In 1982, The Weather Girls revealed it was 'Raining Men' with cries of "Hallelujah," however, when it started raining spiders in Australia recently, the only appropriate response was probably "Oh God! Bloody hell! It's raining f*cking spiders. Sh*t! Get inside quick. Forget the bags, just get inside! There're spiders everywhere. Jesus! Arrrrrgh! Noooo!"
According to locals in Goulburn, in Australia's Southern Tablelands, the air and fields were "invaded" by millions upon millions of spiders and spiderlings which fell from the sky.
One resident, Ian Watson, was apparently forced to abandon his home after it was "taken over by spiders." He told the Sydney Morning Herald:
"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 meters into the sky."
Upon discovering the airborne arachnid attack, he quickly headed to Facebook to warn the other residents of the relatively small pastoral city, writing:
"Anyone else experiencing … millions of spiders falling from the sky right now? 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!"
However, it seemed the spiders mostly came in peace, and even though he temporary lost possession of his home, Watson did admit the scene was rather beautiful. Although there was a downside:
"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 know what you're thinking, millions of spiders descending from the heavens doesn't exactly sound like a scene of natural beauty - in fact it sounds like something from a horror movie (see below for an example). However, the methods by which the spiders achieved their flight is rather amazing.
Naturalist Martyn Robinson from the Australian Museum explained that spiders often take to the air using a unique migratory technique. The natural marvel, known as "ballooning," is often used by infant spiders to cover vast areas quickly. The spider will climb to the top of the vegetation and releases a streamer of gossamer silk which is caught by the breeze. This lifts the spider aloft and can move them over hundreds of kilometers.
Spiders using this method have been spotted three kilometers above the ground and has allowed them to populate every continent on Earth. Robinson states:
"They can literally travel for kilometers … which is why every continent has spiders. Even in Antarctica they regularly turn up but just die. That's also why the first land animals to arrive on new islands formed by volcanic activity are usually spiders."
The mass migration of spiders means large areas, often fields, can be covered in their silk 'snag lines,' which have also been referred to as 'Angel Hair.'
Ballooning is particularly common after heavy rainfall or flooding. Ground spiders will use their silk snag lines to save them from the rising water and move them to safer areas. Other spiders can then use another one's silk line and place their own on top of it, creating what amounts to literal 'silk roads.' Robinson continues:
"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. You end up with thick silk roads … criss-crossing finer silk lines to produce this interwoven shroud."
However, even though Australia is known for its various deadly insects, including funnel-web spiders, Robinson claims there's nothing to fear from this eight-legged invasion. He states it is unlikely any of the spiders are harmful, while they will soon disperse once the weather conditions improve.
But, if you are arachnophobic, you might want to give the city of Goulburn an extremely wide berth.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald