A spider as big as the palm of your hand could soon invade the East Coast, scientists say


If you haven’t met the colorful, massive Joro spider yet, you may soon be introduced to the invasive species if you live on the East Coast, scientists predict.

The predominately yellow spider, which can get as big as the palm of your hand, was first spotted in Georgia in 2013. Originating from Asia, there is no clear answer for how it made it into the United States other than it likely came in a shipping container. But in nearly 10 years, the species has rapidly spread across Georgia and other parts of the Southeast.

Now, scientists from the University of Georgia say in a study published in the journal Physiological Entomology the Joro spider could take over much of the East Coast in the coming years.

“People should try to learn to live with them,” Andy Davis, research scientist at Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “If they’re literally in your way, I can see taking a web down and moving them to the side, but they’re just going to be back next year.”

The joro spider, a native of Asia, has become a common sight in neighborhoods in Athens and across Northeast Georgia.

Scientists came to their conclusion by comparing the Joro spider to its relative, the golden silk spider. Known as the “banana spider,” the golden silk spider hails from the tropical regions of Central and South America, but made its way into the southeast U.S. around 150 years ago and similarly took over the region, making it the “perfect experiment” to use for comparison.

But as much as the golden silk spider population has grown, it has yet to expand into the North because the spider is susceptible to the cold. The scientists collected the two species and measured numerous physical traits as well as how they adapted to different environmental conditions, including brief periods of temperatures below freezing.

The results showed Joro spiders, compared to their relative, had a metabolism twice as high, a 77% higher heart rate in low temperatures and they survived 74% of the time in the temperatures below freezing, while the golden silk spider survival rate was only 50%. Scientists also noticed the species does well in Japan, with some regions that have climates similar to the Northeast.

“While we should not draw sweeping conclusions from this comparison of just two species, it is at least clear that the Joro spider has a physiology that is more suited to a cooler environment than its congener,” the study reads.

Unhappy Meal: A customer’s McDonald’s chicken and bacon wrap came with a side of spider

New spider: YouTuber uncovers new species of tarantula. The spider crawls out of bamboo stalk.

Davis also noted humans play a factor in how far the species could spread, as they can hitch rides on vehicles and in containers. He said he heard reports of someone “accidentally” transporting a Joro spider to Oklahoma.

The size of the spider may frighten people, but experts say they shouldn’t worry. They are venomous, but they don’t bite humans unless they are cornered. Plus, their fangs don’t penetrate human skin.

University of Georgia entomologist Nancy Hinkle told USA TODAY in September that Joro spiders also serve as “pest control,” feeding on insects like mosquitoes, flies and stink bugs. Birds also feed on the spiders, but the official impact on the Southeast and its species has yet to be determined.

So if you do eventually run into a Joro spider, let them be, says Benjamin Frick, a graduate student in the Integrative Conservation and Sustainability program at the University of Georgia and study co-author.

“There’s really no reason to go around actively squishing them,” Frick said. “Humans are at the root of their invasion. Don’t blame the Joro spider.”

Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY; Wayne Ford, Athens Banner-Herald

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Giant, invasive Joro spider could soon be throughout the East Coast



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.