According to the groundhog’s predictions earlier this month, spring is just around the corner – and nothing says late winter/early spring quite like a bombardment of spiders. Wait, spiders?
Although the months of February and March may bring hodge-podge visions of overpriced candy and flowers, beads and boobies, and bunnies and neon-colored eggs to mind, this is actually prime time of the year for spider play; or, at least, that’s what the past two years in recent history seem to show.
Last March, we reported the heebie-jeebies filled story of the ballooning spiders in Australia that were essentially cocooning over 8,000 homes to escape from flooding. Creepy, and kind of gross, but a once-in-a-lifetime unfortunate turn of events, yes? No. Just this past Sunday, a web designer in Brazil captured this little gem on video: footage of what appears to be thousands of spiders falling from the sky.
Unsettling as this scene may be, according to Leticia Aviles, student at the University of British Columbia,
“The phenomenon observed is not really surprising. Either social or colonial spiders may occur in large aggregations, as the one shown in the video.”
Okay, so it’s normal, but why are they doing this? The answer is simple: it’s how they hunt. Are the hairs standing up on the back of your neck yet?
The good news is the spiders are not actually raining from the heavens, nor are they flying. What’s happening here is similar to a real-life optical illusion. Experts say the spiders in the video are spread out across a large network composed of individual webs which are very fine and mostly invisible – hence the falling or flying illusion. Oh, okay. So the spiders aren’t falling, they just have a gigantic invisible web in the sky. I feel much better!
What experts can’t seem to agree on, however, is what species of spider these sky dwellers belong to, or where they’re headed. Some scientists believe the spiders to be of the social species, Anelosimus eximius, which weaves communal webs, live together throughout adulthood, and share childcare duties. Other arachnologists are of the thought that these spiders actually belong to the Parawixia bistriata colony, a species which also works together in a community but are known to dissolve before the spiders make their own single families. Think two different hippie colonies: one stays together for life, while the other splits up before moving on to have babies and a family of their own, away from their wild youths. Ladies and gentlemen: hippie spiders!
It remains uncertain whether these spiders are setting up camp for a while or simply in the process of dispersing, and unfortunately, those answers may remain unanswered until someone – or something – can get a good photo of the translucent web or an up-close shot of the spiders. Fortunately, despite which species these spiders fall into, their venom is not believed to be harmful to humans. So, who’s ready to make their first million-dollar photograph?