When creatures invaded Sunderland - eels, jellyfish and sex-crazed spiders

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Eels falling from the skies, killer flatworms and rare jellyfish

No it’s not a scene from a movie.

Sunderland really has seen killer flatworms, carpets of ladybirds, sex-crazed spiders and eels falling from the skies.

Freak weather has brought some creepy crawly tales to our neighbourhood and here are some reminders.

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Eels fell on Hendon

In 1918, hundreds of slippery creatures began to fall from the sky.

A weather phenomenon saw eels falling from the skies onto a Hendon allotment in 1918.A weather phenomenon saw eels falling from the skies onto a Hendon allotment in 1918.
A weather phenomenon saw eels falling from the skies onto a Hendon allotment in 1918.

Eels rained down on their heads. The probable cause was a “waterspout” – a tornado that sucks water from the sea.

The year of the ladybird carpets

Ladybirds by the million became a part of daily life in Sunderland - and the rest of the UK - during the incredible heatwave of 1976.

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Locals reported carpets of them as the sun belted down on Wearside for months on end.

1976 was a freak year for swarms of ladybirds. There were millions of them.1976 was a freak year for swarms of ladybirds. There were millions of them.
1976 was a freak year for swarms of ladybirds. There were millions of them.

Tell us if you remember that scorchingly hot summer and the ladybird swarms.

Killer worms on the increase

New Zealand flatworms got our attention 30 years ago this month.

The species arrived in the UK more than 50 years ago but this one was found in Sunderland in April 1994.

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The little worms are known for eating earthworms by wrapping their bodies around them.

Dr Phil Gates of Durham University with a New Zealand flatworm in 1994.Dr Phil Gates of Durham University with a New Zealand flatworm in 1994.
Dr Phil Gates of Durham University with a New Zealand flatworm in 1994.

Here is Dr Phil Gates of Durham University with one of the worms.

Sex-crazed spiders

Spiders with a deep desire were being reported in 2016.

A Sunderland Echo article at the time said that spiders the size of mice were driven into the open by their urge to mate, having spent much of the rest of the year hidden away.

Invasion of the jellyfish

A sudden surge in jellyfish numbers in the UK was reported in 2022.

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A sudden surge in jellyfish numbers in the UK was reported in 2022.A sudden surge in jellyfish numbers in the UK was reported in 2022.
A sudden surge in jellyfish numbers in the UK was reported in 2022.

A rise in sea temperatures was suspected to be causing the surge.

Caterpillars which looked like snakes

In reality, they were Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars and the warm weather brought them out including in New Herrington.

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The Elephant-Hawk Moth had residents in New Herrington puzzled in 2019.The Elephant-Hawk Moth had residents in New Herrington puzzled in 2019.
The Elephant-Hawk Moth had residents in New Herrington puzzled in 2019.

One local said at the time they ‘thought it was a small snake at first’.

Tell us about the strangest creatures you have had as visitors in your gardens - or even inside your house.

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