We have giant spider visitors.
And they ain’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
If you live in Georgia or the Southeastern United States like I do, and you look in the trees this time of year (late summer, early fall) you may see a large, brightly-colored yellow spider somewhere in the branches with very strong, thick webbing.
That’s the Joro Spider. It arrived from its home in Asia.
I don’t know much about them, but after seeing them in the trees around Athens, Georgia, and seeing plenty of posts on social media with people freaking out about their presence, I wanted to learn more.
My curiosity led me to Richard Hoebeke.
Hoebeke is a professional researcher at the University of Georgia. As a result, people flood his e-mail inbox each day with photos of the arachnids around their homes and communities.
Hoebeke is actually a self-proclaimed beetle expert, but he opened his electronic doors to submissions from the public once they first showed up on the scene in Georgia around 2014.
Where Did They Come From?
Hoebeke indicates that these ultra-tough-web-weavers come from East Asia. In addition, their name comes from the Japanese term “Jorogumo.”
Don’t speak Japanese? Japanese folklore describes Jorogumo as a goblin that shape-shifts into a seductive woman.
When you get past the bright yellow and ink-black contrast designed to ward off predators, I kind of see what they’re talking about.
Doesn’t do anything for me, personally. However, I assume it has more to do with the orb spider’s web that clings to trees and deceptively lures all kinds of prey into its grip.
How Did These Spiders Get Here?
According to Hoebeke, these creatures are hitchhikers.
“It hitches a ride on some other vehicle coming into the states,” Hoebeke said. “Could have been a freight container. Could have been boxes. Any one of those sorts of things would certainly harbor an egg mass.”
If that mental picture made your skin crawl like mine did, just wait for Hoebeke’s creepy context.
“Egg sacs contain a lot of eggs,” according to Hoebeke. “Anywhere between 400 to 1,500 eggs in an egg sac.”
How Quickly Are the Joro Spiders Spreading?
With egg sac stats like that, it doesn’t take a spider expert to predict that the Joro explosion is imminent. Hoebeke already notices it this summer across northeast Georgia, and into South Carolina.
“I have not seen these so abundant as I have this year.”
Additionally, Hoebeke says individuals he hears from now see numbers in “the hundreds,” when they would only see a few of them in years past.
How Dangerous Are Joro Spiders?
Most importantly, all the arachnophobes out there have nothing to worry about.
Hoebeke expects a bite from a Joro would be rare, and furthermore, a serious reaction would be even less likely (unless you have a specific allergy to arthropod bites).
Flies, stink bugs, wasps, and the occasional hummingbird may land in the Joro’s incredibly tensile web. As a result, that means they may also turn into supper.
“They’re here to stay. There’s no question.”
All we can do is adapt, or get out of the way of their unbelievably adhesive homes.
All the more reason to look up from your cellphone when walking on the sidewalk this fall.