Spiders Use Their Silk To Take Flight Across Oklahoma

Thursday, September 26th 2013, 9:35 am
By: News On 6

Flying spiders. Maybe you've seen them floating through the air, on a tree or even your car antenna.

A viewer emailed News On 6, wondering about the fine strands of silk seen floating around town.

We found out they're called gossamers, or a "ballooning" effect that spiders perform this time of year. It turns out those tiny strands of silk play a very important role.

Many runners on Tulsa's Riverside Drive have seen the fall phenomenon known as gossamers, but their knowledge of the role they play with spiders varies.

From very little, "I had no idea actually," said Krista, to a lot. "I know the part about flying from place to place," said Cal.

To facts that have nothing to do with spiders at all.

"A gossamer albatross, which was an airplane," said Jerry Slack.

So we spoke with a man who knows all about arachnids. Brian Jervis is a master gardener with the OSU Extension Center in Tulsa.

"The baby spiders grow up, they start growing and feel like they need to get out of the nest," said Brian Jervis.

He says when the wind and temperature are just right; spiders release a fine strand of silk, similar to when they spin a web.

"Enough where it can be caught in the wind, flying them away, so they create wings and fly," said Brian Jervis.

The horticulture specialist says spiders extend their chance of living by sailing away in search of food and he says this year we're seeing more of it.

"Because we did have such a quote, ‘milder summer things survived a little more'," said Brian Jervis.

Jervis says gossamers aren't limited to one type of species.  He says dozens of spiders do it this time of year, but two species that don't are two that most Oklahomans should be most concerned with, the brown recluse and black widow spider.

"Other than that, our spiders are good for us, they eat a lot of insects," said Brian Jervis.

Jervis says once commit to flight, they're at the mercy of the wind.

"They've had reports of these gossamers or these spiders, not in the middle of the ocean, but way out far from the coast where they've got caught up in the current," said Brian Jervis.

Jervis says it's pretty cool knowing spiders can "fly" - depending on if you suffer from arachnophobia or not.

"Hopefully now people will pay a little more attention, show their kids, it can be educational and it's always fun," said Brian Jervis.

Jervis says that we should continue to see more gossamers until it turns off cold closer to winter. Because most spiders are dormant during the day - dusk is the time this happens the most.