High-Living Spiders Make Skyscraper "Like a Haunted House"

© williac / cc Photo: williac / cc

They're among nature's most skillful builders, capable of crafting elaborate webs with ease, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that spiders seem to appreciate our grandest structures as well. For folks employed at the John Hancock Center, a 100-story skyscraper in downtown Chicago, work has gotten quite creepy as countless eight-legged crawlers have found a way to thrive atop one of the world's tallest buildings. The "spider-fest" has gotten so bad, says one employee of his 94th-story office, "it's like a haunted house."It might seem an unlikely place for arachnids to thrive, but evidence would suggest that the insects have grown accustomed to life in the clouds, mostly affixing their webs to paneling outside and between window panes at altitudes nearing 1,200 feet. But, as some employees working there have discovered, many spiders have found a way to drop inside for a visit.

"They are crawling everywhere, they are coming down on their strings everywhere," Mead Elliott, a broadcasting manager working near the top of the John Hancock Center, tells ChicagoWildlifeNews. "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."

Insect specialists say that while skyscrapers may seem like unscalable towers of glass and steel, to spiders they offer some sweet web real estate. Petra Sierwald of the Field Museum says that some of the spiders atop the Chicago's soaring skyline may have crawled there, but chances are that most of them floated there.

"They let out a little bit of silk, catch an uplifting air current and then sail in the current, basically like flying a kite."

Although some employees may be none too happy to have their office space resemble the set of a scary movie, urban ecologist Steve Sullivan suggests they look past all the spiderwebs to see the silver lining:

Spiders are particularly cool because they are building architecture with one of the strongest, most resilient substances that we know of. See how it works. It's a cool way to get involved with nature even up on the 90th floor.

It's hard to say how many insects those spiders can catch so high above the ground, but with a view like that, who can complain?

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Tags: Chicago | Insects