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Spider flight mystery solved: electric fields make bug balloonists

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posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 08:21 PM
Do you like spiders? Are you afraid of them? Depending on your answer you may either enjoy this story or want to move on to something that won't make you shudder. I bet many of you remember the flying baby spiders from Charlotte's Web, but their aeronautic abilities are more complicated than just catching a breeze with a strand of silk! Scientists at the University of Bristol have discovered what they believe is the answer to what has up until now been a mystery:


Spiders are capable of flying using their silk, a well known ability known as ballooning. The action involves producing silk that, after reaching a few inches in length, lifts the spider into the air and carries it to a new location. The actual mechanism behind ballooning, though, has remained a mystery, with some speculating that it involves air currents. A new study has provided the answer.

Though spiders don’t have wings, they’re capable of flying across large distances, landing and repeating the process until they’ve travelled anywhere from a few feet to hundreds of miles. Spiders in the process of ballooning are observed to climb to a high distance, then raise their rear legs and release silk threads into the air.

Wind seems like an obvious answer to the mystery; the silk acts as a sort of parachute that catches a breeze, enabling the spider to sail to its new location. However, there’s one big problem: ballooning has been observed in environments where there is no breeze. That observation led to speculation that the Earth’s electric field may be the actual answer, but no studies — until now — had tested that idea.

New research out of the University of Bristol has given us the answer: electric fields, not just wind, enable spiders to fly. Spider silk is an electric insulator, and it turns out that the tiny sensory hairs on a spider’s legs enable it to sense electric fields. These e-fields, as they’re commonly called, can cause lift for ballooning spiders even if there’s no wind to carry them.

edit on 762018 by seattlerat because: (no reason given)

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 08:28 PM
that is certainly interesting. I just hope the big ones never get this ability...........*shudders*

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 08:44 PM
So, spiders can use the Earth's electric field to fly around?
I wonder what else can do that...

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 10:40 PM
god please!! dont let them grow wings!!

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 10:45 PM
a reply to: seattlerat
That certainly explains some of the weirdness I've observed on my outdoor cameras. Thanks for posting!

posted on Jul, 6 2018 @ 11:35 PM
a reply to: seattlerat

It would be interesting to see this mechanism synthesized and scaled up.

If micro robots can make use of environmental energy for motion, their lifespans can be increased, they can be smaller, and carry more technology.

Perhaps this will offer scientists the opportunity to increase their knowledge about these electric fields and allow engineers to build craft that can utilize them for transportation.


posted on Jul, 7 2018 @ 01:07 AM
a reply to: seattlerat

Someone else had the same idea a few years ago - Ballooning Spiders: The Case for Electrostatic Flight (2013) [PDF link]

It includes a pretty little quote by Darwin:

Of the latter spider, Darwin writes that it, “while standing on the summit of a post, darted forth four or five threads from its spinners. These, glittering in the sunshine, might be compared to diverging rays of light; they were not, however, straight, but in undulations like films of silk blown by the wind. They were more than a yard in length, and diverged in an ascending direction from the orifices. The spider then suddenly let go of its hold on the post, and was quickly borne out of sight. The day was hot and apparently quite calm...”

Check out this video! I've read about these spiders without ever seeing them in action. Darwin was right to describe them in such elegant prose.

posted on Jul, 7 2018 @ 02:19 AM
I am in love with that womans voice.

posted on Jul, 7 2018 @ 03:40 AM
a reply to: seattlerat

Pretty amazing how they just, take off on a journey, and who knows where they will end up? Like explorers of old...

posted on Jul, 7 2018 @ 10:39 AM
a reply to: seattlerat

I like this spider, lol...

posted on Jul, 16 2018 @ 04:07 AM
a reply to: autopat51

Lol. I share that sentiment.

I wouldn't be surprised if bees and other insects use this method as well.

I remember reading something very long ago that bees or some other insects' wings were too small to efficiently fly the way they do.

So, in effect, they levitate and use their web or wings for thrust.

Incidentally, They MAY have found the reason why the bee POPULATION is DECLINING as cell phones and cell towers become more numerous; it's jamming their means of flight.

Also, this might be a possible explanation why alien UFOs don't seem to have obvious means of propulsion.

By deduction, this makes e.t. UFOs more plausible.

I also remember reading that strong radar (and HAARP) seems to interfere with UFOs.

edit on 16-7-2018 by reject because: Bee population

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