Talk:Ballooning (spider)

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Ballooning is not mechanical ballooning, but kiting.[edit]

Editors are invited to get citations that give balance for the reader; the "ballooning" term is prominent for the action of the spider for aerial transport, but the mechanics is kiting, indeed dynamic soaring kiting withthe spider's body providing the lower dynamic kiting anchor while the silk's undulations and form give kiting lift and drag. Not all spiders fly far, but when the kiting occurs well, the spiders can get long distances. There silk that gives the winging for the kiting never forms a mechanical lighter-than-air balloon, only forms that result in dynamic kiting. Notice in some sources that authors will see the kiting of the bridge silk, but then use the prominent term for ballooning when transport is done. The term "ballooning" has been unfortunate because of its mismatch of the physical facts; but while that prominence is there, an encyclopedic effort should be made to indicate that what is called "ballooning" is mechanically free-flight dynamic kiting. For example, a clip:

"" 8. Kiting - spider let go a bundle of silk, wind blow the silk and carry it to the other end, and attached. Details can also be find on our Garden Orb Web Spider page. 9. Ballooning - most young spiders distributed by ballooning. When the young spiders grow strong enough to leave their mother, they hold a short length of silk and wait for the wind. When there is the wind, because of their light weight, the wind carry them to the sky as someone holding a big balloon in air. The highest record of animals in the sky is not the flying bird nor the flying insect. It is the ballooning spider.""

Joefaust (talk) 02:49, 16 March 2008 (UTC) The references gives already have in them that the obervers had open questions about the "ballooning" silk; they noted that the individual threads seemed to stay apart from each other and sometimes formed a triangular sheet...without tangling; thus no mechanical balloon is formed. Since the density of the silk is heavier than air, then the thermals of the air and the gusts ...react on the silk and deflection enough occurs to keep the spider flying; such mechanics is kiting by all prominent definitions of kiting. That insect observers apply the term "ballooning" does not mean that the article be absent of recognizing that the prominent term "ballooning" is historical and not mechanical. Serve the reader with the chance to understand the mechanics over the misnomer. Joefaust (talk) 03:09, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

This should be moved[edit]

Last I checked mites and caterpillars were not spiders... I'd move it myself but don't know a common term for silk producers. Noodle snacks (talk) 00:30, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

Ballooning vs. Kiting[edit]

~Eric F (talk) 17:38, 2 November 2012 (UTC)

I wasn't expecting this to be controversial, but "ballooning" and "kiting" are both forms of aerial locomotion. It seems the media has gotten hold of the idea that since kiting explains how some spiders disperse great distances, that somehow the explanation of ballooning is obsolete. These terms are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive, and should be explained separately, although there is some commonality. Note also that the larvae of some other arthropods also employ ballooning and/or kiting (e.g.: Gypsy moth). In some cases the distinction is simply a matter of distance, i.e.: dispersal vs. locomotion; for example, ballooning can simply be employed to get to the next tree, whereas kiting can be employed to get to the next island or even continent. See also:[Ballooning dispersal in arthropod taxa with convergent behaviours: dynamic properties of ballooning silk in turbulent flows]. At least this is my understanding. Discuss?

