After a week of record rain, floodwaters across eastern Australia have forced the ground-dwelling spiders—and at least 13,000 people—to flee their homes, according to Reuters.
The rampant webs blanketing vast stretches of Wagga Wagga are likely "a dispersal mechanism that allows [spiders] to move out of places where they'd surely be drowned," said Robert Matthews, a professor emeritus of entomology at the University of Georgia.
Producing large quantities of silk creates a sort of "vast trampoline" that supports the spiders as they're fleeing the water, he noted.
Matthews added he he has never seen such a "striking phenomenon."
Photograph by Lukas Coch, European Pressphoto Agency
Field of Webs
A woman walks her dogs through a field of spiderwebs in Wagga Wagga, Australia, on March 7—"quite a striking shot," Matthews said.
There may be hope in sight yet for human and beast alike. The Murrumbidgee River—source of most of the flooding in Wagga Wagga—is slowly receding after reaching 34 feet (11 meters) on March 6, according to Reuters.
Spiderwebs blanketing fields on March 6 "almost look like snow—it's so amazing," Matthews said.
The webs appear to be the work of sheet-web spiders and wolf spiders, two species not considered dangerous to people. It's late fall in Australia, when spiders are at their biggest and most plentiful following the bountiful summer, he said.
Overall, the pictures illustrate "the versatility of things [spiders] can do with silk," Matthews said.
Silk "has been a huge evolutionary breakthrough," he said, and "this is one more example of why spiders have been a successful group."
Some Wagga Wagga residents have found the spiderwebs (pictured on March 7) a pleasant distraction after days of battling floods. "I have never seen spiderwebs like it," resident Janet Hume told the Telegraph.