Pictures from a megaweb in Northern Texas (August 2015)

In Texas, it seems that heavy spring rains bring lots (I mean LOTS) of late-summer spiders. For instance, in 2007 a giant spider web popped up at Lake Tawakoni, made from the labor of thousands of Tetragnatha guatemalensis individuals (with possible help from some other species). The running hypothesis for these massive spider outbreaks can be simplified to this: heavy rains cause huge blooms in insect populations, spiders feed on these insect populations, and so, spider populations grow to larger-than-normal sizes. Although orbweavers such as T. guatemalensis do not normally cooperate in web-building (that is, they are not social spiders, per se), they may be more tolerant of others and even share web space when prey populations are large enough (i.e. competition is low). Joe Lapp (or, Spider Joe) carefully documented this outbreak, and you can read more about it (and watch some interesting videos of spider behavior), here on his blog.

I wasn’t living in Texas in 2007, and so have only heard about these occasional massive outbreaks of spiders. Although this is the stuff of most peoples’ nightmares, it is the stuff of an arachnologists’ dreams. So, when I heard that this August (2015), there was another outbreak in Northern Texas, I was very excited to be able to see it, and take a few pictures to share with others. Unfortunately a few days before I could go to the site at Lake Ray Hubbard, officials had sprayed pesticides around the area, in an effort to control mosquito populations. Thus, the webs that I saw were not as pretty and pristine as those shown on the news (see links below), and many of the spiders had died as a result of pesticide exposure. Still I got a few good images and it was really a wonder to see the sheer number of spiders that could all live in one place.

 

You can read more about the 2015 outbreak (and find some pre-spraying pictures of the webs) by following the links below:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/thousands-spiders-spin-mega-web-spans-hundreds-feet/story?id=33011151

http://dfwreport.com/spider-webs-rowlett/

 

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Back from a long hiatus… with lots of spider news!

Sorry for the long wait, but hopefully you all are ready to learn more about spiders! While I haven’t been posting about spiders, I have been learning a TON about them, and have lots of fun things to talk about, now that I know so much more about arachnids.

To start, here are just a few of my favorite spider-related studies that have been published during the last seven months… enjoy!

Spider silk may be ready for commercial production

Hormiga & Griswold published this great review of the evolution and systematics of orb-weavers – PDF: AnnuRevEntoOrbweaving2014

Velvet spider genome + draft of Tarantula genome published in Nature!  PDF: SpiderGenomesNature2014

Jonathan Pruitt’s social spider research gained a bit of coverage  in the NYT. PDF: SocialNicheConstructionProcB2014

As did this cart-wheeling spider. 🙂

I’ll be discussing some of these studies further in the near future, as well as talking about an arachnology course I took in Costa Rica, and my own research, so keep checking back for new posts!