For the unsuspecting residents of the Australian Southern Tablelands, the sudden downpour, not of rains, but of spiders (arachnids) must have triggered fears of apocalyptic proportions in their minds. Is this an invasion of arachnids or of alien beings disguised as arachnids? For those who had never experienced or even heard of such an occurrence it is scary, to say the least.
According to scientists who have commented on this occurrence, this is obviously a common phenomenon among arachnids. This information was made available by Rick Vetter, a now retired arachnologist. This phenomenon, according to him, is a form of transportation unique to arachnids. This form of transportation is called “ballooning.” According to Vetter, “Ballooning is a not-uncommon behavior of many spiders. They climb some high area and stick their butts up in the air and release silk. Then they just take off.”
Apparently, spiders fly all the time. First, they check the weather to ensure that it is suitable for their flight. When this is confirmed to be okay, the spider(s) will secrete a single strand of web much like a silver thread. This thread will then act as a drag-line, which the wind will carry along with the attached spider. In trying to account for what could have led to millions of arachnids choosing a particular day to fly and a town to land in, scientists say it may be caused by an extended period of unfavorable weather, which delayed the flight of millions of arachnids. When eventually the weather became conducive, the spiders simply took to flight in their millions resulting in the ‘spider rain.’
There is a natural concern that is to be expected when anything out of the ordinary occurs. Aside from the inconvenience of everything being covered in arachnids, there are concerns about some of these arachnids being poisonous. Scientists have tried to reassure people that it is a very small percentage of arachnids that have venom that can harm humans. In addition to this, scientists have said that the risk of being bitten by poisonous arachnids are further reduced by the fact that, in most cases, the arachnids engaged in this flight are juvenile, and therefore, not mature enough to give a proper bite.
Despite the good news that this flight of arachnids is not harmful to humans, scientists have warned that such a huge flight of arachnids may cause harm to crops. As millions of arachnids float down to the earth, each grasping its own drag-line, these millions of individual drag-lines could actually enshroud the crops, stifling, and starving them of much-needed sunshine.
This interesting howbeit scary phenomenon has also been recorded in other parts and in different degrees. Such a flight of spiders has been recorded in New South Wales though they may not have triggered fears of apocalyptic proportions like it probably did in Australia. In Chicago, this ballooning of spiders has prompted hotels to issues alerts to guests. Guest are warned to watch out for flying spiders while enjoying the view. What this usually means is that windows should be kept shut to avoid an inflow of these spiders. The Hilton Chicago actually warns its guests to shut their windows to avoid the intrusion of these flying spiders.
A rain of spiders in the United States will likely cause more scare than it did in Australia. It might actually result in some deaths. This is so because, according to a leading Cognitive Psychologist, the fear of spiders, which is also known as arachnophobia, is the most common type of phobia in the U.S.
Science has finally doused the fears that the rain of spiders might be a trigger to some form of apocalypse in Australia. With this information, the good people of Australia can heave a sigh of relief and watch out for, as well as attempt to enjoy the next rain of arachnids.
By Chimerenka Odimba
Weather.com: ‘Flying’ Spider Season Hits the Windy City
Live Science: Cloudy with a Chance of Arachnids? ‘Spider Rain’ Explained
Live Science: Before They Fly, Spiders Check the Weather
Photo Courtesy of Marius Runge’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License