Ian Watson, a resident of Golburn, Australia took to his town’s community Facebook page to ask “Anyone else experiencing … millions of spiders falling from the sky right now?” There were millions of tiny black spiders falling on his property, blanketing everything he owned in the tiny arachnids. Mr. Watson said he couldn’t step outside without getting covered in spiders, his beard would constantly become entangled in the spider’s webs, making life in Golburn hell. When the spiders first showed up it appeared that they were raining from the sky, and scientists have confirmed that just might have been the case.
Goulburn resident Ian Watson said his house looked like it had been “abandoned and taken over by spiders”.
“The whole place was covered in these little black spiderlings and when I looked up at the sun it was like this tunnel of webs going up for a couple of hundred metres into the sky.”
It was beautiful, he said. “But at the same time I was annoyed because … you couldn’t go out without getting spider webs on you. And I’ve got a beard as well, so they kept getting in my beard.”
“I’m 10 minutes out of town and you can clearly see hundreds of little spiders floating along with their webs and my home is covered in them. Someone call a scientist!”
Naturalist Martyn Robinson from the Australian Museum said two migration techniques associated with spiders would explain why locals might have thought it was raining spiders.
The first, a dispersal technique called “ballooning”, is more commonly used by baby spiders, although some adults use it as well. The spider climbs to the top of vegetation and releases a streamer of silk that catches on the breeze and carries the spider aloft.
Spiders have been caught flying like this up to three kilometres above the ground, Robinson said.
“They can literally travel for kilometres … which is why every continent has spiders. Even in Antarctica they regularly turn up but just die,” he said.
“That’s also why the first land animals to arrive on new islands formed by volcanic activity are usually spiders.”
In some years, the mass migration of baby spiders means “you can have entire fields and paddocks and trees festooned with this gossamer or Angel Hair, as some people call it,” he said.
The second phenomenon linked to angel hair, which can occur at the same time as ballooning, usually happens after heavy rains or floods.
“When the ground gets waterlogged, the spiders that live either on the surface of the ground or in burrows in the ground, come up into the foliage to avoid drowning,” Robinson said.
Much like baby spiders searching for a new home, these ground spiders throw silk “snag lines” up into the air and when they catch, use these to haul themselves up and out of the water.
The Angel Hair effect can be particularly dramatic after floods, when masses of spiders are using the same silk “roads” to escape, he said.
“Everywhere a spider goes it leaves a trail of silk … so if they use somebody else’s silk line, they put their silk line over that,” Robinson said.
“You end up with thick silk roads … criss-crossing finer silk lines to produce this interwoven shroud.”
Spiders. Spiders EVERYWHERE.
The reports from Australia were that all the spiders raining down from the heavens were not harmful, merely annoying as hell. But I think this serves as just one more reason that nobody should ever visit the deadly island of Australia without caution. Who wants to find themselves on vacation only to look into the wind and see millions of tiny spiders flying towards your face?!