Even Spiders Know Everything's Bigger in Texas Lake Tawakoni State Park in Texas has some new tenants: spiders – lots of spiders. And they have spun a giant communal web. Several hundred yards along a nature trail have been taken over by the elaborate arachnid construction.
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Even Spiders Know Everything's Bigger in Texas

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Even Spiders Know Everything's Bigger in Texas

Even Spiders Know Everything's Bigger in Texas

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A huge, elaborate network of spider webs at a Texas state park is mystifying scientists. So far, there's been no writing in the webs, no letters spelling out some pig or radiant that Charlotte herself might look at the masses of draping webs and say, wow. At Lake Tawakoni State Park, several hundred yards along a nature trail have been taken over the elaborate arachnid construction, web stretching from tree to tree and down to the ground.

Donna Garde is the superintendent of the park, about 50 miles from Dallas.

And Donna Garde, how do those webs look today?

Ms. DONNA GARDE (Superintendent, Lake Tawakoni State Park, Texas): Well, they're a little drippy and creepy-looking actually. We had some rain that knocked them down, so there's no more fairyland spider webs. It's a little creepier now.

BLOCK: Creepier?

Ms. GARDE: Yeah, it is. There would be a darker, scary movie now instead of just a fantasy scary movie.

BLOCK: Is that sort of what it's been like to go out there and look at the thing?

Ms. GARDE: It really is. It's just hard to believe that it's not manmade, fake Hollywood set. It's just so incredible. The amount of webbing is just hard to believe that these little, teeny, one-inch-long or less spiders have made all of these.

BLOCK: Give us some sense of the scale of this. I'm trying to picture 200 yards worth of spider webs.

Ms. GARDE: Spiders, I know. That's the general area. The original spider web covers about five really large posts of trees, plus, a few other trees thrown in for a good measure. So, you know, it's just a massive area, form kind of in a curved shape, so it's hard to see the whole thing at once. It sort of circles a little pond that was probably providing plenty of food with all of those little mosquitoes hatching all the time. That's what the hum noise was that you would hear when you go in there so.

BLOCK: You could hear the mosquitoes in the webs?

Ms. GARDE: That was the second thing that strikes you when you - when we first came to this web and we're paying attention to it. The first thing, of course, is the big mass of web and then the next thing you notice is this loud hum. And you could actually approach this web pretty close and stand there and watch these little trapped mosquitoes. And they weren't able to get to you. They were trapped. It was terrific. Buzzing and…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: And terrific for the spiders, too.

Ms. GARDE: Well, you know, I think maybe at the time I saw it, the spiders were probably so well fed they weren't really tearing around, you know, grabbing these mosquitoes. They were just in there, trapped and buzzing around. I mean, I'm sure eventually they've all been eaten. That's what made the web get a little browner and a little heavier, and then the wind and rain took its toll on it also.

BLOCK: How many spiders would you say are responsible for these webs?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARDE: Oh, that is so hard to say. I'll tell you, I measured roughly a cubic foot and I counted, and they're just a really quick count. I counted 35 spiders just in a cubic foot. So thousands, thousands - I wouldn't show up to say billions just to include that old (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARDE: But a lot. How's that?

BLOCK: There's a scientific term.

Ms. GARDE: Yeah. Lot of spiders.

BLOCK: And any idea what kind of spiders these are?

Ms. GARDE: Yeah. The general category is the long-jawed orb-weaver is the type of spider that it is.

BLOCK: A long-jawed orb-weaver.

Ms. GARDE: Orb-weaver. And orb-weaver spiders are very common, but they don't typically behave in a social way. This is a social behavior. They're all grouped together in this web, working together and that isn't the way these spiders are supposed to behave. They're supposed to be solitary guys.

BLOCK: Well, they're just friendly Texans.

Ms. GARDE: They are. That's it. They got together and it worked. You know, so all of those mosquitoes - the group web is actually more effective in capturing them all. So maybe, you know, they just got smart quick.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Are you getting tons of visitors coming to see this curiosity?

Ms. GARDE: Oh, yes, we are. It's great. Of course, there is also the other reaction that we did have. We did have one camper cancel because she was worried her dogs would be eaten by the spiders so…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GARDE: You know, that can happen. People overreact. But so far, these spiders are proved to be quite a crowd-drawer. We're getting a lot of people in.

BLOCK: Well, it sounds like a good time out there at Lake Tawakoni State Park.

Ms. GARDE: Yeah. It really is.

BLOCK: Donna Garde, it's great to talk with you. Thanks very much.

Ms. GARDE: Thank you so much, Melissa.

BLOCK: Donna Garde is the superintendent at Lake Tawakoni State Park in North Texas. You can see those huge spider webs for yourself at npr.org.

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