Turns Out, Spiders Use Electricity to Fly


[♩INTRO] So you’re walking along, minding your own
business, when you notice something out of the corner
of your eye and look up. That’s when you see thousands upon thousands
of spiders on long silk balloons falling from the sky
all at once. You’ve just witnessed one of the most incredible,and
terrifying, natural phenomena on the planet: spider rains. For a long time, scientists assumed that,
like kites, ballooning spiders can fly because their silken
threads generate enough lift to ride currents of air. But according to a study published in Current
Biology this week by researchers at the University of Bristol
in the UK, they don’t actually need a breeze at all. Turns out, spiders can fly using the electricity
in our atmosphere. Spider ballooning was first documented by
an English naturalist in the 17th century, and ever since, scientists
have been trying to figure out exactly what they’re
doing and why they’re doing it. A lot of the time, the ballooners are baby
spiders looking for a place of their own to settle
down. They can reach altitudes of almost 5 kilometers and fly for hundreds of kilometers. Talk about putting some space between you
and your parents. But instead of loading up their Volvos and
moving to Montana, to take off, the spiders find somewhere high
up, then stand tall, raise their rears, and emit thin, meter-long silk threads in
the shape of a sail. When they let go, they’re pulled into the
air with surprising speed, even on calm days. And that speed is one of the things that has
never quite added up with the idea that these spiders ride the
wind. Biologists have seen spiders ballooning when
winds are almost imperceptible, or even when it’s raining. And the wind hypothesis doesn’t explain
how the spiders eject their silk so forcefully without the help of their legs, or how the strands maintain a fan-like shape
without tangling. So the team from the University of Bristol
decided to test something no one else had: whether the spiders can ride
electricity. The idea that electrostatic forces provide
the necessary lift has been around for centuries, but no one
ever really looked at it. Then, in 2013, a physicist from the University
of Hawaii worked out some of the theoretical details. He released his paper as a preprint that was
never officially published, but the authors of the new study thought it
was worth investigating. The whole thing hinges around the fact that
no matter what the weather is, there’s a difference in electric charge between the ground and the sky that creates
an electric field. So if the spiders’ silk picked up some static
charge, those threads could be pushed by the electric
field. Since like charges repel one another, the
charge of the ground, or whatever the spider is standing on, would
propel the silk out and up. And enough pushing could fling the spider
into the sky. But since the 2013 paper was purely theoretical, the new study’s authors decided to put it
to the test. They took ballooning spiders and placed them
on a small cardboard pedestal in a special chamber designed to have no electric
field or air movement. Then they induced electric fields of different
magnitudes, and watched what the spiders did. Even in the complete absence of wind, the
spiders began to get into that rump-raising position that
sets them up for ballooning. And with a strong enough field, they started
to spin silk, and even flew. Once airborne, the researchers could make
the spiders rise or fall just by turning the electric field on or off. An earlier study, published last month in
PLOS Biology, noted that these spiders seem to test the
wind with their legs before they start to spin their silk sails. And this week’s study found that the hairs
on the spiders’ legs moved in response to changes in electric fields,
too. But those hair movements were different from
the way they moved in response to wind, which means the spiders
might be feeling around for both of those things. Riding electricity could explain some of the
weirder aspects of their flight like how they take off on seemingly windless
days or in the rain. But most of the time, air isn’t completely
still, so the spiders probably use a combination
of electricity and wind to fly. There are still some parts of this left to
figure out, though like how the spiders’ silk becomes charged
in the first place, or whether they can control their flight to
decide where to land. Learning more about how spiders fly can help
biologists predict when they’re going to do it, and get a better understanding of their ecological
needs. And it might also make it easier to predict
those rare episodes of spider rain. Because I don’t know about you, but if ten
thousand spiders are going to land in my neighborhood, I’d would prefer to know that that’s going
to happen before it happens. Thanks for watching SciShow News. If you want to share your love of SciShow
with the world, we finally have created new merch. New shirts, stickers, and mugs. Check them out at And thank you! [♩OUTRO]

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100 thoughts on “Turns Out, Spiders Use Electricity to Fly”

  1. Kevin Louwrens says:

    The universe is electric, so it makes sense. So glad I understand the Electric Universe model. Thanks Sci Show, this was interesting. Now Sci Show Space has to drop big bang cosmology and get real.

