image copyrightCAROLYN CROSSLEYimage captionThe webbing blankets vegetation near a Victorian town hit by heavy rains

Massive spider webs stretching across trees and paddocks have formed near towns in Australia recently hit by floods.

Residents in Victoria's Gippsland region say the gossamer-like veils appeared after days of heavy rain.

In one area, a spider web covered more than a kilometre along a road.

Experts say the veils are created by a survival tactic known as "ballooning", where spiders throw out silk to climb to higher ground.

Dr Ken Walker, a senior insects curator from Museums Victoria, said it was likely that millions of spiders had thrown strands up to the surrounding trees.

"Ground-dwelling spiders need to get off the ground very quickly. The silk snakes up and catches onto vegetation and they can escape," he told The Age newspaper.

image copyrightCAROLYN CROSSLEYimage captionThe spiders attempt to escape the water by latching onto higher ground, experts say

This had created large, "gossamer" sheets covering wetlands between the towns of Sale and Longford.

'A billowing wave'

One local councillor, Carolyn Crossley, said she had gone down to a lake embankment on Monday evening to check for flood damage, and was struck by the natural phenomenon. Ms Crossley said she had seen the effect before, but not at such a large scale.

"It wasn't scary – it was beautiful. Everything was just shrouded in this beautiful gossamer spiderweb, all over the trees and fences," she told the BBC.

image copyrightCAROLYN CROSSLEYimage captionThe spider web sheet covered the roadside

"The sun was going down at the time and the light was beautiful, just to see it billowing, this wave going across the landscape."

She said the webbing appeared as one single sheet, crawling with tiny spiders.

"The fact that it didn't separate – it was like these spiders had co-ordinated to make this incredible landscape art installation or something," she said.

Another local resident, Amanda Traeger, told the BBC her family had initially mistaken the webs for netting along the side of the road.

"I've seen it before but nothing as much as this," she said. "It was absolutely stunning."

image copyrightCAROLYN CROSSLEYimage captionThere were huge numbers of small spiders on the webs

The delicate webs are expected to disintegrate later this week.

Locals said the ethereal sight was nice to see after disastrous weather experienced in the preceding days.

Heavy rains and strong winds lashed large parts of Victoria, causing flash flooding and widespread damage last week. Two people were found dead in their cars in separate floodwater incidents.

Authorities described the storm as a catastrophe, and hundreds of homes in the state remain without power.

media captionA blast of cold weather marked south-eastern Australia on the weekend