I-Team: Giant Spiders Invade Nevada... Sort Of - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter

I-Team: Giant Spiders Invade Nevada... Sort Of

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How's this for a catchy headline -- 'Giant spiders invade Nevada'? It's true, sort of. If you've been anywhere near Walker Lake in Mineral County, you might have noticed miles and miles of spiders, and while they may not be 'giants,' they certainly qualify as big.

Nevada's Walker Lake is a picturesque remnant of an ancient inland sea that once covered much of the state. The locals say a sea serpent still lives in the quiet waters, although some suspect the tale is told to increase tourism. But there are monsters around the lake.

Maybe there are not three-foot spiders eating people that we know of, but woe to the motorist who pulls over and doesn't pay attention to the guard rail. It is spider central -- spider nirvana. It's as if a B-movie director put out a casting call for large, nasty looking arachnids, miles and miles, thick with webs and spiders, packed together and ready to pounce.

Jeff Knight, a Nevada entomologist said, "136 Insect and arachnid populations go through booms and busts, and it's all dependent on food source and climate. Apparently on the west side of Walker Lake, everything falls together for these larger predators."

See. Predators. Just as we thought. And Jeff Knight should know. He is the official Nevada entomologist and seemed thrilled when we referred to him as our Spider-Man.

Knight says the Walker Lake spiders are part of a family known as orb weavers. They come out in great numbers in the summer months primarily because there's a lot of food in the form of flies and gnats and such spawned around the lake. The spiders are doing humans a favor by eating all those flying insects.

"We've gotten several calls from people that think we should be out there spraying the spiders and getting rid of them. If you were to take those things away, the spiders away from that area, you would probably see huge numbers of midges of mosquitoes," said Knight.

The adjacent town of Hawthorne is always looking for ways to attract visitors and to help the troubled lake. In the Spring, they hold a loon fest. That's loons as in birds, so why not a spider fest as well. Just as the swallows return to Capistrano, the spiders have returned to Walker Lake, spinning their webs, scaring motorists, and eating assorted pests.

"Spiders can't chew things up. They have to liquify their food first," said Knight. So can they do this to small children and senior citizens? "Has to be a really big spider. We don't have any spiders that big yet."

Notice he said 'yet' -- orb weaver spiders are not a threat to humans, Jeff Knight says. They might bite you if you sit on them, but otherwise, they leave people alone.

Anyone interested in starting up a spider festival might want to contact the Hawthorne Chamber of Commerce.

Email your comments to Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp.

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