Strange Science: Flying Spiders

Warning, today’s post contains spiders.

Small spider in a circular webYoung spiders often use strands of their silk to “balloon” from place to place, but scientists have recently discovered that spiders are also able to use electrical fields to travel vast distances, sometimes hundreds of miles.

Thunderstorms cause an electrical field that spans the globe, giving the upper atmosphere a positive charge. Meanwhile, the earth has a negative charge. When an earthbound spider releases some of its silk in order to balloon, it, too, has a negative charge. The two negatives repel one another, and the spider is launched into the air.

The scientists studying spider flight used a controlled environment in which the only changeable variable was whether an electrical field was turned on or off. When it was on, the spiders seemed to sense it, as that’s when they took flight.

To learn more about these flying spiders, you can check out recent articles at Huffington Post, The Atlantic, or Current Biology. There’s also a press release from Cell Press about this experiment.

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