3D Spider Ballooning

Allocosa funerea wolf spider attempting to balloon.  After much trying it is finally successful but not before one of its lines is caught by a daisy and the spider climbs up the line to the daisy to continue trying from greater height.   Thanks to Richard Bradley for the  identification.

I had known about ballooning for some time but never seen it before.  I was surprised that such a large spider could accomplish it.   Some caterpillars can also balloon.

How the spider initiates a silk line  is still not well understood.  Here is a short description by entomologist Dr Richard Alan Bradley:

The prevailing view for a mechanism is that the silk is so extremely fine and light weight (ballooning strands are among the very finest of a class of very fine strands) that the actual air movement carries the silk away and “tugs” it from the open spigot as a continuous fiber (s).   Initiation is where the idea of the spider spreading its spinnerets or using a leg might be involved on occasion, but once there is a strand, the thinking is that it is being played out by the pull of air movement and friction. Presumably when there is enough of a pull the spider releases its grip on the substrate and is airborne. Remaining questions are many, for example does silk continue to play out as the spider “flies” (I like kiting as an analogy rather than ballooning)“.

If you would  like more detail about ballooning see these papers by William G. Eberhart.  The first one describes what is known of spider ballooning and  the  second relates a personal observation of ballooning:

I found this subject be seeing it first through the camcorder viewfinder while videoing the inchworm  on the same daisy.

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