Giant Spider Web at the State Park

Article By: Bill Hanna
Star-Telegram Staff Writer, October 02, 2007

Just as a gigantic web that drew worldwide attention wanes, another one is forming on the opposite side of Lake Tawakoni.

spider web

A second giant spider web has formed in East Texas near Lake Tawakoni at Wind Point Park. This photo, taken Friday, September 28, 2007, shows the thickest areas of the web. (Special to the Star-Telegram/Pam Rousseau)

"One was rare; two is even rarer," said Mike Quinn, a Texas Parks and Wildlife entomologist. "Given that we now have two on that lake, I don't know how likely a third one would be, but I would say a new web could conceivably form anywhere on that lake."

Spider researchers were abuzz Monday as news spread of the second, smaller web that was covering a number of trees on the north shore at Wind Point Park.

Two spider researchers visited the site Monday and found two types of arachnids: long-jawed spiders, Tetragnathidae, and communal nesting spiders, Anelosimus studiosus. Both, along with a number of other types of spiders, were also at the giant web at Lake Tawakoni State Park.

Spider mania descended on this lake about 50 miles east of Dallas after photographs published by the Star-Telegram in August became an Internet sensation.

The publicity brought hordes of visitors and spider enthusiasts to the state park and has prompted one filmmaker to start a documentary about the web.

The second web at Wind Point, a public park run by a private concessionaire, was first noticed about three weeks ago by park employee Pam Rousseau. "Right now, it is covering several trees," Rousseau said. "I would say it's covering parts of 10 trees, but it is definitely growing."

spider web

(Special to the Star-Telegram/Pam Rousseau)

Rousseau, who looks forward to the annual fall butterfly migration through the park, said spiders aren't the only unusual sight this year.

"We're even seeing some bats this year, which we haven't seen before," she said.

The park was visited Monday by Hank Guarisco, adjunct curator of arachnids at the Sternberg Museum at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, and Joe Lapp, a spider enthusiast.

Guarisco couldn't be reached for comment, but Lapp said the spiders appeared to be active.

"We are seeing interesting stuff here," Lapp said. "We witnessed several sheets of webbing being made."

Lapp, who has also visited the web at Tawakoni State Park, said the new web is smaller than the first, covering four or five trees and appearing to be migrating to neighboring trees.

The original web at Tawakoni State Park has diminished in recent weeks. "There are a lot of dead spiders in there, and it doesn't look nearly as impressive as it did a month ago," Quinn said.

More Spider Web Articles and Info...

Thousands of spiders worked together to build huge web
By ANNA M. TINSLEY, Star-Telegram Staff Writer, September 12, 2007

Three times they've built it. Three times wind and rain have torn it down.

But Tuesday afternoon, thousands of Texas spiders were back at it, working to rebuild an immense spider web at Lake Tawakoni State Park that at one time stretched about 200 yards, covering bushes and trees to create a creepy canopy.

Researchers say they now believe thousands of spiders from different species worked together to make one huge web -- much different from the traditional individual webs that would normally be woven. Together, they've built and rebuilt a web that has caught countless bugs and the attention of people nationwide.

"These spiders seem to be working together to build it back," said Zach Lewis, an office clerk at the park. "It's really something to see.

"They're crawling on trees, on the ground, everywhere," he said. "We're here praying for rain all the time, but with something like this, you kind of want the rain to stop."

Months of work

Ever since the web was first spotted this summer at the state park about 50 miles east of Dallas, tourists and park workers have been amazed by its magnitude.

A biker and his son reported seeing the web in mid-June, describing it as something similar to a science fiction movie.

"The webs were just streaming in and out through the tops of the trees," Kim Feuerbacher of Rockwall wrote on a Web site detailing the development of the web. "We could not get off that trail fast enough.

"It looked just like a spider would have jumped from tree to tree with a can of silly string."

New research

Researchers took samples of the spiders in late August and Allen Dean, an entomologist at Texas A&M University in College Station, helped identify them.

He found spiders from 12 families, with the most prevalent being from the Tetragnathidae family. Identified spiders were funnel web weavers, sac spiders, orb weavers, mesh web weavers, wolf spiders, pirate spiders, jumping spiders and long-jawed orb weavers, according to the researchers' report.

For weeks, people have speculated about how such a big web could have been created and whether spiders worked together to build it.

The motive may well be food, researchers say.

The larger the web, the more flies and bugs get stuck, providing an abundant food supply for the spiders.

"Spiders generally are cannibalistic and keep their webs distinct," Dean said. "We're not sure what started the initial webbing...but there probably have been thousands of spiders working on the web.

"With the amount of rain that has occurred this year and the huge food supply available, it just created the right condition for all of this," he said. "It's possible we'll see it again. But this happened to be a year where the conditions were right."

Trying to rebuild

For now, park workers and visitors are keeping an eye on the web and the spiders.

Mother Nature hasn't helped, with wind and rain knocking down the massive web at least three times.

When spider fans come to see the web, park host volunteer Trisha Brian tells them if it's down.

"But it's still an amazing sight," she said. "Where the web fell down, all the foliage under that has died off. It's brown and yucky.

"But you see the spiders working, trying to rebuild. They're spinning within trees and when the wind dies down, we're assuming they'll go tree to tree again," she said. "Hollywood couldn't have done as good a job in their best day as nature has done with this."

Monster Spider web spun in Texas
Courtesy: AP via, September 1, 2007
WILLS POINT, Texas (AP) -- Entomologists are debating the origin and rarity of a sprawling spider web that blankets several trees, shrubs and the ground along a 200-yard stretch of trail in a North Texas park.

spider web

Lake Tawokoni State Park rangers Mike McCord, left, and Freddie Gowin check out a giant spider web at the park.

Officials at Lake Tawakoni State Park say the massive mosquito trap is a big attraction for some visitors, while others won't go anywhere near it.

"At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland," said Donna Garde, superintendent of 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."

Spider experts say the web may have been constructed by social cobweb spiders, which work together, or could be the result of a mass dispersal in which the arachnids spin webs to spread out from one another.

"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 online.

Herbert A. "Joe" Pase, a Texas Forest Service entomologist, said the massive web is very unusual.

"From what I'm hearing it could be a once-in-a-lifetime event," he said.

But John Jackman, a professor and extension entomologist for Texas A&M University, said he hears reports of similar webs every couple of years.

"There are a lot of folks that don't realize spiders do that," said Jackman, author of "A Field Guide to the Spiders and Scorpions of Texas."

"Until we get some samples sent to us, we really won't know what species of spider we're talking about," Jackman said.

Garde invited the entomologists out to the park to get a firsthand look at the giant web.

"Somebody needs to come out that's an expert. I would love to see some entomology intern come out and study this," she said.

Park rangers said they expect the web to last until fall, when the spiders will start dying off.

Picture courtesy: Van Zandt
1st Spider Web at Lake Tawakoni State Park

Picture courtesy: Van Zandt
One of the Spiders that built the web

Picture courtesy: Donna Garde
2nd Spider Web on other side of Lake Tawakoni

Picture courtesy: Donna Garde
2nd Spider Web on other side of Lake Tawakoni