Fields of Web: The Rare Occasion When Spiders Take Over

Spider webs and the 8 legged creatures which wove them might be some of the scariest things out there. For some people, at least. However, there are levels to spider webs and the rare phenomenon called “ballooning” will make you think twice before approaching one of these castles of silk.

Trees cocooned by spider webs in Pakistan. Image source: DFID – UK Department for International Development

Spiders usually create webs to trap their prey and to protect their eggs. Furthermore, they can also use webs as a way of transport, by climbing to an elevated point and then release one or more strands of silk which then get caught by the breeze and flies them away.

But what happens when spiders are forced to leave the safety of the ground? Well, their best shot is to seek shelter in elevation. This is called ballooning, and it usually happens as a consequence of floodings. It is extremely rare and quite fascinating.

The picture you see above was taken in Pakistan during a monsoon that caused extreme floodings, driving spiders into trees, covering them in spider webs as a result.

Spiders seek shelter in elevation when they are forced to leave the ground. Image credit: Cristóbal Alvarado Minic

This survival tactic was witnessed by people in Australia when heavy rains and strong winds lashed parts of Victoria, causing flooding and widespread damage. As waters rose, spiders tried to escape the floods by latching onto higher ground, covering roads, trees, and fields with a veil-like spider web. In one area, a spider web covered more than a kilometer of a road.

This video was taken by a resident shortly after the rain has stopped.

Spiders are even capable of making a big blanket of web on larger fields and meadows. The spiders instinctually climb blades of grass and are then letting out hundreds of meters of silk.

Although this can endanger the natural habitat of fields, the spiders actually assist local residents, because breeding conditions for mosquitoes are pretty favorable in the humidity and increased water levels, but the elevated webs are quite effective at trapping the pesky bloodsuckers.

Fields of web. Image credit: Rene Mensen

A field or a balloon of spider web just proves that nature can always surprise us… or scare us, for that matter. How would you react if you’d come across one of these silk monsters?

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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