A web-sight with a difference

Photo by RossLawford/BNPS SUS-141124-175947001
Photo by RossLawford/BNPS SUS-141124-175947001

Millions of tiny spiders have spun their magic to create this spectacular Autumn web-sight.

The mass of silky webs were found earlier this month spread over a 40 metre wide area of scrub and grassland at Combe Haven Countryside Park near Pebsham by Ross Lawford and his 14-year-old nephew James.

Ross, an amateur wildlife photographer from St Leonards, said the thin strands, known as gossamer, are common at this time of year when tiny money spiders ‘balloon away’ from a site at the same time.

The tiny arachnids, which are no more than 5mm long, will climb to the highest point they can and release several silk threads to form a triangular parachute that catches the breeze and lifts the spider into the air.

This ‘ballooning’ allows the spider to travel much further than it could on foot.

It would have taken millions of money spiders to make a covering of gossamer this big.

Ross, 33, said: “Me and my nephew were out for a walk when we came across this huge sea of webs. My nephew was stunned by the sheer mass of them, covering a massive area of flood plain, trees and gates.

“It must have been about 30 to 40 metres in length.

“My nephew just said ‘wow, it’s a sea of spiders’. All the webs were covered in spiders, which made my nephew a little worried.

“I’ve been walking in that area with him since he was little and we’ve never seen anything like it.”

Jess Price, a fellow conservation officer at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “This is gossamer, which is the name for the silver sheets of silken webs that remain when millions of money spiders balloon away from a site at the same time.

“Money spiders are tiny arachnids that often appear on your clothes and cars at this time of year.

“They climb up as high as they can, point their abdomen into the air and start releasing silk threads.

“These quickly form a parachute shape which catches the breeze and lifts the spider into the air. These tiny money spiders can travel much farther distances by ballooning than they ever could on foot.

“The name money spider actually covers a huge family of spiders called the Linyphiidae, which make up about 40 per cent of the 650 or so spider species found in Britain.

“In this area there will have been millions of money spiders that created this amount of gossamer.

“The mild weather this year has meant that it has generally been a very good spider year, as there have been lots of invertebrates to eat.

“Gossamer is most commonly seen on autumn morning when dew condenses on the threads making it glisten in the sunlight, otherwise you might easily not notice it.

“Soon the weather and general wildlife will break through lots of the threads so that the gossamer gradually fades away.”