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Flood-stricken spiders weave sea of webs

05:00 Thu Mar 8 2012
By Erin Tennant, MSN NZ
Thousands of spiders have formed a vast web shrouding farm paddocks in Wagga Wagga.
Thousands of spiders have formed a vast web shrouding farm paddocks in Wagga Wagga.

Thousands of spiders have formed a vast web shrouding farm paddocks in Wagga Wagga, in a stunning side-effect to the devastating floods.

PHOTOS: Wagga spiders spin field of webs

The tiny arachnids, fleeing the floodwaters to higher ground, have clustered over high grasslands on the edge of the swollen Murrumbidgee River, in NSW's Riverina region.

Australian Associated Press photographer Lukas Coch said he was "amazed by the beauty of the webs" when he visited the spot at Cartwrights Hill, on the city's northern outskirts, yesterday afternoon.

"It was five o'clock in the afternoon, we had nice sunlight and the spider webs were waving with the wind," he said.

The spot even became a local attraction for families and their children wanting to take a closer look, Coch said.

Australian Museum spider expert Graham Milledge said the phenomenon was caused by spiders "ballooning" — when spiders let out a thread of silk that catches in the wind and carries them through the air.

"Juvenile spiders do it as a way of dispersing but it also seems to be associated with flood events," Mr Milledge said.

"The spiders are just trying to escape the floodwaters. It's their way of getting away. Sometimes it doesn't work very well if they all end up in the same place."

He said the arachnids depicted in the photographs were likely to include money spiders (which dwell in herbage) and juvenile wolf spiders (ground-dwelling hunters).

"It's not a natural situation. I would imagine they would be trying to disperse again as quickly as possible. These mass webs don't seem to last long," Mr Milledge said.