Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicago vs. the Spiders

Among the many weird legends about the John Hancock building is that every year there is a huge migration of deadly brown recluse spiders that work their way up the building and then back down. Like many of these legends, it's about half true. Go up to the observation deck this time of year and you'll see a whole LOT of large brown spiders outside of the window.

But, luckily, they aren't brown recluse spiders. They're known as "bridge spiders," a species that makes its home in nature around cliffs and rocks that hang over water and are harmless to humans.  It's also not exclusive to the Hancock - most skyscrapers have them.

It's said that they get up there by "ballooning," a process in which they let out a bit of silk and fly up as though they were attached to a kite. So it's no real paranormal mystery, but I do have a few questions: How come you don't see them flying up from ground level? And did Spider-man ever try ballooning?

Here's a recent Sun times article.  “They are crawling everywhere, they are coming down on their strings everywhere, there are a lot of dead carcasses around — it’s like a haunted house,” (says the Hancock Center broadcast facilities manager). “It’s really weird seeing so many. You scratch your head, literally and figuratively. When I first started, there was a lot of night work and all of sudden you have three or four of them crawling in your hair. As time goes on, you become more aware of them and can brush them away.”

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