One of the worst fears of humanity has turned into reality, albeit in a lesser version: having millions of tiny creatures invading our environment. The people of the town of Goulburn in New South Wales, Australia, have been greeted with a horrendous, yet spectacular sight of “spider-rain”. The Sydney Morning Herald has described the show of thousands and thousands of baby spiders “raining from the sky” in one of its articles.
Spiderwebs covering fields in Wagga Wagga. Photo credits: Reuters.
How can spiders achieve such a feat? As a matter of fact, the tiny animals can release their silk threads known as gossamer (also referred to as “angel hair”) in a parachute style, such that, when blown by the wind, they can travel long distances. This phenomenon is called “ballooning”.
According to Andrew Solway, the author of Spiders and Other Vertebrates, spiders have successfully covered around 1,600 km in this manner in the past. As if this were not scary enough, the parachutes in question can stick together thanks to ‘spider glue’ thereby forming dense layers as they settle.
Spider rain ‘drenches’ paddocks in Albury in 1974. Photo credits: Keith Basterfield.
“They can literally travel for kilometers, which is why every continent has spiders. Even in Antarctica, they regularly turn up but just die,” explained Australian Museum’s naturalist Martyn Robinson to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“That’s also why the first land animals to arrive on new islands formed by volcanic activity are usually spiders. You can have entire fields and paddocks and trees festooned with this gossamer or Angel Hair, as some people call it.”
Sounds surreal to you? Well, a witness asserts that she saw the silk clouds “floating through the sky” for around half an hour. Spider webs, angel hairs, raining down from heaven – what a sight that must have been.