Seas of Spiders Invade Northeast Arkansas Highways
When Zach Riggs drove down Highway 230 on his way back to Jonesboro last Tuesday, he had no idea of the creatures that would cross his path.
“I was heading home from Conway…and my GPS took me down the wrong road.,” says Riggs, who discovered the spider trove. “Then I saw spider webs on the side of the road. And then I started seeing the spiders. And I thought…I needed to get out and start filming them.”
Clumps of spiders and thick webs covered road signs, shrubs and asphalt for yards. It was unlike anything Riggs had ever seen. His Facebook videos have gone viral.
“I loved spiders since I was a kid,” adds Riggs. “And just seeing that many in one place drew my attention to them.”
The clusters of webs are caused by a natural process that entomologists refer to as ballooning.
“They’ll spin of string of their spider web out…and the wind catches it. And they’ll basically fly, like people in a hot air balloon,” advises Glenn Studebaker, an entomologist, with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service. “It’s just this time of year, there’s so many of them ballooning. Webs get stuck together. So we see masses of them sometimes in the late fall.”
It’s something Studebaker says northeast Arkansans will likely see more of. Spider populations have now reached the millions in northeast Arkansas. Experts credit the increase to favorable weather, large insect populations. And the ability of the arachnids to adapt.
“Some of them migrate up here, every year…they go south where it’s warmer,” adds Studebaker. “And others are adapted to survive the cold temperatures. They don’t freeze, but they can’t move. And they’ll stay in that stage until spring gets here.”
When the weather is warm enough, they’ll pop out and cast their webs once again.
Those with bee allergies are advised to be especially cautious around spiders. Spider venom contains the same properties found in bee stingers.