What To Know About Garden Spiders

Updated: Jul. 20, 2024

You might not see them, but they're all around you — and that's a good thing. Meet your garden spiders, and learn how to entice more into your yard.

When I first got a macrophotography lens, I headed out to my garden to shoot closeups of the flowers. It wasn’t until later, when I enlarged the pictures on the computer, that I noticed all the tiny insects and spider webs I’d missed with my naked eyes. On nearly every plant, a whole world unfolded.

In that world, spiders are the apex predators — the sharks and lions of the garden. They keep pesky insect populations in check. Far from being creepy, they’re bright with colors and almost always harmless to humans. Here’s what you should know.

Types of Garden Spiders

Green lynx spider (Oxyopidae)

Lynx Spider on a green leafCourtesy Keri Wilson/Garden Media Group

Bright green lynx spiders don’t build webs. Instead, they hang out on leaves, waiting for unsuspecting prey. As fall approaches and the leaves dry out, these spiders maintain their camouflage by turning pale yellow.

“The lynx spider has an affinity for shrubs and a voracious appetite for true bugs like stink bugs and other pests,” says Shubber Ali, a native plant expert and CEO of Garden for Wildlife. “They’re also known for being agile and fast, and will stalk and pounce on their prey, much like a cat, hence the name.”

To attract lynx spiders to your yard, plant native shrubs like Great St. John’s wort.

Jumping spider (Salticidae)

Jumping SpiderCourtesy Keri Wilson/Garden Media Group

“With their big and cute eyes, these spiders are by far the puppies of the spider world,” says Francisco Garcia Bulle Bueno, entomology manager at Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado, the world’s first invertebrate zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). “They are also extremely agile and jumpy, hence their common name.”

More than 6,000 species of jumping spiders exist, with colors from metallic blues and greens to dull oranges and reds. They can be found anywhere in the garden, but love nesting in small, dark spaces.

To attract jumping spiders to your garden, plant orange butterfly milkweed, which provides a buffet of tiny bugs like aphids they find irrisistible.

Wolf spider (Lycosidae)

Wolf SpiderCourtesy Keri Wilson/Garden Media Group

Wolf spiders are found in most gardens, recognized by their hairy brown-to-gray bodies. They don’t spin webs, so you’re most likely see them walking or darting across the ground. They’re known for their agility, speed and excellent eyesight, which helps them hunt garden insect pests.

“Wolf spiders are unique in the way that they carry their eggs,” says Bulle Bueno. “The egg sac, a round, silken globe, is carried on their backs, providing a beautiful way of maternal care.”

To attract wolf spiders to your yard, plant low-growing shrubs that are close to the ground.

Orb weaver spider (Araneidae)

Orbweaver SpiderCourtesy Keri Wilson/Garden Media Group

These graceful spiders build classic, geometric webs between tree branches or structures. “If you see a large web glowing in the moonlight it is commonly the web of an orb weaver,” says Ali.

Each web features a framework of nonstick silk, topped off with a final spiral covered in sticky droplets. The spider then positions herself in the center or an inconspicuous hideout nearby, where she monitors vibrations to detect trapped prey.

“Orb weavers play a crucial ecological role in controlling insect populations, and their webs are marvels of natural engineering,” says Ali.

Crab spider (Thomisidae)

Crab SpiderCourtesy Keri Wilson/Garden Media Group

You’re most likely to find crab spiders, aka flower spiders, hanging out on blooms waiting to ambush their prey. But they’re often hard to see, because they change color to blend into whatever flower they’ve set up shop on. They have two long front legs like crabs and move sideways, hence the name, and they don’t build webs.

“They love yellow, white or purple blooms and flowers like smooth blue aster,” says Ali.

Grass spider (Agelenidae)

Garden SpiderAnton Petrus/Getty Images

Grass spiders are one of the most common, yet least intriguing-looking garden spiders. They resemble wolf spiders, but without the fuzz. They weave distinctive sheet webs, with a funnel on one edge for shelter.

“They are also known to be quite fast runners and have very good vision,” says Bulle Bueno.

Sometimes the males will seek shelter in a house, but they are harmless to humans and help control pests such as cockroaches and flies.

Garden Spider Benefits

Like all apex predators at the top of the food chain, spiders are crucial to creating a resilient, healthy garden and balancing the ecosystem. Some of their roles include:

  • Controlling pests like flies, cockroaches, aphids, grubs and mosquitos;
  • Providing food for birds and other wildlife;
  • Preventing outbreaks of insect blights;
  • Increasing biodiversity.

Garden Spider Precautions and Dangers

Most garden spiders are harmless to humans and pets, and won’t bite unless threatened. If they do bite, you’ll likely just have an irritating, itchy bump for a day or two. But there are two spiders to always avoid: black widows and brown recluses.

“Both spiders are very shy and will run away immediately if disturbed accidentally,” says Bulle Bueno. “However, they can still cause serious harm if they decide to bite, so it’s best to stay away from them.”

How to Encourage Beneficial Garden Spiders

The most effective steps to welcome spiders into your garden are also the best ways to support pollinators, birds and other wildlife. Those include:

  • Letting your garden grow freely and a little messy;
  • Including a diversity of native plants;
  • Keeping your garden chemical-free.

“Even pest control that is labeled organic can be harmful to insects,” says Ali.

“Also critical is a spider’s need for places to feel hidden and safe. Having diverse plants in the garden and a natural mulch covering the soil can give them a variety of places to hide to stalk their prey. A small terracotta flowerpot can also be buried halfway into the soil on its side to form a spider shelter.”

For more spidey resources, visit www.butterflies.org and the National Wildlife Federation.