  2. Harmanpreet Singh says:

    I didn't knew they even fly .. just saw them every time on nets or walking or moving on walls or something .. lmao am I the only one ?

  3. Rare Ginger says:

    Only works on a flat earth

  4. The ThinSin says:

    Lol, spiders figured out hovercrafts before humans did

  5. Nicholas Saunders says:

    Excellent, so one of the world’s most terrifying creatures with the largest number of legs and smallest number of wings can FLY.

  6. Nicholas Saunders says:

    I always knew spiders had potential.

  7. Pandora Lupin says:

    … Welp I used to like being outdoors till I heard about flying spider rain. Thank you for ruining the outdoors for me.

  8. Bilal Mohammed says:

    The Creation of Life:
    In Quran, Allah Almighty says:
    “…We made every living thing from water. Will they not believe?” (21:30)
    In this ayah of Quran, Allah Almighty holds water as the basic element of the creation of every living thing. The same thing is proved by science where it tells that every living thing comprises of cells and these cells consist of 80% cytoplasm, which in simple terms is explained as water. Therefore, science proves the very same fact which Quran mentioned 1400 years ago which might have seemed odd for the people of that time as there was no science to prove it then, but today everyone accepts this fact.
    The Presence of Iron:
    For the people of today iron is a metal that is found on earth. However, it is the scientists who have come to find the original source of iron as per which iron is not a metal of this earth rather it came from space. Quran says about iron in the following way:
    “…… We sent down Iron, in which is (material for) mighty war, as well as many benefits for mankind.” (57:25)
    From this ayah it is clear that the metal iron was sent down by Allah Almighty, hence it is not something of this world that grew or formed in it. According to scientists, billions of years ago meteoroids hit earth and these meteoroids came with the metal iron which then dispersed and immersed in different parts of the earth. Hence, in this regard as well, the saying of Quran predates scientific factual discovery.
    The Protection Of Sky:
    In Quran, Allah Almighty says:
    “We made the sky a protective ceiling. And yet they are turning away from Our signs!” (21:32)
    In this ayah, Allah Almighty mentions sky as a protective ceiling for people and calls it as a sign. It might not have been clear to the people of those days however, people of today who have access to science can agree with the fact that the sky actually does serve as a protective shield for life on earth.
    Science tells that it is the presence of sky that protects the earth from the harmful radiation of the rays of earth and it is again the sky that serves as a protective blanket to keep the temperature of the earth moderate during nights. If it were not there then radiation would have caused havoc and the freezing temperatures at night would have extinguished life on earth. Therefore, the followers of science cannot refute the mention of this fact in Quran.
    Function of Mountains:
    In Quran, Allah Almighty says:
    “Did We not make the earth a resting place? And the mountains as stakes?” (78:6-7)
    From this ayah it can be inferred that mountains are like stakes, which go deep down in the earth. This claim of Quran has been also proven right by science according to which the mountains are not merely above the surface; rather they have roots deep down below as well. The best example of this can be the highest peak in the world Mount Everest. According to scientists, Mount Everest that is 9km above the surface has its roots almost 125km below the surface thus the metaphor of stake in Quran actually gets a scientific backing.
    Expansion of Universe:
    In Quran, Allah Almighty says:
    “And it is We who have built the Universe with (Our creative) power and keep expanding it.” (51:47)
    In this ayah, Allah Almighty refers to the expansion of the universe. According to this ayah, the universe has not been the same since its existence; it continues and will continue on changing. This fact was proven by science a hundred years ago when the astronomers found out that the universe is not stagnant, rather it is expanding with the passage of time, thus concurring with the claim of Quran.
    In a nutshell, there are many more verses of Quran that are put to test by science. By far science has concurred with Quran and has found every claim of it true. The testing goes on and the time is not far when all the claims of Quran regarding universe and life will be considered scientific facts.

