Mass spider webs cover flood-affected areas

By AAP and AG staff March 7, 2012
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Spiders are weaving mass webs after being forced to higher ground in the wake of the NSW floods.

IT’S NOT JUST THE people of Wagga Wagga who were forced to leave their homes this week.

Thousands of spiders also fled and are now busily re-spinning their webs en masse in grass and bushland along Horse Shoe Road, about 10 minutes’ drive from the centre of the city in south-western NSW.

The tiny spiders, which are up to one centimetre long, belong to the Linyphiidae family.

They are commonly referred to as sheet weavers because of the shape of their webs, or money spiders because of the superstition they bring good fortune if they land on you.

In their quest to move to safer or better ground, the spiders let out individual strings of silk that catch the wind, lifting them up into the air and away.

“The behaviour is called ballooning – that is how they disperse”, Graham Milledge, entomology collections manager at the Australian Museum in Sydney said.

Mass spider webs triggered by floods

Flood events typically trigger mass ballooning events.

“They often do it as a way of dispersing and getting into a new area but, in an event like this, they are just trying to escape the floods,” Graham said. “They often land in the same place and that is why you get this large mass of them.”

Graham believes the species is harmless to humans.

The Murrumbidgee river this week threatened to breach levees at Wagga Wagga, in the NSW Riverina region, and thousands were forced from their homes.

The river peaked at 10.56 metres on Tuesday night before dropping to 10.12 metres by 9am (AEDT) on Wednesday morning.