An explosion of tiny spiders

Next of baby Garden Spiders between the boards of the deck.

Earlier this month, I noticed a swarm of tiny yellow spiders scattering across the deck after I dragged the patio table into the shade. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that they’d come from a tight ball of spiders — numbering in the hundreds — all massed together in a nest suspended between two boards in the deck.

Intrigued, I turned to Google and discovered that these pin-sized wonders are baby Garden Spiders. To quote the British Arachnological Society:

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.

So what do these tiny spiderlings, collectively small enough to fit on the tip of my finger, grow into as adults?

Adult female Garden Spider.
Adult Garden Spider.

Adult Garden Spiders range in size from 5.5 mm to 20 mm (females are larger than males) and vary in colour from yellow to dark gray. The mottled white markings on their abdomens form a distinctive and rather artistic “cross” pattern.

Garden Spiders spin large “orb” webs — comprised of concentric circles connected by spokes — that we often see in our gardens, fields and forests. These spiders spin a new web each night, ready for the next day’s catch.

Next year, I hope to see these spiderlings after their second moult, as they leave the nest to spin webs of their own!

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