Goodness Gracious, Great Ball O’ Spiderbabies

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 20:47 | Filed in Life, Science

I know a little about spiders. I know that they’ve got eight legs, I know that you can’t get spiders which would grow to ginormous sizes because they don’t actually have extensor muscles in their legs and they use hydraulic pressure to move ‘em, but I’m not what you’d call an expert. Also, I’d say that I’m generally not a fan of them.

I can cope with them in the house; I can cope with them scuttling across the floor. I do however not like the idea of them getting on me, and have a tendency to react violently to any spider which would try such a thing.

ball of baby spiders (flickr)

What I didn’t know is that they grow in clumps. Well, that’s certainly what it looks like. Apologies for the poor quality of the photograph: next time I get a camera, I’m going to get one which specifically does close-up stuff. The entertainingly named Wizzywam has a better photo of much the same thing.

I’d seen something just outside the conservatory window — some sort of yellowy-brown thing which at first glance appeared to be stuck to the window. When I looked more closely, I saw it was something stuck to a spider’s web outside the window. When I looked even more closely, I saw that it was around one hundred baby spiders clustered together into a ball.

And I thought “I’ll have to get a photo of that for the blog”. After all Shannon shows us her hatched wildlife babies, so why shouldn’t I?

Had they just hatched right at that moment? It’s possible, because when I started watching for a while, they spread out a bit, then returned to their clumping behaviour but did not seem to clump together quite as tightly as before. On the other hand, baby Araneus diadematus (European Garden Spider) spiders do tend to clump together anyway so it’s also possible that they were just disturbed…

Young spiders emerge from the egg sac in may but usually stay together until they are mature enough to leave.Nick’s Spiders

Zerozilla said something similar at the Board Game Geek Forums…

Apparently (I just learned) they’ll stay together in a ball like this for the first day or so after hatching, or until disturbed.BoardGameGeek Forum

scattered spiderlings (flickr)

…although the Encylopedia Brittanica suggests they may cluster for several days. This next image is not great either, but it’s certainly better. This shows the spiders somewhat scattered: the wind was blowing somewhat, which might have been part of the reason, or it could just have been that they were getting sick of me repeating “say cheese” a lot as I took loads of photographs of them in an attempt to get at least one of them vaguely in focus.

I obviously didn’t disturb them too much, as within about an hour or so after taking photos of them — and even with my three year old son on the other side of the window, pointing at them and tapping the window — they had reclustered.

spiderbabies with three year old's hand in, for scale (flickr)

Just to give you some idea of the size or scale of the thing, the final photo, with my three-year old’s hand in the background, shows how tiny these spiderlings (although I do like the term ‘spiderbabies’) are. Basically, the entire spider ball — with around 100 spiders in it — would have been smaller than his thumbnail.

It actually looks as though they are all dangling from his thumb, but he was on the other side of the conservatory window: these spiders are actually on a strand of web gently swinging in the breeze. I’m pleased to have had the chance to see one of these spiderballs: not only had I never actually seen one before, but it wasn’t even something that I realised spiders actually did.

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3 Comments to Goodness Gracious, Great Ball O’ Spiderbabies

  1. Gary Miller says:

    June 3rd, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    *shudder* Shades of Arachnophobia surfacing again…Thanks for this Jack. I think…

  2. Kerri Simpson says:

    June 4th, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Can’t stop itching now, thanks! Have a fear of spiders issue myself and there seem to be a lot of big ones (spiders) hiding in my house at the moment.

  3. Shannon says:

    June 4th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    K, now I’m going to be terrified that a hundred spiders are hatching in my house and I don’t even know it. Ewww.

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