Yesterday I saw something that freaked me out a bit. On returning from a dog walk I saw what looked like a couple of bits of moss suspended by my back door. They looked a bit like a trendy christmas decorations that you would hang on a pine tree if you wanted to create that scandinavian natural look. However something told me this was the work of some kind of insect and although it didn’t look like egg sacs, spiders sprang to mind. Now we’ve all spent time gingerly trying to remove spider egg sacs from the corner of window frames – they look like cotton wool cocoons and are ridiculously sticky. These weren’t like this at all. I’d never noticed such a thing hanging anywhere before. Being the last of the brave hunters I armed myself with the longest stick I could find and nudged one of them. Instantly my worst fears were confirmed as hundreds, and I mean hundreds of baby spiders exploded like a firework in all directions. As they dispersed I could see they were yellow with a black spot on their rear end. Subsequent investigation told me they were harmless garden spiderlings, but revulsion got the better of me and I grabbed the newly boiled kettle and put paid to them there and then.
Now I know garden spiders do a great job getting rid of all manner of flies and garden pests, and had they been at the bottom of the garden I would have left well alone. Unfortunately for them, hanging by my back door was the wrong place at the wrong time and I had visions of sucking each and every one of them up the hoover come September
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.
This I have to admit is a cool tactic and I have always admired the symmetrical beauty of a spider web and the relative strength of spider silk. But there my affinity with these arachnids ends. I’m terrified of them, think they are grotesque to look at and have no doubt that the world has enough garden spiders not to miss the ones I sent to that spider web in the sky.