Spiders Use Electricity to Fly

I’ve always found it pretty cool that some types of spiders can “fly” using webs. I had believed it involved airflow, but that’s apparently not it. According to “Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity”, that doesn’t even make a lot of sense. Instead, a pair of biologists have demonstrated that spiders can use electric fields to lift them into the air. From the article:

First, they showed that spiders can detect electric fields. They put the arachnids on vertical strips of cardboard in the center of a plastic box, and then generated electric fields between the floor and ceiling of similar strengths to what the spiders would experience outdoors. These fields ruffled tiny sensory hairs on the spiders’ feet, known as trichobothria. “It’s like when you rub a balloon and hold it up to your hairs,” Morley says.

The idea of achieving flight using electricity in this manner was first proposed in the 1800s, and then spider flight this way was demonstrated as mathematically possible by a physicist in 2013.

In the lab, the spiders responded to the electric fields by positioning themselves in a way that has only been seen when spiders are about to balloon, and some took off.

Nature’s pretty amazing! The results of the study appear in Current Biology here.