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A Few Spiders Have Taken Up Residence on My Balcony Peppers

Should I be a) thrilled, b) alarmed, c) indifferent?

I keep finding leaves bound with spider silk. I've been ripping off the silk, because it's unsightly, and I fear it may harm the plant. I don't really have a bug problem 'cause there aren't many bugs here on the 5th floor. Except for the spiders, apparently. Your thoughts?

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  1. Are they tiny spiders? They might be spider mites. They're an annoyance. Spray your plants with insecticidal soap or a drop of dish soap diluted in a pint of water. Make sure to get the undersides of the leaves.

    3 Replies
    1. re: morwen

      I don't think these are spider mites. They're the wrong shape, and too big. But I'll spray with soap anyway, 'cause I do see some scorching on the leaves. So there's definitely something going on. Thanks for your reply.

      1. re: small h

        I doubt a spider would hurt a plant. From what I understand spiders are carnivores and eat the pests that eat your plants. Spiders are your friend, just make sure its spiders on your plant and not something else.

        1. re: Bottomless_Pit

          It was spiders and probably something else as well. I used insecticidal soap on the peppers and haven't seen any further sign of infestation. The spiders may not have caused the leaf damage I observed, but unfortunately I couldn't figure out a way to let them stay and also save the plants.

    2. I let spiders own my garden. Between them and the ladybugs, it's hostile ground for leafmunchers! Any spiders I find in the house are transported outside onto one of my plants.

      1. Spiders are important insect controllers in the garden--they are not vegetarians--they are busy eating other insects. "If you wish to live and thrive/let that spider run alive"

        Now, if the pepper leaves are curled together ("bound" as you say) the culprit is likely a small caterpillar. Look for tiny round black droppings near the web. These are usually the larval stage of a butterfly or moth, and before they turn into a flying stage, they feed on the foliage before forming a chrysalis.

        You can just pinch off the leaves affected, and toss them in the trash, but the moths or butterflies are important garden pollinators, and a few lost leaves will not hurt your pepper crop. I'd say, leave them be.

        6 Replies
        1. re: toodie jane

          Moths and butterflies are important pollinators. However the caterpillar stage of both, mostly moth, can be devastating to garden vegetation. Cabbage loopers which go on to become cabbage moths is an example. While those moths look pretty flitting about the garden, they're also laying more eggs and continuing the cycle. If you have an infestation they can seriously weaken a plant to the point where it either does not produce or dies. We remove anything we find in the caterpillar stage from our garden. Loopers get squashed, butterfly caterpillars get moved to the hedgerows.

          Spiders I have no problem with. Tiny spider mites I find to be a huge annoyance. This summer has been the year of the spider mite around here. They come into the house on the produce, escape, and weave gossamer webs everywhere inside. Last year's damp summer was the year of the pill bugs.

          1. re: morwen

            Every year brings it's challenges, doesn't it? My problem this year has been gophers/voles tunneling in my raised beds.

            Spider mites love dry climates/foliage; humidity, not so much, so if you can, hose or mist your affected plants daily, and spider mites will head for drier climes.

            I too squish cabbage loopers, and check broccoli leaves daily. But a few will not necessarily burgeon to huge populations if you can keep a good plant diveristy (nectar producing plants) to feed predator insects. In one particulary grisley-sounding scenario, a tiny predator wasp lays its eggs inside the looper's eggs or on the back of the looper larvae and the (creep-alert!!) emerging larvae eat the looper after hatching. Sounds like a low-grade horror flick that would be particulary attractive to 8 year old boys.

            I try to let my lettuces and dill, parsley, carrots, cilantro, etc., go to flower to feed these tiny wasps. I get lots of nice salad volunteers that way too.

            I also try to encourage lizards in my garden--they eat earwigs, and any moths they can reach. I make miniature rock piles for them to hide in. Just a few stacked stones or pieces of broken concrete will do as a lizard lounge.

            1. re: toodie jane

              Well that explains it. Last year's summer was mostly damp, thus the pillbugs and earwigs. This summer was mostly dry, thus the spider mites. We water by soaker hose and watering wands on the containers to help prevent molds and mildews and lessen evaporation so the mites never had their environment disturbed much.

              We do have those predator wasps plus lady bugs and assassin bugs which we encourage. I actually saw a large wasp fly by with a looper the other day and cheered it on. We plant loads of nasturtiums and scarlet runners since they provide us with "capers" and beans while attracting hummingbirds and pollinators, and marigolds which release a compound in the soil that discourages bad larvae and grubs. We don't grow anything that's strictly ornamental so far, except a huge pot of shamrocks.

              We don't have lizards that I've seen but we do have a pond that supplies us with plenty of toads and frogs, and we have plenty of rock from the beds that is in piles around the place for future use as rubble walls. It's not unusual to find toads when I move the rock.

              1. re: morwen

                It's far too rainless here for toads to live comfortably but we do get lots of tiny tree frogs during the winter rainy season. They hibernate during summer, so not much help in insect control. LIzards do love California's summer drought.

                1. re: toodie jane

                  Tree Frogs! First sign of spring here. When I hear them start singing I know winter's truly over!

          2. re: toodie jane

            I see no caterpillars nor round black droppings. Also note that this isn't a garden, per se. It's two pepper plants on a balcony. Much as I like and admire spiders, I prefer that they and their moth pals make their home elsewhere and leave my leaves alone. Bees can hang out all they want.

            Anyway, I'm spider-free now.