Did Someone Say '4-Acre Spider Web?'

A creepy story from the Baltimore Wastewater Treatment Plant will give you the heebie-jeebies.
Did Someone Say '4-Acre Spider Web?'
In 2009, experts were called in to deal with a 4-acre spider web at the Baltimore Wastewater Treatment Plant. Image: Entomological Society of America; Greene et al. 2010.

Creepy stories are par for the course this time of year: Ghouls and goblins lurk in shadows, anyone who has a ghost story will tell it, and if you have kids, one of them has probably tried to scare the snot out of you while dressed in full Halloween regalia.

Been there, done that. Not really scared.

But today, some residual Halloween fun trickled into my wastewater news feed, and I found myself with a good case of the heebie-jeebies over a story that’s gone somewhat viral. Maybe it’s because the real world is often more spectacularly creepy than anything we imagine lurks in the dark. And when I say “spectacular,” I mean 4-solid-acres-of-spider-webs creepy.

In 2009, the Baltimore Wastewater Treatment Plant had to call in experts to deal with a 4-acre web that had coated the plant. Just imagine making that phone call. According to a scientific paper that appeared in American Entomologist, the “silk lay piled on the floor in rope-like clumps as thick as a fire hose” where plant employees had swept aside the webbing to access equipment. 

Scientists estimate the megaweb contained about 107 million spiders.

Let’s just pause for a second and consider that number. 107 MILLION spiders, which equals 35,176 arachnids per square meter. Hanging over your head while you work on equipment.

The report stated, “We were unprepared for the sheer scale of the spider population and the extraordinary masses of both three dimensional and sheet-like webbing that blanketed much of the facility’s cavernous interior. Far greater in magnitude than any previously recorded aggregation of orb-weavers, the visual impact of the spectacle was nothing less than astonishing.”

According to an article on the UK’s Daily Mail, the webbing was so heavy it even damaged light fixtures.

Now that’s what I call a creepy-crawly Halloween story.


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