After years and years of studies and debates, researchers finally managed to figure out if spiders can fly by using the waved silk as parachute or if they are carried by static electricity which reacts with the silk. A study released on July, 5th confirmed Charles Darwin’s observations.
The research was conducted by Erica Morley, sensory biophysicist at the University of Bristol. She confirmed what Darwin noted centuries ago after watching hundreds of spiders flying across the ocean for 60 miles. The theory was based on the idea that electrostatic force was involved in spiders’ flight.
Modern researchers demonstrated this theory through experiments conducted in a lab. They used balloons to show how spiders use electrostatic forces. It looks like the insects fly through a process similar to checking the wind. They launch from the ground by raising their abdomen to the sky, spinning off 7-13 foot long silk parachutes and simply fly.
Can spiders fly even when it’s not windy?
Erica Morley also explained why spiders can fly even when there’s no sign of wind. She said that weather conditions are not the main factors which support the insect’s flight. The presence of an electric field in the atmosphere is what matters the most.
Linyphiid spiders were used for the study. They were placed inside a box that didn’t give them so much freedom to move around in the air, but had an interesting feature: it reflected the electric fields which can be found in atmospheric conditions.
Spiders started to act as described by the “ballooning” effect mode as soon as they turned the electric field on. The different behaviour demonstrated that the spiders have the ability to detect whenever electricity is present.
The study’s conclusions were that wind plays its part in the ballooning process and the number of miles spiders can travel. However, electric fields are crucial for the operation, since the ballooning behaviour can only be emerged by electric fields.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca