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Web-like substance falling from sky reported across the Central Coast likely flying spiders

CENTRAL COAST, Calif. (KION-TV)- A sticky web-like substance was reported falling from the sky across the Central Coast as early as Wednesday morning.

Viewers informed KION that it has been spotted in Pacific Grove, King City, Soledad, Salinas, Hollister, Watsonville, Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Ridgemark, Santa Nella and Modesto.

The County of Monterey and the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District were unsure of what the substance could be.

One viewer said it smelled of chemicals and when lit on fire burst into a fireball and burned like plastic.

A CSU Monterey Bay professor John E. Banks theorized it could be a process called ballooning that spiders utilize to fly. He said when spiders are running low on food supplies or are scared they use their silk to pick up air currents and fly to new locations.

"It's a special term we use for how spiders disperse from habitat to habitat," said Banks. "Most spiders, as you imagine, have trouble walking around the ground and getting across barriers such as Highway 1 or some of the structures we built."

He theorized that the spiders are going from farm to farm looking for more insects to eat. When we are at the end of a growing season the bugs eating the harvest usually run out and spiders need a new place to eat as well.

Someone in Pacific Grove found a baby spitter in the silk.

Banks says what we could be seeing is spiders getting on top of a plant, waiting for some wind and getting blown off with a strand of silk. If that's the case this is the first time in nearly a decade living on the Peninsula he has seen this occur.

"Spiders do this all over the world and it is the primary way for them to get around," said Banks. "Some species may have up to 50% of the population decide to lift off and go somewhere else in times of stress."

He said it could also be a good evolutionary practice for spiders that live in areas where their food supply is uncertain like farmland. They can just pickup and move for a new food source.

This may not be an unusual thing for spiders to do but maybe unusual for this many to do it at once, said Banks.

Katie Butler from Riverbank

If you have any photos send them to KION. We will continue to seek answers on what it could potentially be.

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Ricardo Tovar

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