The huge spider – which hails from East Asia – spread widely this year in the north of the US state of Georgia, which frightened the population and puzzled scientists, after it occupied with its thick nets electrical wires, balconies of houses and fields.
Writer Zoe Strozzewski says – in a report published by the American magazine “Newsweek” – that “The Joro spider”, which can reach more than 7 centimeters in length when its legs are extended, is a type of weaver insect that makes intricate webs similar in shape to a wheel.
Will Hudson, an entomologist for the University of Georgia, said that he’s killed more than 300 Joro spiders on his property in Winterville. His front porch was also rendered unusable after the spiders filled it with webs 10 feet deep.
“The webs are a real mess,” Hudson said. “Nobody wants to come out of the door in the morning, walk down the steps and get a face full of spider web.”
As for Paula Cushing, an expert in spiders, confirms that the guru poses no threat to humans or pets, and usually only bites when exposed to danger.
It is not clear how this species reached US soil, but it was first identified in 2014, in an area 80 miles away in the state capital, Atlanta.
In metro Atlanta, Jennifer Turpin—a self-described arachnophobe—stopped blowing leaves in her yard after inadvertently walking into a web created by the Joro spider. Stephen Carter has avoided a walking trail along the Chattahoochee River where he encountered Joro webs every dozen steps.
Common in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, Joro females have colorful yellow, blue and red markings on their bodies.
Scientists believe that this type of spider will spread throughout the American South after it was found in several other cities.
It is not clear why it has increased in an unprecedented way this year, and it may be due to changes in precipitation. But there is a great deal of disagreement among scientists about the impact of this phenomenon on the environment and on the rest of the living organisms.
Debbie Gilbert, 67, isn’t waiting to find out. She has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for the spiders around her home in Norcross, Georgia, winding their webs with a stick, bringing them down and stomping them.
“I don’t advocate killing anything. I live in peace with all the spiders around here and everything else,” she said. “But [Joros] just don’t belong here, that’s all.”
Entomologist at the University of Georgia, Nancy Henkel, believes that these spiders will play a positive role in eliminating mosquitoes and insects that bite humans and cause spreading diseases and destroying agricultural crops. So she says, “This is wonderful and exciting, these spiders are our friends, they are free in nature and they hunt all the pests that bother us.”
But Ann Rypstra, who studies spider behavior at Miami University, prefers to speak with caution as she assesses the potential effects of a Joro, especially since research on the topic is still limited.
“I’d always err on the side of caution when you have something that establishes itself where it’s not supposed to be,” she said.
Meanwhile, farmers, nature lovers and gardeners are worried about the safety and presence of other spiders, and the bees that play a role in spreading pollen among plants.
Cushing said Joros are probably big enough to take on large pollinators caught in their webs, but those insects may be an insignificant part of their diet. Rypstra has studied a similar spider species and said their webs are used by other spiders as a source of food, so the Joro might help native spiders. But she said there was also evidence Joros compete with other orb weavers.
Researchers expect that these spiders will die in late November, but they may return next year in similar or even greater numbers, at a time when scientists are unable to provide accurate predictions about this phenomenon.