I saw what looked like a clump of mud sticking to the wall outside my kitchen window. It looked, at first, like the remnant of a Cliff Swallow nest . . . the muddy scars I saw frequently in the Bay Area — the artifacts of their once viable mud mortar homes. But some part of my brain registered movement in the mud.
Closer, I noticed the wisps of spider silk draped down the wall. And when my nose was just an inch from the mass, I could see, finally, that it was a bauble of black and yellow spiderlings, crawling over each other in this sling of a wall nest. I believe, but am not 100 percent sure, that these are the babies of a Black and Yellow Garden Spider or, at least, a garden spider. If you know otherwise, drop me a comment. I’m waiting on a friend to confirm the ID.
6/12/11 – Edited to add: I still don’t have a definitive ID, but they could possibly be “Araneus diadematus” which don’t grow up to be black and yellow but which start out as spiderlings, with the same coloration pictured here.
If my ID is correct, then these babies are orphans, set to challenge the world on their own. Although Black and Yellow spider mamas do their best to hang on and protect the kids, they die in the early winter, after laying the eggs and wrapping them in this fortified silk egg sac. The eggs were laid in the fall, but the babies are just now emerging to head off into garden-spider independence. My hope is that the birds stay busy with ripe berries and never notice these black and yellow citizens crawling off to their own destinies.