There’s a lot of flooding in New South Wales, Australia (can I come visit, please?), and as the floodwaters rise, so are the spiders. You’d think the citizenry would be pleased to meet their usually-hidden fellow denizens, but noooo.
At the same time, rising floodwaters surrounded Melanie Williams’s home, thousands of spiders scaled the fence in her front yard.
“That was enough to really freak me out, I had never seen anything like it before,” she said.
“I am an arachnophobe from way back so I hope they’ve gone back to wherever they came from.”
Wait. How can you be an arachnophobe in Australia? They’ve got such big, gorgeous spiders all over the place! You’re just seeing more than usual right now, and the floods are bring out the cute little cuddly ones.
Here’s a good explanation of the phenomenon.
A plague of spiders might seem apocalyptic, but experts say the episode is easily explained.
Professor Dieter Hochuli leads Sydney University’s integrative ecology group and has made a career out of examining what drives the ecology of animals and plants.
He described the phenomenon as “fascinating” and said the spiders were always there — we just don’t usually notice them.
“All this is happening under our noses, but we just don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
“There’s this vibrant ecosystem happening all the time.
“What happens with the floods is all these animals that spend their lives cryptically on the ground can’t live there anymore.
“The spiders are the really obvious ones as they throw out their webs.
“Just like people, they’re trying to get to higher ground during a flood.”
Exactly. Just like I know there are plenty of spiders around during our long Minnesota winters. They’re just hunkered down in the leaf litter, or deep down in the soil, or under rocks, or in compost heaps, or in my basement. Spring is just when they creep out and start flourishing and bringing beauty and joy back to the world.
Which reminds me…it’s time for my morning spider therapy session. I’ve got to work fast because I teach a class on Tuesday mornings.
That’s nothing. The crews of the flood rescue boats keep having to repel the snakes trying to board them. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-23/sydney-news-flood-rescue-sees-four-snakes-jump-aboard/100021894
PZ Myers says
Those poor snakes! Help them!
Jeff L says
My pictures aren’t near as impressive, but we had something similar happen in our back yard a few years back during a flood. We have a deck that we built over a pond, and all the spiders from the underside of the deck congregated on the last high spot as the flood waters rose. I put a couple boards across to land as bridges for them. The spiders seemed decent enough at swimming, but didn’t seem to have the eyesight to know which direction to head to shore. I’m not sure just how strong of swimmers they are, so I don’t know how the spiders fared who headed off in the wrong direction.
It’s a good adaptation to flood.
I like spiders and snakes, but there is something about huge masses of spiders that gives me the creepy crawlies.
I do not want them on me under any circumstances, even if I know they are harmless. Something in my brain simply freaks out at spiders and wood ticks crawling on my skin, though I’m fine with bees, butterflies, wasps and various small beetles.
The media loves stories of spider and snake apocalypses, and they in turn feed the fear of snakes and spiders into the public, which in turn…
There are surprisingly few things I don’t blame modern media for.
Maybe people can put together improvised rafts to save as many spiders, snakes and other critters as possible?
Make them easily visible from ground level, towering above the grass, or water.
…for spider afictionados, see the cute spider demons in the anime “Demon Slayer” (the protagonist is an asshole who kills entities with a non-traditional number of legs).
As the documentary “Crocodile Dundee” noted, some of those spiders can kill a man at 10 paces just by looking at it.
How you be an arachnophobe in Australia? I argue, sir, how can you not?