A Spider Nation
November 7, 2014 9:15 AM   Subscribe

In 2010 administrators at the Black River Wastewater Treatment facility in Baltimore, Maryland sought help for a massive 4-acre spider colony that had been established in the building. This .pdf of the resulting report describes, with pictures, the immense collection of spiders. With over 35,000 spiders per cubic meter, and web silk that (when swept aside) coiled to the size of a "fire hose", the massive web is a sight to behold. In the news previously, a massive group of spiders colonized part of a Texas park in 2007. Here is a video of a spider colony in Brazil, and the accompanying Wired article describing the phenomenon (previously). Spiders are typically solitary creatures, but some species will band together when the prey is numerous or large enough.
posted by codacorolla (74 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow.. That's kind of cool. Even cooler that it's on the other side of the continent from me, though..
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:21 AM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


There is not enough "fuck no" in the universe to summarize my feelings right now.
posted by ardgedee at 9:22 AM on November 7, 2014 [18 favorites]


Amazing. I hope they don't destroy it.
posted by shivohum at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am just imagining how long it would take for the feeling of spider web across your face to go away after being in there. A year? A decade? Forever?
posted by srboisvert at 9:24 AM on November 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


From the report:
The "Back River Arachnotopia" (as we referred to it in our education material furnished to the plant managers) thus highlights the utility of aquacentric structures as accessible research sites where the dynamics of predictable spider hyperabundance can be closely examined under relatively comfortable conditions.
There are a lot of wonderful things about that sentence but the best one is "relatively comfortable."
posted by theodolite at 9:25 AM on November 7, 2014 [28 favorites]


Yeah, you guys enjoy this post, I'll just be over here.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:26 AM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's beautiful.
posted by dng at 9:26 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just reading the FPP text has me all itchy. And yet...and yet I know I'm gonna click those links. I don't know why I'm going to click them, but I'm fascinated. Itchy, but fascinated.
posted by DGStieber at 9:28 AM on November 7, 2014


This is what vacuum cleaner hoses are for.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:28 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, they should try to harvest all that silk and make some really gross sweaters.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:29 AM on November 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


"On-site personnel should be reassured that the spiders are harmless and the facility’s immense shroud of silk should be presented in a positive light as a record-breaking natural history wonder."

good luck with that one guys
posted by Earthtopus at 9:29 AM on November 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


It looks beautiful, and I'd much prefer a building full of spiders somewhere over there to a swarm of midges eating me. Just so long as I don't actually have to do anything in that building.

I've got no idea how you'd clean up all those webs if you wanted to. Sure, you could get them down, but how do you stop the spiders coming back?
posted by YAMWAK at 9:30 AM on November 7, 2014


I am only a very reluctant spiderfrand and was prepared for horrors but these articles are way more neato then they are terrifying.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:30 AM on November 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


The offhanded reference to "the huge Cincinnati L. sclopetarius web" (p. 152) hits a wonderful combination of hilarity and foreboding as well.

edit: p. 152 in the .pdf article from American Entomologist)
posted by Earthtopus at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I just hope they have enough time to evacuate the human population of Baltimore before they take off and nuke the site from orbit.
posted by The Tensor at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Soundtrack for the thread
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Alternate headline:

Disgusting wastewater breeds enough bugs to feed trillions of spiders: officials want spiders gone.
posted by odinsdream at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [33 favorites]


What is the food source in that building capable of supporting 107 million spiders?? eeeeeeeeeeeEEEeeee
posted by something something at 9:34 AM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


So every year, a single orb weaver seems to take up residence somewhere near our front door. We always call him Joel Spiderman. This year he's living between the railing and a bush. Sometimes his web gets a little too big and mrs ozzy pleads with me to remove him, but I won't, unless he's actually intruding on our ingress/egress. I'm not particularly fond of spiders, but I recognize that he's providing a valuable service.

I'm tempted to send her the Brazil video, but then she would never sleep again.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:37 AM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Let me get this straight: in a building that gets raw sewage pumped into it every day, there are more than one million spiders in a seething mat of eight-eyed-eight-leggedy-ness?

