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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lake Tawakoni Spider Web

If you hate creepy-crawlies, you might want to avoid Lake Tawakoni State Park, where a 200-yard stretch along a nature trail has been blanketed by a sprawling spider web that has engulfed seven large trees, dozens of bushes and even the weedy ground.

But if you hate mosquitoes, you might just love this bizarre web.

"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," said park Superintendent Donna Garde. "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."

There have been heated Internet discussions among experts whether the web was constructed by social cobweb spiders, which work together, or is perhaps a mass dispersal in which the arachnids spin webs to spread out from one another.

Either way, it's generating a lot of bug buzz.

"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 who first posted photos of the web on the Web.

But there is little consensus about what sparked the phenomenon or even the type of spider responsible. Parks officials say similar but smaller webs have appeared along another trail.

"From what I'm hearing it could be a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Herbert A. "Joe" Pase, a Texas Forest Service entomologist. "It's very, very unusual."

Park officials say they have gotten mixed reactions from visitors.

"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."

But one Texas spider expert couldn't muster much excitement about the giant web.

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

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

Garde just wishes the entomologists would check out the spider web in person instead of arguing about it over the Internet.

Rangers expect the giant web to stick around until fall, when the spiders will start dying off. Unfortunately, it probably won't last until Oct. 31.

"It would make a good Halloween set, wouldn't it?" said park ranger Freddie Gowin, who found the giant web while mowing about a month ago. "But I don't think you could pay me enough money to run through all of those webs."

This is from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.


Anonymous said...

Experts have reached a consensus about what caused the great Lake Tawakoni spider web: It was created by spiders from a couple dozen species who flourished in unusual harmony because of an extremely arachnid-friendly environment.

Anonymous said...

Spider researchers were abuzz Monday as news spread of the second, smaller web that was covering a number of trees on the north shore at Wind Point Park.
Two spider researchers visited the site Monday and found two types of arachnids: long-jawed spiders, Tetragnathidae, and communal nesting spiders, Anelosimus studiosus. Both, along with a number of other types of spiders, were also at the giant web at Lake Tawakoni State Park.
The second web at Wind Point, a public park run by a private concessionaire, was first noticed about three weeks ago by park employee Pam Rousseau. "Right now, it is covering several trees," Rousseau said. "I would say it's covering parts of 10 trees, but it is definitely growing."