Technology & Science

Giant spider web spurs sticky debate

Entomologists are debating the origins of a massive spider web found in Texas.

Entomologists are debatingthe origins of amassive spider web, whichruns more than 180 metresand covers several trees and shrubs,found in Texas.

Officials at Lake Tawakoni State Park, near Willis Point,find the web both amazing and somewhat creepy.

"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," park superintendent Donna Garde said. "Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs."

Experts are debating whether the web is the work of social cobweb spiders working together, or a mass dispersal where the arachnids spin webs tomoveawayfrom one another.

"I've been hearing from entomologists from Ohio, Kansas, British Columbia— all over the place," said Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Herbert A. (Joe) Pase, a Texas Forest Service entomologist, said the giant web could be a "once-in-a-lifetime event."

But John Jackman, a professor and extension entomologist for Texas A&M University and author of A Field Guide to Spiders and Scorpions of Texas, said he hears reports of similar webs every couple of years.

"There are a lot of folks that don't realize spiders do that," he said. "Until we get some samples sent to us, we really won't know what species of spider we're talking about."

The web has received mixed reactions from visitors, officials said.

"Some can't wait to see it, while others don't want to go anywhere near it," said Trisha Brian, a park volunteer. "It's definitely not for everyone, but I'm so fascinated by it that I come down to look at it every day. Every time I come by, there's something new."

Park rangers expect the web to begin to fall apart in theautumn when the spiders start dying off.