Often at this time of year, a silver sheen can be seen covering the fields, especially as the sun sinks towards the horizon. This gossamer layer is made from webs of millions of spiders but its origin is not quite what the casual observer might at first expect. Rather than a host of industrious spiders laying traps for unwary insects in preparation for winter, much of the sheen is produced by spiders and spiderlings ballooning on fragments of web for dispersal in the wind.
For those amongst us who do not like them, the idea of flying spiders is probably beyond the pale. But, for the most part their movement goes unnoticed although you might feel a fragment of silk gently caress your face. Spider dispersal by this method often involves the smaller, lighter spider species such as the money spider (Lepthyphantes tenuis). The money spider is the commonest species in the UK and finding one landing on you is often viewed as something that brings good luck or fortune. However, you might not want to know that money spiders can bite if provoked.
To effect their flight, the spiders climb to a suitable elevated spot and release a strand of silk which catches the wind and carries the spider away. This method of dispersal is not limited to spiders but also includes spider mites and some caterpillars. Just another one of Nature’s wonders that passes us by barely noticed.
Thanks go to John for providing us with the photos.