Last week when we walked to town, I noticed a couple of strange clumps on a flower sticking into the road from someone’s front garden. When we looked closer we found out that this clump was made up of many many tiny spiders sitting together on their webs. There were a couple of clumps on that stem and a few days later I discovered two more on an ivy plant a few metres away.
“In late summer or early autumn many spiders mature mate and produce eggs. The common Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) lays from three to eight hundred yellow eggs that she cements together and covers in a dense layer of coarse protective yellow silk and detritus. When spring comes the following year, bundles of tiny yellow spiderlings with a black spot on their rear end can be found. If disturbed, the bundle of babies will 'explode', with individual spiderlings dispersing away from each other on tiny silken safety lines. Once the danger has passed they climb back up the web and form a clump again. Before emerging from their egg sac, the spiderlings moulted once. Once emerged, they remain together until they have moulted yet again and grown big enough to be independent.” (text taken from http://wiki.britishspiders.org.uk/index.php5?title=Young_Garden_Spiders )
These spiders are now running around our gardens (and probably around yours as well, if you see a spider with a cross pattern on its bum then you found one). Last year we had a massive one next to our water barrels and quite often I would throw an ant into its web and watch it do its thing. It was fascinating. I cannot believe that having studied biology and being really trained to look around for small creatures it has taken me until now to discover a clump of spider babies. But I guess better late than never, I am a little bit smarter now ;-)