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Word of the Week: Ballooning
September 05, 2018 by Sammy Tangir

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Wednesday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Photo by Robin Loznak: Spider sending up threads of silk to be carried along in the wind.

Ballooning [buh-loon-ing] (noun)

Not all flying insects have wings! Spiders can move through the air by sending out threads of silk into the wind in a process called Ballooning! 

A spider will shoot up to 60 strings of silk out of their Spinnerets (a silk spinning organ on their abdomen). These threads of silk can be up to 6 feet long and it allows spiders to disperse hundreds of kilometres, and even overseas!

Studies have found that Spiders don’t just send out thread and fly, rather they test the wind, waiting for a gentle breeze. Studies have also discovered that it might not just be the wind helping spiders to take flight. Just like how the hair on our arms head sticks up after being rubbed by a ballon, that same electrostatic forces in the air could also be one of the means of liftoff for spiders!  

Want to see footage of spider ballooning in action, check out this video

Sammy Tangir - Sammy is a serious nature nerd and especially enthusiastic about plants! When she is not thinking of next week's nature word, she is working as an outdoor educator and practicing her wood carving skills.

Sources: 

https://www.sciencealert.com/spiders-use-electric-fields-to-fly-balloon-through-the-air-and-migrate  

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/07/the-electric-flight-of-spiders/564437/ 

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2171701-spiders-can-fly-because-they-make-near-invisible-paragliders/ 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/26/science/spiders-ballooning-wind.html 

Spiders of Toronto, City of Toronto Biodiversity Series

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