Although I am not sure, I believe these are grass spider (Agelenopsis species) spiderlings. They are just hatching out of the egg sack and are actually very tiny - maybe a little bigger than a blackfly. I found them on the stem to an old plant near the guard rails along the side of the road last week.
Here is a better look at what the 'nest' of spiderlings looked like. I have walked past these in the spring before and thought they were just old webs tangled around leaves or other plant debris.
According to Bug Guide, an online resource about spiders and insects, there are 13 species of Agelenopsis in North America. They can be found throughout the US and Canada. These little spiders are responsible for the webs covered with dew you see on the lawn on summer mornings. They can also be found on bushes and plants along the side of the road. The web is flat or sheetlike with a funnel to the side. Apparently the spiders are shy and hide quickly, but they can bite and cause some pain and itching if you try to handle them.
Although many of us are at least a little leery of spiders, they really are good for the garden as they eat other insect pests. According to National Geographic one spider eats about 2,000 insects a year, which mean they can be an effective way to control insects in your garden.
I wouldn't recommend touching them, but if you see one of these clusters this spring, take a minute to stop and watch as the little spiderlings climb around on the silk. While you are at, why not give thanks to these babies who will likely eat insect pests all summer.
Until Next Time . . . HAPPY GARDENING!
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