Spiders Fleeing Floods Build Mosquito Buffet in Trees

Photo: Russell Watkins / DFID

When heavy rains caused rivers to overflow and flood parts of Pakistan last year, it set into motion a surprisingly complex chain of events that scientists are only now beginning to understand -- and which may have ultimately saved countless human lives. As waters began to rise, thousands of spiders sought refuge in tall trees, cluttering the leaves and branches with their webs in a manner reminiscent of cotton-candy. That, of course, is just the beginning of the story.

>> WATCH SLIDESHOW: 10 of the World's Weirdest SpidersIn the heavily flooded region of Sindh, Pakistan, these spider-web laden trees seems to have been quite effective at catching insects. According to New Scientist, people living in nearby subsequently experienced a significant drop in the number of mosquitoes -- likely reducing the risk of insect-borne diseases, like malaria, and possibly saving the lives of local residents.

Unfortunately, the trees themselves didn't benefit from being host to the spider's buffet.

From New Scientist:

Although slowly killing the trees, the phenomenon is seemingly helping the local population. People in Sindh have reported fewer mosquitoes than they would have expected given the amount of stagnant water in the area. It is thought the mosquitoes are getting caught in the spiders' webs, reducing their numbers and the associated risk of malaria.

Despite the multitude of academic studies devoted to understanding and predicting the delicate interplays within the natural world, it seems there is no shortage of reminders that we have yet to unravel all the secrets this complex and diverse planet keeps safely guarded.

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Tags: Insects | Pakistan