Thousands of spider webs coating large areas have thrown another town in New South Wales into the spotlight. Goulburn could now easily become the set of an eerie horror movie.
Dubbed as “angel hair”, the worldwide phenomenon might be mistaken for a light layer of snowfall, but in reality, dozens of layers of interweaving spider webs are creating the illusion.
Australia is rather famous for experiencing this, as the earliest documentation of the occurrence dates back to 1914. Even if it sounds (and looks) bizarre, the “raining” spiders are more common than you would think.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald interview by Martyn Robinson, naturalist at the Australian Museum, there are two “migration techniques” that cause such events to happen.
The first, also known as “ballooning”, means that spiders climb at the surface of vegetation and shoot a line of silk that is caught in the wind. The spider is then picked up by the air currents and transported.
This technique is responsible for the fact that no continent is left without its fair share of spiders – they have travelled all around the world in this fashion, reaching even Antarctica. Unfortunately, soon after arrival in the cold environment, most of them die.
Secondly, in case of floods or heavy downfalls, huge clutters of these critters can be seen clung to silk lines and escaping threatening terrain and drowning. Rick Vetter, a retired arachnologist from the University of California, explained that ballooning is a rather common practice among many spider species.
One of the highest spots where this phenomenon was witnessed is as high as 2,000 feet, when in May 2011 a South Australian pilot saw a floating cloud of silk going up on the mountain’s side.
Since the spiders invaded Goulburn, residents are having a hard time getting out of the house without knocking heads, so to say, with the hordes of spiders. Properties are drowning in silk, and owning a beard can be rather tricky in Goulburn these days.
Ever since 2001, South Australian retiree Keith Basterfield has been carefully cataloguing the occurrence. According to his data, Australia witnesses it a couple of times each year, mostly when skies are clear and slight winds can help the spiders travel.
Even though the Goulburn incident has only added to Australia’s infamous reputation about the frightening animals living there, it seems the country is not as unique when it comes to this kind of mass behavior – even North and South America have experienced it.
Image Source: The Sydney Morning Herald