An area in south-eastern Australia was covered in canvas sheets after floodwaters forced thousands of spiders to find higher ground.
Residents of Victoria’s Gippsland region witnessed the spectacle after heavy rains and heavy flooding rocked the area last week, damaging dozens of homes and killing two.
The waterlogged ground has sent thousands, perhaps millions of spiders to take refuge on plants, signs and anything above the ground.
“We are constantly surrounded by spiders, but we usually don’t see them. They hide in leaf litter and in the soil, ”wrote Lizzy Lowe, a postdoctoral researcher at Macquarie University, in an explanation of the phenomenon for The Conversation.
“When these floods occur, they have to quickly clear the holes in which they live underground. They go out in droves and use their floss to help them do this.
Baby spiders use the same technique of releasing strands of their silk, known as bloat, to catch the wind and disperse after emerging from the egg sacks.
The simultaneous hot air ballooning of thousands of spiders gives a silky blanket effect, called a gossamer.
The massive evacuation of Gippsland will likely be a combination of many different adult spiders, Lowe wrote. This effect can be seen in other parts of Australia and the world after flooding.
Ken Walker, senior curator of entomology at the Melbourne Museum, told the Guardian that the gossamer effect occurs semi-regularly in Victoria during the rainy season in winter.
“What happened was there was massive flooding pretty quickly… so they’re using the hot air balloon not to escape hundreds of miles but to almost lasso the vegetation. clings to the top of the vegetation because it’s lighter than air, and then they climb quickly.
Carolyn Crossley, a local council member, shared a video of the effect and asked for support from the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, which provides assistance to areas hard hit by flooding.
Locals have been urged to leave the spiders alone. The strap will snap on its own and the arachnids will likely soon disperse and return to their underground homes, Walker said.
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