Mysterious White Stuff in Skies Over Region 8

JONESBORO-- Posted at 11:02 p.m. CST

Jonesboro-- If you saw all the white stuff flying around in the sky today and wondered what it was, you weren't alone.  It was the hot topic of conversation around town.

"I don't know. I'm thinking spider webs because it's that time of year where they are out," said Audri Waddell, a Region 8 teacher. "They're sticky and feel like that.  I'm thinking spider webs."

She's right.  The little white globs that looked like parachutes were actually baby spiders, called spiderlings, that had hatched out of their egg sacks and taken off.  It's a process called "ballooning."

"They wait for a gust of wind to come along and they produce the silk," said Tanja McKay, Assistant Professor of Entomology at ASU. "The silk gets caught up by the wind, and they are able to fly through the wind with the silk like a balloon, almost like a parachute."

The web balloons today were most likely made by baby wolf or jumping spiders, said McKay.  Their silk is extremely strong, so strong, McKay says, its protein structure is actually stronger than steel.