  9. Luficarius Ratspeed says:

    I'm suddenly thinking about how this concept can be applied to electric sails for aircraft

  10. Praveen Vijay says:

    I feel bad for the spiders that try to fly during a lightning storm.

  11. Rick Gove says:

    also how Spider-Man's spider-sense works?

  12. Eliot Videos says:

    If you live in Australia spider rain is
    Basically equivalent to acid rain

  13. P DaPhuuLz says:

    man, spiders are amazing.

  14. Mohit Chandel says:

    So ,some new moves or technices in upcoming spiderman movies.🤔

  15. Khala Harvey says:

    As if I needed another reason to hate spiders

  16. THOT Exterminator says:

    Do a video about the Etruscan boar ceramic 500-600 bc

  17. Grish Guillotine says:

    damnit hank, do a second take…and let your colleagues use your microphone…im so sick of that "snot stuck in the throat" voice…

    ya beta bastard…

  18. Bercik87 says:

    Still waiting on flying sharks.

  19. Anders Engman says:

    Once a big lump fell down from the sky and hit my hat with a thump, and hundreds of tiny spiders came crawling out.

  20. Matthew Harris-Levesque says:

    ** S-i-i-i-i-n-g-i-n-g in the raiiiiiiiin **

  21. Kerry Michael Comeans says:

    Step one: get sponsorship (aka funding)
    (PBS probably)
    Step two: video rompraising spiders and other experiments/biological phenomena
    Step three: awesome lessons

  22. Denis Sijamic says:


  23. Meganopteryx says:

    I love cute little baby spiders

  24. josh zurek says:

    Bruh lets just make a big spider balloon and fly people around without using fossil fuels! Nature has given us all the best innovative technologies, we just need to replicate them!

  25. legends of laughter says:


  26. Bobby Withers says:

    I want to see a spider rain!

  27. KingBongHogger says:

    If spiders can control electric currents in their silk I wonder if a species will evolve to amp that charge up to zap prey in their web. Taser spiders sound so metal.

  28. Tony Morgan says:

    I can't think I of anything more apt than an article about lifeforms using electricity appearing in a journal called CURRENT Biology

  29. Ace Camacho says:

    People in those areas should carry static charge devices and it can act like a spider rain umbrella and repel the critters. Maybe even a city wide set of these.

  30. Krnt13 says:

    Eureka 7 someone?

  31. Dalton wyant says:

    I told my Gf the title and she said she wants to b Amish

  32. billfromEtown says:

    this explains the 60s Spiderman!!!!!!!! Webbing the techno color sky….food for thought….

  33. Dominic Victoria says:

    Whaaaaaat? well thank you. I've always wondered how they end up on my face with only the clouds above me.

  34. Dominic Victoria says:

    We have a spider that is thought to produce a small electric shock. Imagine. If spiders were actually electric animals. Just wow!

  35. Jeff Smith says:

    doesnt this kinda in a way prove what nickola tesla was attempting in niagra falls? pulling charged energy from the earths electro magnetic fields? correct me if i am mistaken but this to me seems to scream that as a possibility for clean renewable energy wirelessly transfered just like he hypothisised

  36. Kenny Keating says:

    Jerry Spiderfeld:
    "What's the deal with web flight food?"

  37. The Peacemaker says:

    Looks like Spider-Man might need a little bit of Electro's power if he wants to fly.

  38. ian cruz says:

    Soon aircraft using same principle I hope

  39. Μανώλης Ζερβονικολάκης says:

    Video lacked optical references about the subject

  40. What's a Euphonium? says:

    You would not believe your eyes if ten thousand spiders fly.

