Spiders Can Fly!

Spiders can fly. Here’s the story from an excellent piece by Ed Yong in The Atlantic.

Spiders have no wings, but they can take to the air nonetheless. They’ll climb to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away. This behavior is called ballooning. It might carry spiders away from predators and competitors, or toward new lands with abundant resources. But whatever the reason for it, it’s clearly an effective means of travel. Spiders have been found two-and-a-half miles up in the air, and 1,000 miles out to sea.

That part has long been known (although it was news to me). What is new is evidence about how spiders fly, electrostatic energy!

Erica Morley and Daniel Robert have an explanation. The duo, who work at the University of Bristol, has shown that spiders can sense the Earth’s electric field, and use it to launch themselves into the air.

Every day, around 40,000 thunderstorms crackle around the world, collectively turning Earth’s atmosphere into a giant electrical circuit. The upper reaches of the atmosphere have a positive charge, and the planet’s surface has a negative one. Even on sunny days with cloudless skies, the air carries a voltage of around 100 volts for every meter above the ground. In foggy or stormy conditions, that gradient might increase to tens of thousands of volts per meter.

Ballooning spiders operate within this planetary electric field. When their silk leaves their bodies, it typically picks up a negative charge. This repels the similar negative charges on the surfaces on which the spiders sit, creating enough force to lift them into the air. And spiders can increase those forces by climbing onto twigs, leaves, or blades of grass. Plants, being earthed, have the same negative charge as the ground that they grow upon, but they protrude into the positively charged air. This creates substantial electric fields between the air around them and the tips of their leaves and branches—and the spiders ballooning from those tips.

…Morley and Robert have tested it with actual spiders.

First, they showed that spiders can detect electric fields. They put the arachnids on vertical strips of cardboard in the center of a plastic box, and then generated electric fields between the floor and ceiling of similar strengths to what the spiders would experience outdoors. These fields ruffled tiny sensory hairs on the spiders’ feet, known as trichobothria. “It’s like when you rub a balloon and hold it up to your hairs,” Morley says.

In response, the spiders performed a set of movements called tiptoeing—they stood on the ends of their legs and stuck their abdomens in the air. “That behavior is only ever seen before ballooning,” says Morley. Many of the spiders actually managed to take off, despite being in closed boxes with no airflow within them. And when Morley turned off the electric fields inside the boxes, the ballooning spiders dropped.

Amazing. Hat tip: The Browser. Here’s a cool video from a different research team showing a spider taking to the sky.


Yet, famous American White Supremacist intellectual Greg Cochrane and others have pointed it many years ago:


Cool. Imagine Spiderman with these additional superpowers: electricity sensors and electrical flight.

It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Spiderman!

Nope, it's Belgium, Brazil's latest destroyer. Will Brazil ever win another Copa Mundial? Leading scientists say no.

It is not true. Brazil won more times than most countries. It is the reigning Olympic champion. The referee ignored a clear penalty!! Brazil shall rise again in 2022.

Brazil won more times than ANY other country.

Since they will never win again they will be passed by Uruguay, France, the USA, and of course Argentina

Argentina only won twice. Both times chearing. The bribed Peru's government in 1978 and made a goal with the hand in 1986. They are cheating Castillians.
Brazil did not win any Cup between from 1970 to 1994. Then, it won in 1994 and 2002. It is the greater winner of World Cups. We are the best. We will always be.

It's not just spiders. The first chapter of the quirky insect natural history, Insectopedia (26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet),is about the amazing world of insects riding various global air currents thousands of feet in the sky. An excerpt is here,:


No one had any idea about this until early aviators discovered it.

I'm so happy I came here this morning. 🕷!

My late father in law told tall tales, the tallest which he preceded with "this is the truth". One tall tale was about humming birds, which he said could fly across the Atlantic Ocean. He never said spiders could fly (not to me anyway), but I'm confident he knew it. As for those humming birds, I suppose they do fly across the ocean, riding air currents high up in the air. I have a home in an area with lots of humming birds. I always think of my father in law when I spot one, and wonder if that one flew across the ocean. I don't like spiders. Now that I know they can fly, I like them even less. Spider bites can be nasty, even resulting in the loss of the victim's body part. I've never met anyone who was bitten by a humming bird.

"That part has long been known (although it was news to me). "

You've never read or seen Charlotte's Web?


My thought exactly.

Referring to an atmospheric electric circuit is misleading. No circuit is needed to maintain an electrostatic field; indeed, a "circuit" implies current flow which, by definition, is not static electricity. Furthermore, fog and mist serve to increase the conductivity between two electrostatically charged poles, leading to collapse of the electrostatic field in the form of an arc that in weather terms is called lightning.

Spiders take advantage of features that resemble more a capacitor than a circuit.

The same principle (atmospheric electrostatic charge) is the basis of a Corona motor.


As any American schoolboy used to know... Ben Franklin is rolling in his grave.

The core has positive charge, the electrons have negative charge. When you are rubbing the glass rod with the silk cloth, electrons are stripped away from the atoms in the glass and transferred to the silk cloth.

Feb 18, 2013 - Ben Franklin is known for much more than his story about a kite. ... Franklin took some fur and rubbed it across a rubber rod. He had suspended the rod by a thin string. Then he tried it with a glass rod. Then he used silk instead of fur. What was he up to?

Astonishing innumeracy or ignorance. 100V per meter??? One would get a shock or cause a spark by touching a gasoline nozzle at a pump. Maybe he means per KM?

Actually, this is neither innumeracy nor ignorance:

hahaha. I came here purely to see if someone had beaten me to saying "You never read or even heard of Charlotte's Web?"

JWatts, props. Guess we're the only two.

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