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Watch Out For Flying Spiders Downtown

By Jim Bochnowski in News on May 7, 2015 8:40PM

(Ok, this is not one of the spiders in downtown Chicago, they are a bit too small for the camera, but here is one of their spider friends./ Photo: Shutterstock)

Unbeknownst to most of us, every summer downtown Chicago is plagued by an eight legged flying menace. We were sent a completely innocent request from the downtown Hilton Magnificent Mile Suites asking guests to keep windows closed...if they don't want spiders to fly into their hotel room.

We confirmed with a friend, who lives on the 28th floor of a Lincoln Park apartment building, that this is a real thing and not just something the Hilton made up. Last year, she was on her patio attempting to grill, when she noticed at least ten spiders congregating in her personal space. While she admitted she found them "gross," they were small and ultimately harmless. She is also much more reasonable than us.

So to get to the bottom of this flying spider business, we reached out to the Field Museum, which put us in touch with Jim Louderman, a collections assistant at the Gantz Family Collection Center, who specializes in, among other animals, spiders. He assured us this was nothing to worry about (or so he says) and that this is not just an issue in Chicago. It is a phenomenon that happens worldwide. Every spring, baby spiders hatch from eggs and let out a length of web that is caught by the wind until the wind currents drop them at their new location, a process known as ballooning. As wind currents are highly volatile, especially by Lake Michigan, spiders can end up just about anywhere. In fact, Louderman told us that he once was able to collect spiders from the top of what was, at the time, known as the Sears Tower.

Louderman repeatedly stressed that baby spiders are less than 3 millimeters long, have barely any venom and are absolutely nothing to worry about. The great majority of these spiders found downtown are Larinioides sclopetarius, commonly known as the "High Rise Spider" for obvious reasons, but there are over 50 different species that can find their way into your building. So if you live or work downtown and have functional windows, just be aware that it's possible you might have a little visitor at some point this summer. Close your windows or be prepared to appreciate a spiderweb in a few months.