Oh, what a tangled web

By Megan McArdle

I am totally terrified of spiders, along with almost anything else that has more than four legs. (Grasshoppers are okay). Past boyfriends will attest that you don't really know fear until you hear the electrifying strangled screams that emit from my mouth at the sight of, say, a largish cockroach. Naturally, therefore, I was unable to resist clicking on a New York Times headline that read "Got Arachnophobia? Here’s Your Worst Nightmare"

Actually, however, the story turned out to be pretty cool:

Most spiders are solitary creatures. So the discovery of a vast web crawling with millions of spiders that is spreading across several acres of a North Texas park is causing a stir among scientists, and park visitors.

Sheets of web have encased several mature oak trees and are thick enough in places to block out the sun along a nature trail at Lake Tawakoni State Park, near this town about 50 miles east of Dallas.

. . .

Allen Dean, a spider expert at Texas A&M University, has seen a lot of webs, but even he described this one as “rather spooky, kind of like Halloween.”

Mr. Dean and several other scientists said they had never seen a web of this size outside of the tropics, where the relatively few species of “social” spiders that build communal webs are most active.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/08/oh-what-a-tangled-web/1841/