Thousands of spiders deserted their underground homes and cast their webs over acres of farmland in eastern Australia in an attempt to avoid the rising floodwater in the country.
What we've seen here is a type of wolf spider, Owen Seeman, arachnid expert at the Queensland Museum in South Brisbane BC, told Reuters. They are trying to hide away [from the waters].
Various parts of eastern Australia have experienced torrential rainfall for more than a week, as noted by News24. On Tuesday, more than 8,000 residents of Wagga Wagga, located in the southeastern corner of Australia, had to leave their homes after the waters from the nearby Murrumbidgee River had risen to the point of flooding.
Now, as the floodwater recedes and residents slowly return to their homes, they are faced with to deal with hordes upon hordes of eight-legged arachnids covering their fields, fences, plants, and trees. Just seeing their sticky silk webs completely cover the farmland is enough to send a chill up one's spine.
Graham Milledge, the manager of the entomology collections within the Austrlian Museum in Sydney, explained to Reuters that the spiders' behavior is nothing out of the ordinary. Called ballooning, Milledge said spiders typically weave webs in midair, using the silk as an anchor, to lift themselves off the ground. Spiders actually balloon themselves into the air immediately after hatching from their eggs, when they are carried away by the wind.
They often do it as a way of dispersing and getting into a new area, Milledge said. In an event like this, they are just trying to escape the floods.
Because of all of the wet weather driving spiders aboveground, the spider population in Australia has boomed. Even though the wolf spiders are expected to eventually return underground once the waters recede further, the arachnids are doing residents a favor by eating up mosquitoes, as well as other insects and vermin.
This case of mass ballooning, while highly unusual, was recently spotted last April after similar flooding occurred in regions of Pakistan. Reuters managed to capture several photos at the time showing how thousands upon thousands of spiders had climbed up into the trees surrounding the flooded areas, wrapped around the branches and leaves, making the trees look like big, spider-infested pieces of cotton candy.