ATLANTA – A large spider from East Asia has been spinning its thick, golden web all across north Georgia this year. This has caused some homeowners to be afraid and has prompted panicked social media posts.
Jennifer Turpin, a self-described Arachnophobe, stopped blowing leaves in her yard in metro Atlanta after accidentally walking into a Joro spider web. Stephen Carter avoided walking along the Chattahoochee River, where he was greeted by Joro spiders at every ten steps.
Farther east in Winterville (Georgia), Will Hudson’s front porch was rendered unusable by the abundance of Jorowebs 10 3 meters deep. Hudson believes he has killed more spiders than 300 on his property.
” The webs are a mess,” Hudson, an entomologist from the University of Georgia, said. “Nobody wants a spider web .”
in their face. Joro females are common in Japan, China and Korea. They have bright yellow, blue, and red markings. When their legs are extended fully, they can reach a length of three inches (8cm) in size.
It is not known when and how the Joro spider first arrived in the United States. A researcher in Georgia found one around 80 mile (128 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta, in 2014.. They were also found in South Carolina and Hudson believes they will spread to the South.
Experts agree that they have increased in number this year. However, it is not clear why.
” We see natural ebbs, flows, and fluctuations in the populations of many species. This could be due to local conditions, especially slight changes in rainfall,” explained Paula Cushing, an arachnologist from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Cushing, along with other experts, said that Joros aren’t a threat to humans, dogs or cats. They won’t bite them unless threatened. Hudson stated that a researcher who collected them with her naked hands did experience a pinch but the spiders never bit her skin.
Researchers, however, don’t agree fully on what impact, if any, the spider will have on other species and the environment.
Debbie Gilbert, 67, doesn’t want to wait to find out. She has adopted a zero tolerance policy for spiders in her Norcross, Georgia home. She strangles them with a stick and brings them down.
” I don’t believe in killing anything. She said that she lives in peace with all the other spiders and everyone else. “But (Joros) just don’t belong here, that’s all.”
Turpin, 50, tried to set a Joro spider web on fire at her East Cobb home, but then got scared it would fall on her and fell into a hole as she quickly backpedaled. Instead, she had it removed by a neighbor.
” “I don’t think that I’m going back to yard work anymore,” she stated.
Nancy Hinkle from the University of Georgia said that Joros are able to control biting flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. They are also one of the few spiders capable of catching and eating brown marmorated stink bug, which can be a serious pest to many crops.
” This is amazing. This is amazing. She said spiders are our friends. “They are out there getting all the pests that we don’t want around the home .”
Ann Rypstra from Miami University studies spider behavior and was cautious about her assessment of potential impacts. She stated that more research was necessary.
” “I would always advise caution if something establishes itself in a place it is not supposed to be,” she stated.
Researchers at South Carolina’s Clemson University also were more circumspect, saying in a factsheet published online in August that they “do not yet know if there will be any negative impacts from this non-native species on the local ecology of South Carolina.”
Amateur gardeners and naturalists have raised concerns about the safety of native spiders and bees and other pollinators.
Cushing stated that Joros may be large enough to handle large numbers of pollinators trapped in their webs. However, those insects could be a small part of their diet. Rypstra studied a similar species of spider and found that their webs were used as food by other spiders. She said that there were also signs that Joros could compete with other orb weaver species.
The bottom line is that there are many unknowns.
Most Joros will die in November. However, they could return next year in even greater numbers. Scientists say that it is difficult to know with any certainty.
Anthony Trendl is a Suwanee homeowner who enjoys them. To share his passion and help others understand spiders, he has created jorospider.com. He said that although they can be scary and raise concerns, they are beautiful.
” “It’s been a tough go of things,” he stated. “I wanted to find the good in this world. To me, nature’s an easy place to find it.”