Millions of baby spiders appeared to be raining from the sky in the Southern Tablelands earlier this month, with one astonished local fearing the region had been "invaded by spiders" and another reporting his home was "covered" in the creatures, The Sydney Morning Herald, reports.
Goulburn resident Ian Watson said his house looked like it had been "abandoned and taken over by spiders".
"The whole place was covered in these little black spiderlings and when I looked up at the sun it was like this tunnel of webs going up for a couple of hundred metres into the sky."
It was beautiful, he said. "But at the same time I was annoyed because ... you couldn't go out without getting spider webs on you. And I've got a beard as well, so they kept getting in my beard."
Watson took to Facebook to confirm he wasn't the only one getting rained on by tiny black spiders. "Anyone else experiencing … millions of spiders falling from the sky right now?" he wrote on the town's community Facebook page.
"I'm 10 minutes out of town and you can clearly see hundreds of little spiders floating along with their webs and my home is covered in them. Someone call a scientist!"
Naturalist Martyn Robinson from the Australian Museum said two migration techniques associated with spiders would explain why locals might have thought it was raining spiders.
The first, a dispersal technique called "ballooning", is more commonly used by baby spiders, although some adults use it as well. The spider climbs to the top of vegetation and releases a streamer of silk that catches on the breeze and carries the spider aloft.
Spiders have been caught flying like this up to three kilometres above the ground, Robinson said.
"They can literally travel for kilometres … which is why every continent has spiders. Even in Antarctica they regularly turn up but just die," he said.
"That's also why the first land animals to arrive on new islands formed by volcanic activity are usually spiders."
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