Quick Take:

Santa Cruz County residents spotted some unusual white clumps of string floating through the air earlier this week. Although the phenomenon appeared spooky at first glance, its likely explanation is nothing more than typical arachnid behavior.

Santa Cruz County residents might have noticed a peculiar weblike substance floating in the air and scattering around the area earlier this week. The silky material appeared almost like Silly String or tatters from a ripped-up Halloween decoration — fitting for the first few days of October.

That strange sight was not exclusive to Santa Cruz, however. Reports of the material came from all around the Central Coast and Bay Area, including in San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton and even as far as Modesto. National Weather Service meteorologist Dalton Behringer stumbled upon some in Monterey on Wednesday, too.

“I actually encountered a bit of it on the drive to work this morning,” he told Lookout. “I thought for a second that I was seeing things, but then other people here brought it up, too.”

He said that the phenomenon was likely not weather-related, and though he isn’t an insect expert, his best guess as to what the fibrous wisps are is exactly what they look like: spiderwebs.

“I think it’s ballooning spiders,” said Behringer. “Some spiders cast their webs to be picked up by the wind so they can move through the air.”

When locals took to social media to discuss the creepy looking tendrils, many of the comments suggested just that. Not quite the alien or ghostly origins that their appearance might invoke. Primarily used by spiderlings, or baby spiders, to travel and disperse, they will release strands of silk until air currents and electric fields lift them into the air. This unique form of transportation can take the arachnids anywhere from several feet to many miles.

Fall is mating season for many spiders, which could be the reason for such large droves of spiderlings floating through the air.

Halloween might be just around the corner, but this ominous sight is no more than the result of normal spider behavior that just so happened to coincide with the beginning of the spooky season.

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Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...