Remember when I posted that video of the gigantoid web produced in Brazil by a colony of cooperatively-hunting spiders? And many of you North Americans said, “OH GOD — well, at least that’s in South America and not here”?
Guess what was found in the Baltimore Wastewater Treatment Plant a few years back?
A four-acre spider web.
This is not an exaggeration. The entomologists who responded to the treatment plant’s call for “extreme spider help” subsequently wrote a journal article about it, which was published in American Entomologist in autumn 2010:
We were unprepared for the sheer scale of the spider population and the extraordinary masses of both three dimensional and sheet-like webbing that blanketed much of the facility’s cavernous interior. Far greater in magnitude than any previously recorded aggregation of orb-weavers, the visual impact of the spectacle was was nothing less than astonishing.
In places where the plant workers had swept aside the webbing to access equipment, the silk lay piled on the floor in rope-like clumps as thick as a fire hose.
I’ve edited scientific journal articles, and I can tell you that academics don’t use terms like “extraordinary masses” or “nothing less than astonishing” lightly. My guess is that these folks wandered around the treatment plant saying things like “Holy shit” and “Oh my lord we are SO going to publish this!”
Especially when they found places where the weight of the webbing was so great that it pulled 8-foot florescent light fixtures out of the ceiling.
Over at Wired, journalist Gwen Pearson wrote:
The scientists described their estimate of 35,176 spiders/m³ as “markedly conservative” and “representing a minimum volume” of spiders, by the way.
Question: do you measure spiders in Metric ShitTons? Or in Imperial ShitLoads?
I think this is a very relevant question, because when was the last time you heard of spiders being measured in volume?
I sure hope the city of Baltimore recognized what a fantastic tourism resource this was. They should have put up some strobe lights, piped in some freaky music, and charged a pile of cash for people to go in on Halloween.