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Question Your World: Can It Really Rain Spiders?

crab spider

For nearly 400 million years our planet has been home to spiders. In their time on Earth they have become vital parts of ecosystems, some of nature’s coolest architects, and they’ve even fallen down as rain from time to time. Can it really rain spiders? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Lil Wayne talked about how it rains money. The Weather Girls told us about how it’s raining men (hallelujah). We often hear people say it’s raining cats and dogs. Well, recently, people in Australia have been chatting about how it just rained spiders. That’s right, the skies opened up and it poured little eight legged creatures, sort of. In May of 2015, about 125 miles south of Sydney in Goldburn, Australia, it rained spiders. This shower was a natural occurrence of falling baby crab spiders. No, this is not magic or the super natural taking place, there is a very good explanation for the arachnid down pour.

Australia’s recent spider rain is due to a process called ballooning, where baby spiders crawl to the highest parts of plants or trees and release a self-woven parachute. Once they jump or get caught in the wind they can travel pretty large distances. Some spiders have even been seen over a mile up in the air! Wind or thermal vents can take the creepy crawlies a pretty large distance and in vast numbers. In this case, millions of baby crab spiders came down in a phenomenon they call “Angel Hair,” named for the silken weavings that fling through the sky while attached to the spiders.

No worries, though this is a terrifying thought to many, these spiders are harmless at this age. Most of these clock in at under a quarter of an inch. This is just one of the steps in life for these eight legged creatures. Spider rain happens regularly, but we may not see the impact as easily. The spider rain in May was a pretty large amount and had a noticeable impact on the countryside as millions of spiders landed and covered the rural landscape in webbing. Naturally, this excited science and spider fans around the world. Shortly after its discovery this story quickly ended up the same place anything related to spiders ends up, on the web.

Want more bug science? Tune in to  88.9 WCVE every Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. and 5:44 p.m. for “What's Bugging You” with producer Steve Clarke and entomologist Dr. Art Evans.