Spider Ballooning

Can Spiders Fly

Spiders may not possess wings like birds, but they can easily fly hundreds to thousands of miles on strands of spider silk. The process, commonly called ballooning, allows spiders to become airborne by getting exposed to air currents and the Earth’s electric field. Although the ballooning behavior is typically displayed by the spiderlings to disperse, the adults are also observed doing so. Adult female velvet spiders, weighing over 100 mg, and having a size of about 14 mm have been spotted ballooning using rising air currents.

How do Spiders Fly

These eight-legged invertebrates use this airborne dispersal mechanism to move between different locations. A spiderling or an adult spider generally climbs up on a higher position, stands with its legs raised and abdomen pointed upward, and releases several threads of silk into the air. These threads form a triangle-shaped parachute, which helps the spider get dispersed away with the slightest of breezes. Scientists have found that the Earth’s electric field also helps the spiders fly in windless conditions.

Interesting Facts

  • In Australia, mass spider balloonings were reported in 2012 and 2015, during which the ground seemed snow-covered with the silk from millions of spiders that landed there.
  • Ballooning spiders are usually harmless because the venom of most spiderlings is not dangerous.