If you thought that spiders were scary, we have some bad news for you. A new study revealed that spiders are capable of flying thousands of miles. Until now scientists weren’t sure whether they use their silk to fly or if their flight is powered by static electricity.
Erica Morley is a biophysicist from the University of Bristol and she confirmed that electrostatic force is what allows spiders to fly. The researchers’ team managed to demonstrate this in their lab.
Flying through the sky
The “ballooning process” is the secret behind the spiders’ flight. They manage to launch off and float by raising their abdomen, spinning 7 to 13 foot long silk parachutes and then they fly. In order to do that, spiders have to check the wind first and the parachutes must be thrown in the right moment.
Even when there isn’t wind outside, spiders are still able to fly. Their silk threads don’t tangle because electrostatic force makes them repel each other. It appears that the electric field is what spiders needs, which means that the weather is not the most important element.
“It is reasonable to surmise that if e-fields are ecologically relevant, spiders should be able to detect and respond to an e-field by changing their behavior to engage in ballooning,” explained the study.
The researchers placed the spiders in a box that had electric fields similar to the ones present in atmospheric conditions. There was also limited air movement. Ballooning was increased when the electric field was turned on which revealed that spiders can detect electricity.
When the electric field was turned off the spiders quickly fell out of the air. This showed the need for electricity. The study also revealed that wind does not have a crucial role.
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