Spider Rain – Mystery or Science

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For the unsuspecting residents of the Australian Southern Tablelands, the sudden downpour not of rains but of spiders must have triggered fears of apocalyptic proportions in their minds. Is this an invasion of spiders or an invasion of alien beings disguised as spiders? For those who had never experienced or even heard of such an occurrence, it is scary to say the least.

According to scientists who have commented on this occurrence, this is obviously a common phenomenon amongst spiders. This information was made available by Rick Vetter a now retired arachnologist. This phenomenon according to him is a form of transportation unique to spiders. This form transportation is called “ballooning.” According to Vetter, “Ballooning is a not-uncommon behavior of many spiders. They climb some high area and stick their butts up in the air and release silk. Then they just take off.”

Apparently, spiders fly all the time. First they check the weather to ensure that it is suitable for their flight. When this is confirmed to be okay, the spider(s) will secrete a single strand of web much like a silver thread. This thread will then act as a dragline which the wind will carry along with the attached spider. In trying to account for what could have led to millions of spiders choosing a particular day to fly and town to land in, scientists say it may be caused by an extended period of unfavorable weather which delayed the flight of millions of spiders. When eventually the weather became conducive, the spiders simply took to flight in their millions resulting in the ‘spider rain.’

There is a natural concern that is to be expected when anything out of the ordinary occurs. Aside from the inconvenience of everything being covered in spiders, there are concerns of some of these spiders being poisonous. Scientists have tried to reassure people that it is a very small percentage of spiders that have venoms that can harm humans. In addition to this, scientists have said that the risk of being bitten by poisonous spiders are further reduced by the fact that in most cases, the spiders engaged in this flight are juvenile and therefore not mature enough to give a proper bite.

Despite the good news that this flight of spiders is not harmful to humans, scientists have warned that such a huge flight of spiders may cause harm to crops. As millions of spider float down to the earth, each grasping its own dragline, these millions of individual draglines could actually enshroud the crops, stifling them and starving them of the much needed sunshine.

This interesting howbeit scary phenomenon has also been recorded in other parts and in different degrees. Such a flight of spiders has been recorded in New South Wales. In Chicago, this ballooning of spiders has prompted hotels to issues alerts to guests. Guest are warned to watch out for flying spiders while enjoying the view. What this usually means is that windows should be kept shut to avoid an inflow of these spiders. The Hilton Chicago actually warns its guests to shut their windows to avoid the intrusion of these flying spiders.

A rain of spiders in the United States will likely cause more scare than it did in Australia. It might actually result in some deaths. This is so because according to a leading Cognitive Psychologist, the fear of spiders also known as arachnophobia is the most common type of phobia in the U.S.

Science has finally doused the fears that the rain of spiders might be a trigger to some form of apocalypse in Australia. With this information, the good people or Australia can heave a sigh of relief and watch out for and attempt to enjoy the next rain of spiders.

By Chimerenka Odimba


Weather.com: ‘Flying’ Spider Season Hits the Windy City
Live Science: Cloudy with a Chance of Arachnids? ‘Spider Rain’ Explained
Live Science: Before They Fly, Spiders Check the Weather

Photo Courtesy of Marius Runge’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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