To fly on gossamer wings

Spiders sometimes fly. Not under their own power, of course, but by a process known as ballooning. Ballooning spiders hitch a ride on their silk as the breeze carries it. Spider silk floating on wind currents is known as gossamer. … Late fall is … the time when ballooning spiders are most likely to be seen floating on the breeze. Source Credit: “Traveling on Gossamer Without Wings,” by Tom Turpin, Professor of Entomology, Purdue University.

The following time-series of photos shows a Wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 03 October 2013. This individual is a young spider, also known as a spiderling, trying to “balloon.” It is easier to see the spider silk by looking at the full-size version of each photo.

Unknown spider

Fire one!

Unknown spider


Unknown spider

Fire two!

It seemed like spider silk was everywhere at Huntley Meadows Park for a few weeks last fall — it was impossible to avoid walking into long strands of silk blowing in the wind! I was tempted to edit many of the dragonfly photos that I shot during the same time period in order to remove the distracting strands of silk that “clutter” the images; I decided to leave the photos “as is,” purist that I am. Notice the spider silk that appears in all three photos featured in Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male): the photos were taken on 15 October 2013; published on 21 October 2013.

Thanks to Eric Eaton, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook, for confirming my tentative field identification of the spider and for identifying the spiderling’s ballooning behavior.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “To fly on gossamer wings”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    I remember well that period last fall that you have captured so beautifully in these shots, when little spiders and spider silk were everywhere. It was a mystery to me, because I was used to seeing spiders use their silk in more practical ways to build webs. That mystery is now solved!

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