  41. Nikkove Wolfe says:

    Face down, booty up. That's how we fly?

  42. Mike says:

    Electric Spiders:

    It the word of Nathan Explosion, "That is the most metal thing, ever!" (cue "RIde the Lighting" by Metallica)

  43. STEPHEN SULEY says:

    I wonder if a device could be constructed that can generate a medium that can act as the spiders silk does, like a plasma jet? Scaling up the spiders approach, we would shoot our "silk sail" many miles up into the atmosphere, maybe even to the Van Allen belts, with the correct electromagnetic charge and phase, we could use much more force and perhaps it would be possible to recreate this phenomenon using technology for our own levitating needs. Perhaps some sort of re-tuning of an ION Drive.

  44. David Porowski says:

    That explains a lot//Arial Arachnids/LOL OMG (was there an original "Benjamin Franklin" that discovered this

  45. Edward Cabaniss says:

    I wonder if Hank could talk if his hands were forced into his pockets?

  46. Emma H says:

    Thank you for only showing the rear of spiders! This doesn't induce the creepy crawlies as much for me.

  47. Irning Uy1 says:

    Does this mean spiderman can fly?

  48. huenex lightbringer says:

    i knew it

  49. 金3 A.M. says:

    Boostedboiz brought me here

  50. Calla Antoinette says:

    Ha! I always knew their body posture looked like it had a plan.

  51. The Great Fozzie says:

    We must burn the sky down before it's too late…

  52. Lecherous Lizard says:

    This could explain the phenomenon of the situation in which of two people going through a forest, the one behind always walks into a web.

  53. EozTheNew says:

    "Spider ballooning was first described by an English naturalist in the 17th century." Oh, over here we know that was David Attenborough when he was just starting out. In the last 400 years he has become quite legendary.

  54. Random Scenes says:

    The force is with them

  55. Greg Brockway says:

    Wow, Charlotte's Web explained by science! And further evidence of the electric universe theory. Thank you Hank, quite fascinating.

  56. Joseph Groves says:

    UoB? yay go homies!

  57. Bacon CheeseCake says:

    I'm starting a petition to electrically discharge our atmosphere.

  58. Oath of The Common Man says:

    Hover Cars?

  59. James Kelly says:

    I wonder if this might have any potential practical applications in aerospace.

  60. Dominus Umbrae says:

    I wonder if the mass ballooning events are caused by a change in the electric field that they can sense but we can't… and if so, do we have electric cycles on earth that we don't even know about?

  61. Jesus Mark says:

    One study found that webbing is attracted to flying insects due to charge so makes perfect sense

  62. Ken O says:

    Wouldn't another reason to study this be to replicate this method of flight, first with kite like devices, then with drones, and finally with human flight?

  63. Ken O says:

    On the topic of bugs, the puss Caterpillar is a fuzzy-harmless looking thing that if touched will give you hours of excruciating pain. Their population is on the rise, and found from New Jersey to Central America.

  64. Hey Paulman says:

    SHI' KREE!!!! how is this technology possible?

  65. VeteranVandal says:

    Maybe they charge their silk with just good old triboelectricity, just by frictioning against something within their bodies. And maybe that is related to how they control their flight.

  66. MrMrlively says:

    Look out! There goes the spider, man.

  67. CMZ neu says:

    this is great!

  68. Hal Asimov says:

    mind blowing

  69. crazy observations says:

    they rub their butts on the carpet before the take off

  70. Roober Rad says:

    More reference to buff Spider Man's powers.

  71. thefuture ofcoal says:

    I ask that same question about humanity…. "what are they doing and why are they doing it"

  72. Broody Pie says:

    Tweakers united today to petition congress for the eradication of spiders before they gain the powers of mind control or, god forbid, flight.

  73. gamers in a container says:

    We all said “at least they can’t fly”

    Nowhere is safe.

  74. Jake DeBlasio says:

    How fascinating!

