Autumn brings with it many wonderful things. Beautiful fall colors, abundant harvests and depending on whom you ask some of the best weather occurs this time of year. This autumn brought with it something we never expected, but have quietly been working towards for some time now. For the last week or, so we have noticed that just about everything around us is covered in a thin white silky veil. From the grass to the fields and crops, and even stretching further onto newly planted vegetation, everything is covered in cobwebs! Nothing is safe from these little guys. Even a sweater left outside will be completely covered within a few hours. These spiders move quickly, often traveling with the wind, and it's starting to feel like we are constantly brushing them off of each other. This may sound like a nuisance or even a nightmare to some, but the truth is these little guys are so valuable, and we are happy to have them here.
Over the last few seasons, we have been implementing and planting a wide variety of native plants, perennial bushes, and shrubs. All of these things in conjunction with the surrounding trees and Michigan prairie are great amenities for attracting spiders. Using natural mulches like the wood chips we use for our paths, and straw used for mulching beds are some of the best shelter and protection from the element as far as a spider is concerned. Tall grasses and cover crops not only amend our soil, but they also act as a swift highway for particular species like jumping spiders to navigate through. As the spiders begin to settle in and make a home here, they gotta eat! And that is when they truly begin their work for us. Most spiders are indiscriminate diners. Therefore, they eat mostly whatever they can catch. However, there are many pests we deal with on the daily that a spider would happily eat. These include aphids, armyworms, spider mites, leaf miners, flea beetles, leafhoppers, caterpillar, and cucumber beetles. There's more good news! Even if a spider doesn't actually eat the pest, some bugs will vacate an area if a spider has recently moved in. As if things couldn't get any better, our new friends will overwinter outdoors and will be hungry and ready to eat as soon as the weather is warm enough to attract their favorite foods.
These spiders are truly a gift. They may not be very large, but there is power in numbers and by the looks of it there's a lot of these little guys. As we continue to work in a way that respectful and patient with the land we continue to watch our farm evolve. With that evolution, comes ever-changing and robust biodiversity, challenges, and learning opportunities.