Ballooning Spiders Fly North Texas Skies
Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 | Updated 6:33 PM CD
North Texans called and emailed NBC 5 puzzled over what they saw in the skies Wednesday, but it turns out it was just Mother Nature at work.
"I noticed this 8 to 10 foot cobweb strand stringing and dancing across the sky," said Dallas resident Ginger Reid. "I thought ‘Is that real? I don't know if that's real.’”
Long silky strands falling across North Texas actually signal the migration of a cluster of spiders.
"Most likely what it is is a thing called ballooning, which baby spiders do," said the Dallas Zoo’s Tim Brys.
"So after they hatch, they spread a little silk line from their abdomen, the wind catches that and spreads them into the air like a balloon."
The silk acts similar to a parachute, allowing them to move their home from one spot to another.
An Extension Program Specialist with Texas A&M said typically, it's done by young spiders, but some adult spiders also use the process to move from location to location.
"Once it's rolled up and it starts to get caught in the branches, it's a pretty big mass," said Brys.
How far they travel depends on the air current.
Reid and more than a dozen other NBC 5 viewers sent photos and videos of the "ballooning" to firstname.lastname@example.org from all over North Texas.
For those with arachnophobia, take heart. Most of these spiders are harmless and eat only other insects.
"It's not anything to be worried about," said Brys. "It may seem scary to people who are afraid of spiders, but really they're harmless."
Experts recommend just leaving the eight-legged creatures alone.
Reid says she sees it as an opportunity. "I might try and capture some of them and put them on my house or the outside, for Halloween decoration," said Reid.
NBC 5's Greg Janda, Kendra Lyn and Amanda Guerra contributed to this report.
NOTE: Two days ago, on the same day the above story was broadcast and appeared on the North Texas NBC affiliate’s website, Caroline summoned me from the house onto our driveway in Southeastern Pennsylvania to witness the same “spider ballooning” phenomenon and, I must say, it was astonishing and remarkably beautiful. Readers can learn more about it Here (link).
Like most people, I imagine, I have mixed emotions about spiders. One the one hand, I’ve watched them, mesmerized, for hours weaving silky webs, silhouetted on moonlit summer porches. On the other, I once suffered a spider bite (before I knew such a thing existed) that put me out of commission for a couple of scary days.
When she was very young and had difficulty pronouncing her “s,” Jane used to say “pi-der” (when singing the famous song about the very small one) and I found that charming.
As Tim Brys says, we should leave them alone, especially when they’re entertaining us in such a beautiful, (super) natural fashion. (Are you listening, Ginger Reid?) I mean, who needs Cirque du Soleil when we have ballooning spiders?