A large, invasive spider species may soon appear in the skies along the East Coast, researchers say.
The Joro spider, also known as Trichonephila clavata, is native to Asia but has been spotted in several US states since 2013, including Georgia and South Carolina. Entomologists say it is set to spread throughout the Southeast and beyond after a new study from the University of Georgia found the arachnid is better adapted to colder weather than a related species.
And no one can do much about it.
“People should try to learn to live with them”, noted Andy Davis, researcher at the Odum School of Ecology in Georgia and co-author of the study. “If they’re literally in your way, I may consider removing a canvas and moving them to the side, but they’ll only come back next year.”
Joro spiders, which can grow to the size of the palm of your hand, exhibit bright yellow, blue, and red coloration and can form golden webs in trees and along power lines. It resembles the golden silk spider, also called the “banana spider”, which has not spread north since arriving in the southeastern United States about 150 years ago.
The researchers ran tests to compare the species’ cold tolerance and concluded that the Joro spider has about twice the metabolism of its parent, a 77% higher heart rate, and the ability to survive freezing temperatures. . This means the Joro spider could easily spread along most of the eastern seaboard, traveling as far north as Washington, DC or Delaware.
According to NPR, Joro spiders once spread rapidly in Georgia using their webs like tiny parachutes, a process known as “ballooning”, to travel with the wind. Researchers believe the species originally arrived in the United States on shipping containers and is easily spread through the movement of people.
“I have several hundred of them, and they actually make the place look creepy with all the messy webs, like a scene of ‘arachnophobia,'” Will Hudson, extension entomologist at the University of Georgia. noted last fall.
While the thought of large spiders raining down from the sky can be terrifying, spiders are actually harmless to people.
USA today reports that the Joro spider is venomous, but its fangs are too small to penetrate human skin and only bite if cornered. Nancy Hinkle, entomologist at the University of Georgia also said the spiders had benefits, such as eating mosquitoes, flies, and bedbugs in the area, and would have a mild impact on the environment.
“There’s really no reason to actively crush them,” said Benjamin Frick, a graduate student in the University of Georgia’s Integrative Conservation and Sustainability Program and co-author of the new study. “Humans are behind their invasion. Don’t blame the spider Joro.