And this place hasn't been imploded and encased like Chernobyl Redux why again?
posted by wenestvedt at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2014


You guys should come and visit my workshop. It feels like this some days, and I only really get those super-spindly wispy spiders out there, really, with the occasional terrier-sized is-it-a-hobo-or-giant-house-spider. I'd have to upgrade my shop-vac.
posted by maxwelton at 9:42 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Think about how much prey must be available to support a colony the size of the Baltimore one. Think how many fewer bugs there are thanks to the colony!

What a great planet we live on.
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on November 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


What is the food source in that building capable of supporting 107 million spiders?? eeeeeeeeeeeEEEeeee

Midges apparently. Lots and lots of midges swarming from the water of the treatment plant.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:46 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


spider Hamsterdam!
posted by floweringjudas at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


What is the food source in that building capable of supporting 107 million spiders?? eeeeeeeeeeeEEEeeee

I'm sure the juveniles must go joyriding in the human skin suits for burger runs all the time. It's pretty cheeky to pass themselves off as entomologists, mind.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:47 AM on November 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


something something:
"What is the food source in that building capable of supporting 107 million spiders??"
Entomologists
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:48 AM on November 7, 2014 [29 favorites]


Do people make spider-themed posts primarily because they want to see the horrified reactions of other mefites? I don't think trolling is the right word. Trapdoor spidering?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:10 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, what a descriptive FPP. On the other hand, what a descriptive FPP.
posted by jeather at 10:12 AM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Do people make spider-themed posts primarily because they want to see the horrified reactions of other mefites?

Highly unlikely. Empty "NOOOOOPE!" posts are of absolutely no value. None.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do people make spider-themed posts primarily because they want to see the horrified reactions of other mefites? I don't think trolling is the right word. Trapdoor spidering?

I just like spiders. Absolutely there is no ulterior motive.
posted by codacorolla at 10:14 AM on November 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


Seriously spiders are awesome. We have two orb spiders this year. One of them is named Olivia, and the other is named Handy "The Snake" Popniuk.

Josie Penguin may have named them.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:17 AM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Entomologists

Arachnologists
posted by The Tensor at 10:17 AM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ok, well, maybe there is a little bit of an ulterior motive.
posted by codacorolla at 10:18 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


A long time ago I worked in a corporate lab that gave tours to customers. One time we gave a tour to a third grade class. I showed them the first image of a fly taken with a scanning electron microscope, and a couple of kids said, "ew" -- so a couple of kids said, loudly, "AWESOME!" I showed them the next image and the "ew" chorus got louder so the "awesome" chorus got louder. By the time I got to the third image both halves of the class were screaming their approval/disapproval and their teacher was rolling his eyes.

Anyway I love metafilter spider threads, and they remind me of that tour.
posted by gerstle at 10:27 AM on November 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


Let me get this straight: in a building that gets raw sewage pumped into it every day, there are more than one million spiders in a seething mat of eight-eyed-eight-leggedy-ness?

It doesn't have raw sewage pumped into it. It's a sand filtration facility, which as TFA says is the final "polishing" step in water purification. The water that goes into the plant is already pretty clean, and the sand is just there to take out whatever bits and pieces might have eluded the earlier filtration and cleaning processes. After that the water is pumped back into the Back River and thence into the Chesapeake.

It's probably not ideal that it's become a gigantic breeding ground for midges, mind you; but on the other hand, the spiders seem to have that in hand. :-)
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:30 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hmm.
107 million orb-weaver spiders? Assuming they can be approximated to golden orb weavers, then adult females weigh around 4 grams. Let's approximate them to half that (males are a bit smaller). We're talking about roughly 200 million grams, or 200 metric tons of spiders in this building. Or 50 tons of spidermeat per acre.

Never mind the spiders. Think of how many tons of maggots and flies they must chow down on per day!
posted by cstross at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


You're in Carcosa now.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:40 AM on November 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


You're in Carcosa now.

