What’s bright yellow, venomous and as big as the palm of your hand? It’s the Jorō spider, and it’s spreading up the East Coast. Spider lovers will be wowed by this eight-legged beauty. Arachnophobes might be booking a westbound U-Haul.
The east Asian spider has been in the southeast since at least 2013 when one was first spotted in Georgia. But since Andrew Davis and Benjamin Frick recently published a paper on the invasive spiders in the journal Physiological Entomology, the arachnids have been making headlines.
The spider probably stowed away in a shipping container to emigrate to the U.S. from Japan or another part of east Asia. So far, Jorō spiders have settled in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma. This last one may have tagged along on a car ride from Georgia.
Jorō spiders can grow up to four inches long. They have spindly legs and a yellow, black and gray striped abdomen. Their venom is directed at critters like flies, stink bugs and mosquitoes, some of their meals of choice. Humans don’t need to worry. They won’t try to bite you unless cornered, and their tiny fangs probably won’t be able to penetrate your skin.
“There’s really no reason to go around actively squishing them,” Frick said, as reported by USA Today. “Humans are at the root of their invasion. Don’t blame the Joro spider.”
The spiders spread by hitching rides with humans or by a practice called ballooning. This is when baby spiderlings generate fine silk threads. They travel on the wind, using these threads as parachutes.
The new study determined that the spiders can spread farther north. However, experts are split on whether this will happen. “Although it can withstand somewhat colder climates, I doubt it could withstand the climatic conditions found in the northern and western US,” said Paula Cushing, senior curator of invertebrate zoology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, as reported by CNN.
So what should you do if you see a Jorō spider? Nothing, besides try to walk around its web to avoid a face full of silk. Frick said there’s no data to prove that the spider is dangerous to its new environment. “In light of this, people should not embark on spider genocide — all this would achieve is the needless killing of a beautiful animal,” he said.
Lead image by Daniel Ramirez