Spider Ecology

How do plant communities influence spiders in current and former vacant lots in Cleveland, Ohio and specifically:

  1. What lots support healthy and diverse spider communities?
  2. Is there a direct relationship between plant diversity and spider diversity?

Unlike most cities around the world, the population in Cleveland has declined from almost one million people in the 1950s to less than 380,000 residents today resulting in 20,000 vacant lots throughout the city. Most of these lots are planted with just turf grass, while other lots are transformed into community gardens and flowering prairies. This system represents a good opportunity to investigate how important these lots are for the conservation of plants and beneficial insects.

How is this researchb conducted?

Spiders are collected by placing plastic cups filled with non-toxic soapy water in the lots. After one week, these are collected everything that has fallen into them. These are then taken to the laboratory where a microscope is used to identify the spiders.

The goal is to see if the communities of spiders are the same or different among lots with grass-only, few flowers, and lots of flowers.

This project utilizes these Treatments (1, 2, 6, 8): Urban standard (control), Ohio meadow, Low diversity pocket prairie, and High diversity pocket prairie.

Spiders are being collected for this research the first week of June, July, and August of 2016-2018. Information of all plants that are established in these lots will also be collected, so we can better understand what types of plants are attracting different types of spiders.

What impact can this research have? 

The city of Cleveland spends about $3 million dollars every year managing vacant lots. We want to better understand how bugs are responding to the transformation of these lots so that we can work together with the city to plant more diverse plant communities. Currently, most vacant lots are only planted with turf grass; we want to know what other flowers can be planted in these lots to make the neighborhoods more beautiful, and also to provide good habitat to the beneficial insect and spider communities.

This project is lead by Yvan A. Delgado de la Flor.  Yvan studies Entomology at the Ohio State University, with a special interest in the ecology of spiders. He is originally from Lima, Peru, most recently having lived in northern California.

Yvan, on the significance of this research:

“All living creatures, including insects and spiders, play a very important role in our lives. Spiders are very abundant and can be found very easily in our homes and yards. So, if there are so many spiders out there, they have to be eating lots of insects every day just to survive, right? Spiders are not only predators but they also get eaten by some birds. Therefore, spiders play a very important role in nature by eating lots of insect pest populations, including those annoying mosquitos and roaches. Don’t you think now that spiders are important and cool?”

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1253197.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.