  75. liberate my mind. says:

    So spiders are breaking the laws of physics and gravity too now, well I'm very SHOCKED to hear that, must've been bad experience for people with arachnophobia.

  76. face plant says:

    Flying electric spiders sounds like the next Pokémon… get on it Nintendo.

  77. Agent 47 says:

    I found this video quite electrifying. It shocked me how spiders can ride an electric current. I guess you can say spiders are grounded in a field of interests facts.

    I'm not apologizing for those puns.

  78. Chelise Robson says:

    Great video, but don't encourage MORE people to move to Montana!

  79. KJ 16 says:

    Wow okay, the Spider And The Butterfly becomes a real thing.

    gg fam

  80. Gaura Cappelletti says:

    We need to make vehicles that do this

  81. Evan McGough says:

    Spider Rain…
    Spider Rain…
    SPIDER RAIN! Goddamnit, stuff like this is why i refuse to believe there is no god!

  82. Fadi Hadi says:


  83. oldcowbb says:

    thats how those old spiderman games work

  84. James 4theDoctor says:

    The Pokémon Galvantula seems that much more inspired now.

  85. Dark News Network says:

    The Earth is Flat

  86. Петър Жотев says:

    Looks like they are playing fortnite…

  87. Lennon Seow says:

    Isn't this guy from the Crash Course Philosophy?

  88. Lord Satan says:

    Gotta throw away the whole planet

  89. Contingence says:

    Spiders are unbelievable little critters. Gangster as hell, if I may say.

  90. Midna Magic says:

    Is this why miles has electric powers?

    Now to find why he can go invisible!

  91. gomitax92 says:

    ps1 spiderman web swinging was actually acurate then?

  92. Bryan Chin says:

    Maybe our next flying cars will fly on static

  93. Dave Gill says:

    This is what the ancients understood. Yes, a small group of humanoids in ancient times rode those currents in craft that utilized static electricity. We have found carvings on pottery showing such craft and the artist even carved contrails and static lightning under the craft as to distinguish the two forces witnessed pushing this craft. Ancients also had batteries. These things have never been adequately explained but Tesla seemed to grasp the concept quite well when he claimed he could fly in wingless craft….its the same exact concept!

  94. mister Knister says:

    Science never ends. Always new and astonishing things to be discovered in nature

  95. Hunter says:

    I live in Brazil and i have a jumping spider. Today at morning i went with it outside to allow it to get sunlight, and it did flyed. twice. I knew that spiders could fly but i haven't seen before. my spider "buddy" is how i call him, did it twice. In the first time i was so surprised that i delayed to react and i almost lost it. then in the second time i already knew that signs that it was going to fly and when it started to fly i could recover it back easier.

    Anyway its amazing. and also makes me think that not all species of jumping spiders can do this, because of the weight. I have two species of jumping spiders with me. One female of the specie Thiodina Puerpera, and the male "buddy" which i dont know the specie, but that has long jawws body black with metalic green collor over it and a white line around its abdomen.

    The female Thiodina Puerpera loves to eat, it eats until it can't almost walk anymore, and so it has a heavy weight, also its silk is clearly much thicker and more resistant than the silk from my male of this unkown specie.

    "buddy" despite its long jaws preffers to feed on very small fruit flyes. sometimes it do can attack a common house fly which is larger, but usually it avoid it, and only attack small fruit flyes, and eat clearly and significantly less than the Thiodina Puerpera.

    Due this "buddy" has a skiny and light body, and so, can fly. what Thiodina Puerpera cant, even to jump she struggle xD

  96. Ben Adams says:

    Spider knew abut anti-gravity all along, turns out gravity is electrostatic, waddo you know?

  97. Ben Adams says:

    It would make sense if we consider we could be sitting in a giant Van der Graaf generator.

  98. Xeno Bardock says:

    Now take inspiration from spider ballooning and build your own electrostatic flying machine.

  99. Max Lindner says:

    I never liked this planet too much anyways, but flying spiders? Bye.

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