and fences, before pouncing on their victims.

Woodlouse Hunter
Native to Europe, this spider is now found in most temperate countries across the globe. It has an orangey-red coloration, with the body darker than the legs. It uses its long legs to grab prey and turn it over, revealing the soft underside into which the spider can sink its fangs. It does not make a web; rather it runs down its woodlouse prey.

Six-Spotted Fishing Spider
If you have a pond on your permaculture plot, you might see this species sprawled out motionless on the water, with its distinctive white beneficial spider speciesstripes down each side of its body, waiting for aquatic insects to inadvertently come within reach. They also eat tadpoles and, on occasion, small fish. If disturbed, the spider will run across the water to reach shelter in the bank. The spider is also known to dive almost 20 centimeters under the surface to catch prey.

If you are looking to increase the number of spiders on your site, there are a number of things you can do that will create an environment the animals want to colonize. Mulching, particularly with straw, leaf litter and prunings provides the spiders with protection from predators (such as birds) and from strong weather conditions, as well as humidity. A good range of shrubs and plants that will provide sites for web building and nest making are attractive to spiders, while you could also utilize plant species that attract insects the spiders will prey on.

49 comments

need to have the ‘spider’ conversation with my students.

Not a spider fan, but good info!

there are only a few,

I have lots of little garden spiders in my yard.

I think you meant ‘cannot be overestimated’…

Feh. I still hate them.

<3 spiders!

used to always like to see them in MY garden!

They die if i see them in my home.out side there fine

cool post…..now if we can keep people from poisoning the environment, we could have a few more beneficials…

Cheers to spiders – the unsung heroines of the garden!

I love spiders & would never hurt one.

I know but … eeeeewwwwww I have a fear of spiders, especially wolf spiders, brown wood spider, brown recleus, black widow, and a few more that we have around here that are huge in size 🙁 I do everything possible to not have them around!

I love my spiders!

They still gross me out, even though I know how good they are!

I love Spiders also!

don’t want flies? thank a spider.

kylie

I am Australian.
American spiders don’t even look scary.
I would love an article on spiders in Australia.

I’ve got desert tarantulas where I live – fun to watch.

Venomous or not ALL spiders have a “use”

I love them too. They’re so misunderstood. Think of the flies and mosquitoes they eat! Bad luck to kill one too.

I’m still scared to death of them.

Gail

Photos of each near their names would have been quite helpful.

gets rid of nosey neighbors

I wish your article would’ve included a picture for each spider.

Terri Stone…

like spiders

No thanks! Just looking at the one above, gives me the creeps!

Nope, I can’t stand any of them. Creepy!

all bugs should die

useful in the garden 😉 but I do run them outta the house

As long as they stay in the garden, it’s all good.

One of my biggest problems is that I am not able to look at the pictures. Makes it difficult to learn to identify them. But of course, I can’t look at the lives ones either so I guess looking at the pictures doesn’t help a lot.

Isn’t this one of the few things a husband is supposed to be for? Lol.

Spiders in the house are wonderful…and, beautiful too! If you remember they are as conscious and sensible as any other creature, you can learn how to live with them in OR out of the house. It is a lot safer to live with spiders than with pesticides. They EAT insects and don’t cause cancer. You may never want to cuddle them but mutual respect with these little “aliens” is a wonderful experience.

All spiders are venomous – most don’t have fangs large enough to bite humans. Venom is how they kill their food = insects mostly.

Nooooooooooooooooooo

I would have liked to see pictures along with the definition of each spider.

Jumping and spider are not my two favorite words to see combined. But, as I tell my kids, spiders do an important job. They don’t need to learn mommy’s phobias.

Interesting..

I am one of those folks that is super tastey to mosquitoes. I mean nobody gets bit I am swarmed. So I started noticing daddy long legs catching swarms of them. So I made a rule in my house no spiders are to be killed. And daddy long legs are left alone. After 15 years we are on a seasonal routine. Every winter take out the eggs and clean the webs up. No more waking up to mosquitoes. On a delta farm that’s saying something. Lol.

my friends!!

pboulais316

Spider article is very informative, but pictures of the various species would be helpful as the descriptions just don’t paint a clear enough picture. I wouldn’t be able to identify any of them in my garden just by the description. Good info though.

Celestingahungu6

i have no spider at my garden. how can i introduce them in the garden. emergence answer please!

Iceberg Slim

I thought all of them were beneficial.

I too used to call them beneficial. Some thing has changed in their dna. They now eat my veggies, burroughing inside squash to lay eggs & the babies then eat the squash.

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