There are two kinds of balloons that can be used for flight. One is the hot air balloon, and the other is a balloon filled with hydrogen or helium. Surely nobody is claiming that spiders are lighting fires or generating hydrogen. Actually, neither term is particularly appropriate since there is nothing like a proper kite at the end of a spider's method of ascent. I suppose that it is possible that some spiders capable of making broad swaths of silk will start by making a sort of wide tape of web and then attach that to a single "drag line" sort of kite string. However, I've never seen any scientific published data on this subject.P0M (talk) 23:28, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Actually "ballooning" can mean whatever it is defined as, e.g.: "Ballooning refers to the aerial displacement of spiders made possible by friction between rising air and strands of silk."[1]. Also, there is plenty of published scientific data:[2], not to mention in the popular press:[3]. Anyway... ~Cheers, E (talk) 05:32, 26 October 2012 (UTC) Modified: (talk) 07:56, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
It isn't clear to me in what way ballooning and kiting are not synonymous, as you claim above. PaleCloudedWhite (talk) 08:38, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Ballooning is simply releasing gossamer strands which are sort of spun out into the wind until there is enough aerodynamic force to carry them "up and away". Kiting is still somewhat mysterious. They actually fly on mini kite-shaped airfoil structures which can carry them to extreme altitudes and distances: 16k+ ft, 1000s of miles. It is uncertain if they weave kites or if the kites form naturally from turbulence/eddies and laminar flow forces on the long tether-strands. You could probably find more sources, there are even some stories in the so-called "popular scientific media". ~Eric F (talk) 05:16, 1 November 2012 (UTC) - To reiterate the point I'm trying to make; since the popular media came out with their "Amazing New Discovery" stories about kiting spiders, folks are under the impression that somehow kiting disproves ballooning -- which as far as I can tell, is not necessarily the case. This is my understanding, but I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, and evidence suggests that "my understanding" is not infallible. ~E: (talk) 05:35, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
I am under the impression that people have observed ballooning taking place, whereas unless someone has recorded spiders actually weaving kites, then I don't see how, from the point of view of spider behaviour, it can be regarded as separate from ballooning. If the 'kites' form as a result of forces in the atmosphere acting on simple strands of silk, then the spiders themselves haven't done anything different compared to spinning silk into the wind as per ballooning - it's just that the wind has created a different outcome. PaleCloudedWhite (talk) 09:21, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
At any rate, an interesting topic that should be expanded in the Ballooning (spider) article. My only 1st-hand experience relates to tiny spiders that seem to 'fly' between trees, leaving behind a strand of silk - at exactly face height - a form of arboreal locomotion sometimes referred to as pranking-the-human (at least by me; sometimes when I leave the house early in the morning I hear the faint sound of tiny giggling spiders in the bushes). ~Eric F (talk) 17:50, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
When spiders balloon, they're attached to (and hence 'bring up the rear' of) their silk line, so logic suggests there shouldn't be a line of silk left remaining across where they've 'flown'. Maybe you're walking into failed or 'aborted' balloon strands, that have caught on a bush rather than sail up into the sky? Or could you be walking into an anchoring line of a web? I have a fruit cage at home, which is full of spiders because predatory birds can't access it, and in the mornings I usually get a faceful of web - sometimes with owner attached - as a reward for the protection that I unwittingly provide. (I don't think they giggle at that, because I've destroyed their work). PaleCloudedWhite (talk) 23:43, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
I understand the logic that ballooning shouldn't leave a tether behind, but I see no evidence of aborted orb-weaving either; so, even after reading much more than intended, I'm still somewhat mystified. They're probably having a good laugh. ~E: (talk) 04:24, 2 November 2012 (UTC) "Hey Doc, sometimes I hear spiders. These aren't just ordinary spiders..."

Potential sources?[edit]


When spiders build webs it is generally thought that they walk from one initial tethering point down to the ground, across to another bush or tree, and then up again. When they reach a suitable point they tether the other end of their silk and that gives them a sort of scaffold from which to start. It is also possible that they might find higher points where the branches of two trees cross each other, and so make their trek well above ground level.

This supposed methodology does not explain how spiders are able to build webs between trees or bushes on two sides of a stream. One possibility is that the spider simply dangles itself down from a high point on one side of the stream, and then a strong wind carries it sidewise across the stream. The spider could let out more silk as its trajectory became more nearly horizontal. If the wind was light, then it is conceivable that the spider might hold onto the drop line with its feet and release a "balloon" line that would blow in the wind and add another component of force to its horizontal progress.

I frequently notice single strands of spider silk coming down at an angle from some immense height and terminating on some bush or building somewhat below the level of my own head. These lines of silk do not seem to be doing anything. They are not parts of structures. It appears to me that some spider has decided to go traveling, has let itself down from the top of a building or tree, and has been blown sidewise on the way down, resulting in its taking a diagonal path.

