Lake Tawakoni State Park rangers Mike McCord, left, and Freddie Gowin monitor a giant spider web at the park Tuesday near Willis Point, Texas. [TOM PENNINGTON / AP]
Heads spinning over 200-yard spider web
By Bill Hanna, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
WILLS POINT, Texas — If you hate creepy-crawlies, you might want to avoid Lake Tawakoni State Park, where a 200-yard stretch along a nature trail has been blanketed by a sprawling spider web that has engulfed seven large trees, dozens of bushes and the weedy ground.
If you hate mosquitoes, you might just love this bizarre web.
"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," said Donna Garde, superintendent at the park about 45 miles east of Dallas. "Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes that it's turned a little brown. There are times you can literally hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs."
There have been heated Internet discussions among experts whether the web was constructed by social cobweb spiders, which work together, or is perhaps a mass dispersal in which the arachnids spin webs to spread out.
Either way, it's generating a lot of bug buzz.
"I've been hearing from entomologists from Ohio, Kansas, British Columbia, all over the place," said Mike Quinn, an invertebrate biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who first posted photos of the web on the Web.
But there is little consensus about what sparked the phenomenon or even the type of spider responsible. Parks officials said similar but smaller webs have appeared along another trail.
"From what I'm hearing, it could be a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Herbert "Joe" Pase, a Texas Forest Service entomologist. "It's very, very unusual."
One Texas spider expert couldn't muster much excitement about the giant web.
John Jackman, a professor and extension entomologist for Texas A&M University and author of "A Field Guide to the Spiders and Scorpions of Texas," said he receives similar reports every couple of years.
"There are a lot of folks that don't realize spiders do that," Jackman said.
"Until we get some samples sent to us, we really won't know what species of spider we're talking about."
Garde just wishes the entomologists would check out the spider web in person instead of arguing about it over the Internet.
Rangers expect the giant web to stick around until fall, when the spiders will start dying. Unfortunately, it probably won't last until Oct. 31.
"It would make a good Halloween set, wouldn't it?" said park ranger Freddie Gowin, who found the giant web while mowing about a month ago. "But I don't think you could pay me enough money to run through all of those webs."