The spider(s) that ate Texas

This awesome photo is the subject of much discussion among entomologists lately. (larger photo here) lotsa webs!

Is it from a massive dispersal of spiderlings?
Or is it part of a communal web?

Many people don’t realize that a few (fairly uncommon) spiders actually live together in a group. It’s not like ants and bees–all the spiders in a shared web reproduce.

Social spiders all cooperate to build and maintain the web, capture prey, and take care of babies.

To learn more about social spiders:

EDITED TO ADD: verdict is in EDITED AGAIN 8/31/07: Verdict is out again. Now they think it’s a mass hatching event of Tetragnathidae (Long Jawed Orb Weavers)

Southeastern Social Cobweb Spider; Anelosimus studiosus (Hentz, 1850);Family Theridiidae – Cobweb Spiders

EDITED TO ADD: How could I have missed this one!? Kingdom of the Spiders, starring William Shatner. (Thanks to a commenter at Zooillogix for pointing that out.)

EDITED EVEN YET AGAIN TO ADD: In response to a question about whether social spiders eat and re-spin their webs nightly as some large garden spiders do, I found out: “Anelosimus studiosus adds to its webs over the season but does not eat it, at least detectably. And so much debris accumulates in the webs over time that consumption and re-spinning would be detectable! ” (8/30/07)

EDITED EVEN ONE MORE TIME TO ADD: Looks like the experts are still arguing back and forth about the source of the web. They do agree it was produced by spiders, and more specimens are being collected. (8/31/07)
EDITED THE LAST TIME TO SAY: final update here.

27 thoughts on “The spider(s) that ate Texas

  1. Pingback: They grow 'em big in Texas [Pharyngula] · Articles

  2. That’s awesome! How do I get some of those to build a web around my yard? Oh, maybe that’s a bad idea until my son gets to be a little older…

  3. It reminds me of the final pull-back scene in Kingdom of the Spiders…pardon me while I go buy out my local store’s supply of insecticide.

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  6. Whoa! Amazing!

    What can it possibly be about this particular location that concentrated enough insects (food) to sustain such a tremendous spider convention? Those fellows in the background of the picture don’t seem to be bothered by any biting insects – maybe because they’ve all been eaten already? One wonders if such a prodigious spider colony can persist for long after the nutrition supply runs out…

  7. Any science fiction fans out there who have read John Wyndam’s “Web”? It was published by his estate so is not likely as familiar as Day of the Triffids, etc. This article provides an excellent visual of scenes in the novel

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  14. I have a question.I had 3 black widows in a tank and I found egg sacks in my yard from the black widows there was about 7 or 9 and I put all the egg sacks in the tank and all the black widows and one day I went to feed them and all the the eggs hatched I still have them and I dont know what to do.because if I open it I’ll probably be dead really fast.

  15. Shaynen–it is helpful if you use punctuation. Just a suggestion.

    First, unless you are immunosuppressed, or a small child, you won’t be killed by a black widow bite. You will be in a lot of pain, and feel pretty bad, but you won’t die.

    Second, quit screwing around with black widows if you don’t know what you are doing! Sheesh.

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