Flying Spiders in North Texas: Arachnophobes Recoil in Terror

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Tony Maples Photography


A while back, residents in north Texas saw something unusual: strings, apparently made of silk, attached to objects on one end, but flying loose on the other end. Some even saw spiders parachuting in the air. The fine strands of spider-produced gossamer were leftover launchers which spiderlings (baby spiders) had created for their first journey, or more commonly known as “ballooning.” Spider ballooning is a common practice for spiders and happens often all over the world.

Spider Transportation

Flying Spiders in North Texas: Arachnophobes Recoil in Terror

Photo: Flickr/Stephen Michael Barnett

Ballooning is a form of spider transportation. Allen Dean, a spider expert at Texas A&M University, describes how ballooning takes place: Spiders use their silk as a way to disperse. A variety of spiders use their silk as a simple parachute to carry them from one place to another. Light winds and rising thermals favor spider dispersal in this manner. When the wind currents catch the threads, the spiders release their launching pad, and off they go.

Young spiders can move away from the place where they hatched by sending out a strand of their silk (referred to, sometimes, as gossamer) and riding it on the wind. They look like little balloons in the air. 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.

How It Works

Here’s how it works: From the top of a platform (like a blade of grass), the spider faces the wind. Standing in a “tip-toe” position, with its abdomen pointing toward the sky, it releases a stream of silk from its spinneret. Once the wind catches a thread, the spiderling leaves its launch pad. Sometimes they “fly” for hundreds of miles. Ballooning spiders have even been seen by airplane pilots flying at about 10,000 feet.

Ballooning spiders can land on water and survive afloat. Their water-repellent legs keep them alive on both fresh and saltwater, enabling them to survive waves up to several feet high. In the wind, spiders can raise their legs or abdomens to use as sails, propelling themselves across the water’s surface. The spiders drop silk to anchor themselves in place while afloat.

Have No Fear!

spider loon

Photo: envato elements

For those with arachnophobia, take heart. Contrary to what you might think, there’s no reason to fear these flying balls of spiders. Most of these spiders are harmless and eat only other insects. Experts recommend just leaving the eight-legged creatures alone.