I've been seeing a lot of spiders in the last few weeks and many of them are new to me. Spiders are wonderful predators in the garden, especially of insects, so I'm always happy to see them. Of course, spiders also become prey for other animals, such as certain wasp species, as I talked about in a recent blog post. The balance of a healthy garden community is a wonderful web of interrelationships!
For the most part, I have no idea how to identify spiders beyond the basics: jumping spider, orb weaver, crab spider, and so forth. So I'll share what I know - or think I know - about each spider and see if anyone can add any information for me!
Before I start, though, does anyone have a reference on spiders that they would recommend? Bugguide.net has some information on spiders, as does Insects in Kansas, but I'm looking for a reference that would really concentrate on telling the different spider families apart, plus maybe identify some of the more common and widespread species. I'd also like it to be primarily North American based, so that I don't get led astray with species that I wouldn't find around here.
Anyway, here are some of my "catches", in no particular order.
I think this Argiope spider (identified by the thicker zig-zag pattern in the web, known as a stabilimentum) is perhaps a young black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia), those huge spiders often seen in late summer and autumn in vegetable and flower gardens, while it's still too young to have developed its adult coloring. According to the Bugguide.net site, this more centralized stabilimentum pattern is typical of the juveniles of this species. (The little white packet hanging below the spider is an insect, wrapped up for eating.)
One last jumping that I've seen recently was this little guy hanging out on my Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus ). Here he/she is, peering at me to see if I was dangerous or not!
I hope you're seeing some spiders in your gardens too. They are a great sign that your gardens are healthy. Those spiders will work 24/7 to make sure that your gardens stay that way!