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Half-Mile Spider Web Blankets Tennessee Suburb

posted: 11/23/15
by: Discovery.com Staff

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in North Memphis, Tennessee -- except this blanket of white isn't freshly fallen snow, but a massive spider web that has residents worried.

WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

According to experts, the spiders' presence is actually a good thing.

"It's a mass dispersal of the millions of tiny spiders that have always been in that field, unnoticed till now," Memphis Zoo curator Steve Reichling told local news station WMC-TV.

"In fields and meadows, there are often literally millions of spiders doing their thing, unseen and unappreciated by us. I would not want to live in a world where such things were no longer possible. The presence of these spiders tells us that all is well with nature at that location."

Related: Grab an Umbrella, It's Raining Spiders in Australia

Reichling posits that the spiders are likely sheetweb weaver spiders from the Linyphiidae family, which has over 4,300 known species that occur around the world. The small spiders are known to construct messy webs close to the ground. Unlike orb-weaving spiders, which employ sticky silk to capture their prey, the sheet-web weavers prefer to build "tangled networks of silken threads" that entangle prey, according to the University of Kentucky.

Spiders in the Linyphiidae family are also known for their ballooning behavior. The arachnids are able to travel thousands of miles by shooting a silk 'parachute' into the wind. Some ballooning spiders have made it as far as Antarctica.

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