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By Whitney Cranshaw, specialist in entomology, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Have you ever gone out in the early morning and seen fine, glistening threads throughout the lawn?

These are trails of silk produced by very young spiders.  Many common spiders produce eggs that hatch in fall, and the young,wolf spiderlings caught on sticky trap (41394 bytes) known as spiderlings, typically disperse by "ballooning."  Ballooning involves production of a thread of silk that produces enough drag to catch the wind and to carry the young spiders, sometimes for very long distances.

For example, spiderlings have been known to drift onto boats more than 200 miles offshore, and others have been picked up by airplanes in samples taken 10,000 feet above ground.

The silk produced by young spiders is sometimes referred to as "gossamer."   When a very large hatch of spider eggs occurs, the gossamer may mat over large areas, appearing as a thin sheet.  Spiders that hunt, including wolf spiders and jumping spiders, usually produce eggs that hatch in fall.  Other spiders produce egg masses that hatch in spring.

Photos: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010