The way that spiders initiate ballooning is pretty standard across species. Spiders who find themselves on an arid patch (or a patch without prey) will arrange their legs nicely and grab hold of the surface they are standing on, and then they will lift their abdomens to an almost vertical position. Thereupon they begin to produce silk, the wind catches the silk, the spider produces more and more silk, and then at some point the spider seems to sense that there is a sufficient force stretching its silk to take it aloft, so at that point the spider releases its grip on the ground or whatever it is standing on, and is carried aloft. There must be a genetic/innate component to this behavior since spiders do the same thing across species, and there do not seem to be cultures of spiders that do it one way in one place and time and another way in another place and time.

Fabre may have written about this phenomenon, and if he investigated it he would have done a thorough job. I am not sure of whether any recent researchers have paid attention to this kind of behavior.P0M (talk) 23:14, 12 November 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for the explanation, ~cheers! ~Eric F (talk) 02:25, 13 November 2012 (UTC)

re-write Sept 2013[edit]

As an editor new to this article, I felt it needed a major reconstruction. It read as if editors had got caught up in discussion about whether ballooning was kiting or not and other side issues to the point that the overalll article had been neglected. This was particularly the case with the opening sentences. So, I have been bold (perhaps overly bold!) and tweaked sections, brought together relevant sentences, moved sections, and asked for citations. Of course this is all open to discussion, so if you have any complaints/questions, please post them.__DrChrissy (talk) 18:49, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

New data! See:
Ballooning Spiders: The Case for Electrostatic Flight
Peter W. Gorham
Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa, HI 96822.

PDF available online.P0M (talk) 17:31, 25 September 2013 (UTC)

Types of silk[edit]

I know that many spider species have control over the mechanical properties of the silk they produce, as well as the application of adhesive to the strands. Is there any research on the special properties of the silk used for ballooning? One might speculate that ballooning silk is formulated for strength and durability, and that adhesive might be omitted (to reduce tangling), and that there might be special shock-absorbing or wind-catching characteristics. By contrast, anchoring filaments might be coated with adhesive. Can anybody find WP:RS to confirm or refute these speculations? Reify-tech (talk) 16:07, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

I don't know of specific research. People have observed spiders in flight for ages, and sometimes they have even come down on sailing ships and probably other ships as well. I've never heard of this gossamer being sticky. Indeed, most of the time when I run into single strands of silk, as I did just this past evening, it does not stick to my body or to my clothing. Actually, I can't think of a single time when a silk strand has stuck to me. I'll have to try it on the next orb web I see.
The strand of silk I ran into was quite stretchy. I think that if I had stretched the smallest gauge guitar strength to an equal extent it would surely have broken. However, I think that for kiting it would perhaps be better not to have the strand of silk be too springy. It might result in a breeze stretching the silk rather than moving the spider aloft, and any vibration set up in a stretchy line would turn lofting energy into heat. Probably some stretch is good so that the spider does not get yanked off its own strand of silk if a sudden wind really gives the kite part a strong push.
The stretchiness of the main parts of an orb web functions to make the struggling of relatively large prey ineffective in securing its release. A struggling moth might break the strands of a relatively frangible web, or if it still had the use of its wings it could pull loose from a stiff web. However, a stretchy web would just stretch while letting the moth exhaust itself, and when the moth quit fighting the web would snap back and probably entangle the moth even more firmly when the web stretched in the other direction and then rebounded while the moth was still being carried forward by its own momentum.
I seem to remember that the far end of the flying spider's silk is frayed or multi-fibered or otherwise made so that it has a much greater surface area than would just a single strand of silk. I'll try to remember to track that reference down. I guess the spider would have to do some silk magic between its two rearmost legs to form a kite. Maybe it would use some adhesive to join the fibers of a sort of a kite at that time. Any other adhesive would just be asking for trouble.P0M (talk) 06:53, 3 September 2014 (UTC)