Spiders have been a plague on the earth ever since they marched their eight feet out of hell. In some areas, spiders have been known to cocoon entire trees. And it turns out there's a benefit to their efforts.
One such giant spiderweb site was found near Lake Tawakoni in Texas. Webs of long-jawed orb spiders stretched out over several trees. The superindendent of the park had this to say, "At first, it was so white it looked like fairyland. Now it's filled with so many mosquitoes it's turned a little brown...you can hear the screech of millions of mosquitoes caught in those webs." What a fun way to spend a night! A bottle of wine, a picnic blanket, your sweetheart, and the panicked death-screams of millions of insects.
Another such site of eight-legged horror has just sprung up in Sindh, Pakistan. Heavy rains caused destructive flash floods late last year. These floods left many people homeless. Over time, the waters level went down, but much of the ground is still covered in pools. The area's spiders, unable to make their webs on grass or low-lying bushes, took to the trees by the million. They completely encased the trees in the area - and many people believe this is a good thing. The pools of water left on the ground are an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos. Despite such fertile spawning areas, there haven't been as many mosquito bites as would be expected. The spider-trees, scientists believe, are massively cutting down on the local mosquito population and reducing the number of cases of malaria.
Which doesn't mean that spiders don't belong in hell. It just means that mosquitos belong there, too.
Image: DFID/Russell Watkins