Ehh, I'm pretty sure this is a gateway to Leng.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:43 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mass spider colonies seem to appear mostly near large open bodies of water?

I've never in my life been so glad to be living in the desert.
posted by sharp pointy objects at 10:48 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wandering Monster Table

1 Spider
2 Spider
3 Spider
4 Spider
5 1d6 Spiders
6 Web - roll against strength to break free
7 Web and 1d6 Spiders
8 2d6 Spiders
9 1d100 Spiders
10 10d100 Spiders
11 All the Spiders
12 Lolth
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:48 AM on November 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


uncleozzy, thank you for taking care of your garden orb. They are beautiful creatures who help people a lot! So showy and glamorous members of spiderkind!
posted by winna at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is what you get when you build a wastewater treatment facility in the forest of Mirkwood.
posted by Ber at 11:08 AM on November 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


"average water treatment has 33,999 spiders per cubic meter" factoid actually statistical error. average wastewater treatment plant has 100 spiders per cubic meter. Black River Wastewater Treatment plant has over 35,000 spiders per cubic meter, is an outlier adn should not have been counted.
posted by codacorolla at 11:12 AM on November 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


Arachnofoliage.
posted by dhartung at 11:14 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dear God! SCP-1006 is loose! Privet, Tovarishch!
posted by ob1quixote at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


As Stalin says, "quantity has a quality all its own," and I would be trying to fill a five gallon bucket with spider web material. Many uses for that stuff would surely come to me later, but stopping shaving nicks from bleeding is just one that I can think of right now.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:48 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know if you'd want to put that on your face. From the report it seems like the web is full of spider frass and empty midge carcasses.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:54 AM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


StickyCarpet, you beat me to it. I immediately thought, we should get some crafters in there. As the tensile strength of spider silk is comparable to Kevlar, (source, MIT) we could make some pretty awesome sweaters!
posted by Sophie1 at 11:54 AM on November 7, 2014


Dear God! SCP-1006 is loose! Privet, Tovarishch

The rise of spider communism is a historical inevitability
posted by The Whelk at 11:59 AM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Disgusting wastewater breeds enough bugs to feed trillions of spiders: officials want spiders gone.

What could possibly go wrong?
posted by Anne Neville at 12:00 PM on November 7, 2014


Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton: Also, they should try to harvest all that silk and make some really gross sweaters.

Sweaters that would be near-impossible to remove from your body, even after much frantic swiping and hopping around.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:07 PM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


What they need in this facility are these 3,000 tarantulas somebody seems to be selling on Facebook.
posted by whir at 12:20 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


200 metric tons of spiders in this building

My God, it's full of spiders. (Yes, I would watch the hell out of that movie.)
posted by The Bellman at 12:34 PM on November 7, 2014


This post is giving me flashbacks of smelling that wretched plant on hot summer nights as a kid with no a/c.

I love that the spiders are there. I wonder how long they've been there?
posted by HumanComplex at 12:40 PM on November 7, 2014


It looks beautiful, and I'd much prefer a building full of spiders somewhere over there to a swarm of midges eating me.

Especially since those midges could only have spawned in the "wastewater", aka sewage -- possibly raw sewage, and could potentially transmit dangerous bacteria to you just by landing on you.

Those spiders are a major public health asset.
posted by jamjam at 12:53 PM on November 7, 2014


If you're looking for me, I'll be in the shower. For the next 2 weeks, at minimum.
posted by tommasz at 1:05 PM on November 7, 2014


Or 50 tons of spidermeat per acre.

