Nature girl's picture

Mystery threads

Observed: 28th October 2009 By: Nature girl
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Nature girl is knowledgeable about InvertebratesNature girl’s earned reputation in InvertebratesNature girl’s earned reputation in InvertebratesNature girl’s earned reputation in InvertebratesNature girl’s earned reputation in Invertebrates
PA280186
Description:

When I was in the Camargue the autumn before last there were these spider's web-like threads all over the place. They were usually just single threads and sometimes up to a cm thick. They stretched out across the track we were cycling along to the extent that we ended up plastered in them. They were sticky like spider silk so the logical answer is that they were made by spiders, but I'm not aware of a species that produces such vast quantities of silk. This stuff was was draped along hedgerows and sailing for hundreds of metres in the sky - it was everywhere. I don't remember seeing any spiders or any other creature that might have been the cause. It was just very strange that there was so much of it. From other posts on iSpot I've seen that the Cherry Ermine Moth can produce large quantities of silk, but I don't think that this can be the cause in this case. Does anyone have any idea of a species that could have produced these threads, spider or otherwise? I wish I'd taken more photos because this one doesn't really give a good illustration.

Identifications
  •  
    Likely ID
    Gossamer
    Confidence: I'm as sure as I can be.
Species interactions

No interactions present.

Comments

Peter Skelton's picture

threads hanging from trees

I have seen caterpillars lowering themselves down from trees at the ends of such long threads, gently drifting in the wind, in the summer (in woods near Tring, in Bucks). I'm not sure what kind the caterpillars were, except that, if my memory serves me correctly, they were relatively thin and green. I assumed that this was some means for dispersing to a suitable spot to form a chrysalis - but maybe someone with relevant expertise could comment on this.

Peter

Michael Skelton's picture

threads

The caterpillars are very likely those of the Winter moth. Many caterpillars escape from potential enemies by letting themselves down on silk threads. Later they climb back up again.

Peter Skelton's picture

caterpillars on threads

Ah! Thanks for that interesting information, Michael (namesake-surname!): that makes good sense to me. Come to think of it, I do remember seeing some of them beginning to hoist themselves back up again. What would have been going for them - birds?

Peter

Nature girl's picture

Thanks for your comments

Ballooning would explain it I guess, I just wouldn't think that spiderlings would be capable of producing so much silk. In fact, is it just spiderlings that balloon? I always assumed that it was, but you mention that the adult spiders could have caused this Michael - why do you say that?

Michael Skelton's picture

Ballooning

I based my remarks on Dick Jones' Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe. He states: "In the autumn, the majority of ballooners are adult linyphiid spiders, but in the early summer these aeronauts are more likely to be immature spiders...." Bear in mind that these small spiders are incredibly numerous.

Nature girl's picture

That's interesting,

That's interesting, ballooning adults are new to me. I probably shouldn't be surprised by the quantities of silk produced, but there was such a lot of it and I didn't see any evidence of any spiders so it was puzzling me! Thanks for clearing it up.