Several community members took pictures and reported the presence of these unusual webs spun over vegetation in several locations across St. Paul Island, Alaska. Webs were noted to have been formed in only the warmest regions of the island and many residents think they are from spider webs, but they do not seem consistent with spider webs.
Derek Sikes, Entomologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Museum of the North, writes:
I've asked Joey Slowik, Research Affiliate of the University of Alaska Museum and an arachnologist about this. He wrote:
It looks like a bit of a mass ballooning event. Not sure on the species but some kind of linyphiidae. They can be quite massive depending on air currents and the size of the population. Definitely a spider.
Linyphiidae are dwarf spiders and the most species-rich group of spiders in Alaska.
Comments from LEO Editors:
Spiders can travel long distances through an action called "ballooning." Researchers at the University of Bristol found that spiders act on Earth's electric charge to launch themselves in the air. Spider silk picks up a negative charge, which repels the negative charge of the twigs or blades of grass and lifts the spider in to the wind. The same sensitive hairs that allow spiders to pick up on electrical fields also help them gauge wind speed and direction. Watch this crab spider take flight here.