"In retrospect, we should have looked harder at the Maryland gubernatorial election, and in particular the last minute contributions from McDonalds Corporation that swung the race. But at the time, nobody connected the dots. Just like nobody thought that the rapid privatization of the water treatment facilities was anything out of the ordinary, either. And if anyone thought that 2015's McRib was a little tastier than usual, despite the record high hog prices, they failed to mention it. In time, anyway."
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've been here before. I lost a 5th level paladin in this building to the hive mother.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I hate bugs, so I am at least nominally pro-spider. These bugs are doing the lord's work.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:31 PM on November 7, 2014


Non-bugs? Arachnids.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:42 PM on November 7, 2014


This is amazing and beautiful. Does anything say how long it took the building to go from naked to fully draped?
posted by dilettante at 3:43 PM on November 7, 2014


200 metric tons of spiders in this building

That's got to be a "bringing down the building" hazard.
posted by ctmf at 5:13 PM on November 7, 2014


There's a tiny, insistent voice in the back of my head screaming "Burn it! Burn it all!"
posted by Sphinx at 5:19 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think I'll just slink off and re-watch Kingdom of the Spiders.

Spoiler: ending
posted by mazola at 10:32 PM on November 7, 2014


Dealt with this before. You need shears, and a torch to place on top of the spider spawner. Diamond armour helps too.
posted by memebake at 12:14 AM on November 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


200 metric tons of spiders in this building

That's got to be a "bringing down the building" hazard.
posted by ctmf at 5:13 PM on November 7


Not to mention the webs.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:59 AM on November 8, 2014


That's got to be a "bringing down the building" hazard.

It is spread out over a large area. The building would have been (over)designed for a greater snow load than that
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:39 AM on November 8, 2014


So The Walking Dead is missing the spider porn that post-apocalyptic world should have then.
posted by srboisvert at 2:55 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and read this, then went back to sleep and dreamed I went to visit my mother and there was a huge roiling mass of spiders and web on the ceilings and my sister started cleaning them and there were spiders on me. I probably should have waited until morning to click the link.
posted by Cocodrillo at 5:06 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


To quote a comment from the first link - take the first Nope train to Fuckthatville.
posted by nzero at 9:44 AM on November 8, 2014


The building would have been (over)designed for a greater snow load than that

So...what happens when it snows?
posted by nzero at 9:53 AM on November 8, 2014


So...what happens when it snows?

A giant ice spider materializes and props up the roof.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:16 PM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've told the story here before about the time I was almost emasculated by a spider. For years after that I lived in concrete high rises, far above the messy nature and all it's chitinous terrors.

Now I live in an old victorian house and there are spiders everywhere. I don't like them at all, except for two orb weavers who weave their webs between the front gate pillars and the jasmine and the azaleas, where two wrought iron and wavy glass pane lamps attract enough bugs to keep them fat and happy.

A neighbor who has lived here for 30 years says they are in the same spot every year, and the landlord says he can remember them from his childhood 70 years ago. The gardeners leave them alone, and I imagine the spiders have been here since the lamps where gas and not compact fluorescent. I like to think they guard the house better than the stone lions that found on so many of my neighbors' gate pillars (or are they called plinths when they double up as statue-holder-ups and gate supports?).

My daughter says hello and bye-bye to the spiders every day. 'Araña' was one of her first 50 words. Her older cousin is visiting from Italy, and today my daughter took her to see the spiders. One of the neighbor's kids followed them.

Then we heard an argument. A loud and passionate argument as only a group of two and three year old girls can have: "ARAÑA!" "NOOO!!!! SPIDER" "NO NO NO!!! RAGNO" "NO! ARAÑA!" "SPIDER!!!" "RAGNO!!!!!!"

After a while my daughter and niece settled on Araño and the Spider girl, feeling outnumbered, distracted everyone by pointing at her new hat.

Spiders, teaching toddlers the importance of family sticking together, and something about Latin pride.

As soon as they can pronounce the name, I am going to get the three girls together and show them that they are all wrong. The proper name is Ungoliant, and if you don't share your iPad, she will send Shelob at night to weave sticky webs inside your shoes.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:47 PM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh, gosh, I love spider threads. (Amazing web formations, btw.). I'm laughing aloud while resolutely not saying "hey, babe, did you see this FPP?" to my arachno-averse sweetie who's sitting four feet away from me.

Yay, spiders. Even the ones that aren't peacock-colored and don't dance.
posted by Lexica at 8:22 PM on November 9, 2014


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