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Migrating Spiders Sailing Through North Texas Skies

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Thousands of North Texans are asking, "What are those long, silky strings floating in the air?"  Turns out they're the webs of spiders in their annual migration to better hunting grounds, and surprising a lot of people.

"I thought it was weird; I'd never seen it before," said Myrna Olivas, who first noticed it driving in her car; then later as she dropped her son off at school.  "It just landed on my head and it left again," she said adding, "It's just a big stripe of spider web.  I couldn't recognize it until I got it closer to me."

The natural phenomenon was first noticed early Wednesday morning.

They're called "ballooning" or "floating" webs made by young, migrating spiders.  "There's some that produce a ball like a balloon, and there's some they call tent spiders because they create almost like a triangle," according to Texas A&M Agrilife horticulturist Patrick Dickinson.

They were strung across North Texas in trees or on lamp posts, even on a surveillance camera atop Dallas City Hall.  Car dealers washed them off their prize offerings.

Not everyone thought them merely a weird nuisance, according to Dickinson.  "Some people did not know what it was and were scared to go outside of their homes.  Other people thought when they saw them in the trees like you're seeing here that there was something wrong with their trees."

Silk strands in the air (Credit: Emily Trube/KRLD)

Social media lit up. "What's up with all these spider webs?" demanded one posting.  "Why are there spider webs everywhere?" asked another.  "What's going on with floating spider webs?" queried a third.  Turns out, it is just nature doing her thing, according to Dickinson.  "It's instinctive, and when we get into cooler nights like we've been experiencing, that triggers the eggs of the sacks for the spiders to hatch."

Heavy moisture from recent milder mornings have made it easier to see webs, as they're more reflective in the emerging sunlight.  It's just small spiders looking for new hunting grounds.  The silky strings can be 20-feet long and sometimes float for miles.

Dickinson says the migration is so widespread it can be witnessed across the globe.  "In Brazil they do it this time of year when they look for the flight of the spiders, and the skies will literally be clouded by the shrouds of these strings from the spiders."

They're all different varieties of spiders.  The good news according to Dickinson is they're harmless to people and to plants.  "They're going to be feeding on the bad insects that we don't want.  These are the good guys."  And they'll be back next year.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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