One Australian mom spotted what she believed to be an area of dew underneath her children’s trampoline. Upon closer inspection, however, she realized to her dismay that it wasn’t the weather that had created the unusual scene. In fact, the “dew” turned out to be something altogether more sinister.
The woman in question was Denise Torkington, who lives with her husband Sean in the Hervey Bay suburb of Pialba in Australia. In September 2017, in fact, they had been at that particular location for six years. In all that time, though, they had never seen this terrifying peculiarity before in their garden.
Indeed, on that day in September 2017, Denise had at first dismissed what she had seen as merely being morning dew on her lawn. And it was only later on that her husband came in from the garden and informed her that he needed to alert her to something. He consequently escorted her to the area of “dew” – and then she discovered what it really was.
It was, in fact, a giant cobweb – a terrifying scenario for those afraid of spiders. And after Sean removed the web, there was still no respite for the couple, as it would go on to return larger than before. Indeed, it seemed as if the spiders were invading the pair’s garden.
As a self-confessed arachnophobe, Denise was, of course, horrified by the discovery. What really made her squirm, however, were what she saw inside the web. According to Denise herself, it contained both spider eggs and tiny arachnids. And in recalling the sight to the Fraser Coast Chronicle, she explained, “This is the thing nightmares are made of.”
And the Torkingtons couldn’t identify the species of spiders spinning the web across their garden. Denise was sure of one thing, though, saying to the Fraser Coast Chronicle, “It would have to be a colony.” She also revealed to the newspaper that if she had seen it in Australia’s bushland, she wouldn’t have looked twice. “But it was odd to see such a big web in a suburban backyard,” she added.
However, since the web was actually growing instead of disappearing like Sean had hoped, Denise then turned to social media. Specifically, she posted in a Facebook group called Brickbats and Bouquets Fraser Coast, hoping for advice on how to remove it once and for all.
Unfortunately, though, Denise’s quest for answers came up short, as the members of the Facebook group had never seen anything like the web before. And although a solution to the problem was offered, it wasn’t particularly helpful. That’s because Denise was advised to simply “burn everything and run.”
The Torkingtons also consulted their neighbors on the issue, but they too had no idea what was going on. As a result, the couple finally resorted to consulting pest control experts in a bid to exterminate the garden invaders for good. Indeed, as Denise would tell the Daily Mail in September 2017, “I’m hoping they don’t come back – that would be a nightmare.”
As for the species of the spiders invading the Torkingtons’ lawn? Well, according to a 2017 report by The Queensland Times that retold the couple’s unnerving story, they are in all probability either young wolf spiders or water spiders. As their name suggests, however, water spiders are usually seen wherever it’s particularly wet – like swamps, for instance. It seems more likely, then, that the culprits responsible for the suburban garden web are wolf spiders.
Indeed, wolf spiders do show up in grassy areas, so it is certainly possible that they chose the Torkingtons’ backyard as a habitat. Alarmingly, though, Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Entomology has also revealed that the species may bite if touched. It’s fortunate, then, that the wolf spider’s venom isn’t too dangerous. In fact, a wolf spider bite will only cause momentary pain and some flushing of the skin – both of which will eventually disappear with time.
But although the exact species of spider to blame is unclear, their actions in the Torkingtons’ garden are nevertheless explainable. And in the Queensland Times’s article on the couple’s unfortunate plight, Queensland Museum arachnid specialist Dr. Robert Raven would detail how the weird web came to be.
Specifically, Dr. Raven said to the newspaper, “The phenomenon [taking place in the Torkingtons’ yard] is called ballooning.” He continued, “[It] consists of the spider pulling a thread of silk, liquid when formed but forming a strand under pressure, out of their spinnerets.”
And, over time, this thread grows in size. Dr. Raven continued, “Eventually, the air’s pull on the silk becomes strong. And the spider must hold onto the leaf or grass as the spider allows the drag to draw out more and more silk, [thus] making the strand longer and longer.”
Dr. Raven then went on to explain to the newspaper that ballooning is used by baby spiders – or spiderlings – to move to a new area. Indeed, it allows spiders to “move thousands of kilometres,” with some even being “reported [to have reached] as high as the stratosphere.” Given that Earth’s stratosphere is at least eight miles above the ground, above where most planes can fly, that’s astonishing.
The spiderlings’ ability to move this far up into Earth’s atmosphere is also explained by Dr. Raven. He stated to The Queensland Times, “The [spiders’] silk is very light and easily lifted in the warm updrafts that form in the morning.” As a result, the arachnid expert added, “Once enough silk is out and the drag on it [is] strong, the spider releases its hold on the plant and floats skyward.”
However, Dr. Raven also had a word of caution for those who prefer to stamp out arachnids. To wit, he explained that the populations of insects upon which spiders prey, like midges and mosquitoes, would have even more free rein over their surroundings. For this reason, then, it’s best to let the eight-legged creatures be.
And, indeed, that was the advice that the Torkingtons were given, according to The Queensland Times. Specifically, the couple were told that if they tried to destroy the web, like Sean had previously tried to do, the spiders would just make a new one. So, they decided instead to leave it alone and give the spiderlings the opportunity to balloon from the area.
Until the arachnids did just that, though, Denise decided to, on the whole, steer clear of her backyard. However, she did venture there, along with her husband, to relocate the trampoline. Then they left the spiders to do their thing.
And, fortunately, there’s a happy end to this tale. That’s because by the day after the trampoline’s removal, the majority of the spiders in the Torkingtons’ yard had vanished. Furthermore, as Denise would tell The Queenland Times, “The day after that, all of them were gone.” That probably made the Australian woman one very relieved arachnophobe indeed.