Can Spiders Fly?


Photo from

At a scenic overlook in northeastern Oregon, an iridescent green spider caught my eye. Our granddaughter Mysa has a fascination for spiders, so I got my camera out. Then I noticed that the spider was struggling. One of its legs seemed to be stuck to our truck door. It twisted one way and then another, fighting a stiff breeze along with being stuck. I helpfully took a video.

Glancing around to see if my husband was ready to go, I turned back to the truck and saw the spider glide by using a long strand of web as a magic carpet. 

Mysa and spider

Really? Spiders can do that? I Googled it, and yes! Some spiders shape their silk into a ball instead of a streamer, so the flights are called ballooning. According to Live Science, spiders can fly hundreds of miles on their silken strands. 
Charles Darwin, the 1800s naturalist known for observing the animals of the Galapagos Islands, noticed spiders ballooning far out at sea. I found his observation (trigger alert) thanks to the University of Colorado: “The ship’s rigging was festooned with gossamer, and dusky red spiders were lowering themselves from the rigging to the deck.” 
Darwin suspected that flying spiders might use Earth’s natural electrical field to assist in these journeys. His theory seemed unprovable, so the idea was scrapped until recently. PBS now reports that a researcher has managed to demonstrate that some spiders do coopt Earth’s static electricity to keep them aloft. Spiders know when the air is charged because their tiny leg hairs stand on end. 
The electrical boost allows–don’t panic–larger spiders to surf the winds. Palm-sized Japanese spiders are in the process of invading the United States, but they’re said to be harmless…if you don’t go cardiac.

About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.