“At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland,” said Donna Garde, superintendent of the park about 45 miles east of Dallas. “Now it’s filled with so many mosquitoes that it’s turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs.”
Scientists have two hypotheses for this “sticky” appearance: they said the web could be either the result of a “massive” collaboration between spiders- called social cobweb spiders- or it could be the result of a mass dispersal in which the arachnids spin webs to spread out from one another.
However, the second option seems to be more plausible, since the creation of a web with such dimensions by the cobweb spiders would require an enormous amount of time (and the naissance of the web has only been signaled recently).
Robb Bennett, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief at The Canadian Entomologist said: “…it would not surprise me if this is the result of another mass dispersal event rather than the result of theridiid communal activity. The web page [describing the discovery] states that the web only appeared recently – in my experience communal spider webs take a considerable time to achieve this sort of size.”
“I’ve been hearing from entomologists from Ohio, Kansas, British Columbia- all over the place,” said Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who first posted photos online.
John Jackman, a professor and extension entomologist for Texas A&M University and author of “A Field Guide to the Spiders and Scorpions of Texas,” didn’t seem surprised or enthusiastic about the discovery:
“There are a lot of folks that don’t realize spiders do that, [but] until we get some samples sent to us, we really won’t know what species of spider we’re talking about.” He said similar cases were witnessed in other parts of the world too.
For example, the world’s largest communal spider web was spotted in the northern parts of British Columbia, where Brian Thair, a retired biology professor of the College of New Caledonia, saw on October 27, 2002, a silky, white web stretching 60 acres across a field, whose tensile strength was enough to hold a handful of coins without letting them fall. He said that there were “in the order of tens of millions of spiders running frantically back and forth.”
“Somebody needs to come out that’s an expert. I would love to see some entomology intern come out and study this,” Donna Garde said of the Texas spider web.