A peculiar natural phenomenon has been leaving California residents watching the skies this month. Local news outlets have this week been reporting on a rather unusual spectacle – thin, web-like strands falling from empty skies over parts of the Golden State.In some cases, clumps of this material have even ended up littering roads and walkways.
While the phenomenon has left some people scratching their heads, it turns out that there is a conventional explanation for why this is happening. These threads are in fact spider webs created by infant arachnids that are ‘ballooning’ – an intriguing practice that involves creating little ‘parachutes’ out of web that are carried on the wind.
This helps the spiders to travel much longer distances than would otherwise be possible.
“After they hatch, baby spiders release strands of silk that get caught by the wind and carry them to new homes,” said biological sciences professor Dr. Fredrick Larabee of San Jose State University.
“That way they can find food and homes without competing with their siblings.”