Giant spiders that spin golden webs are invading Georgia

Southeast

ATHENS, Ga. (StudyFinds.org) — Giant spiders are moving through the state of Georgia by the millions and wrapping dozens of counties in their golden webs. It sounds like a horror movie plot, but researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA) say it’s really happening and it’s actually good for the local environment.

Joro spiders — which are about the size of a person’s palm — are brightly-colored, long-legged arachnids that come from East Asia originally. Since 2014, this invasive species has been spreading throughout Georgia. Now, researchers say they’re everywhere and they’re not going away.

“Last year, there were dozens of spiders, and they began to be something of a nuisance when I was doing yard work,” UGA entomologist Will Hudson said in a university release. “This year, I have several hundred, and they actually make the place look spooky with all the messy webs — like a scene out of ‘Arachnophobia.’”

Georgia residents have been sending hundreds of messages to UGA scientists, asking about these intimidatingly large spiders that spin golden-colored webs on porches, power lines and mailboxes. Overall, scientists have now found these visitors in 25 counties throughout the state.

“Our best guess is that it came in a shipping container and dropped off here somewhere on I-85 in the Braselton area,” says Rick Hoebeke, with the Georgia Museum of Natural History. “They are great little hitchhikers!”

The spider invasion is actually helping residents

Although local homeowners may freak out at the sight of hundreds of giant yellow spiders crawling up their front porch, researchers say this invasive species is here to help.

“Joro spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals, so I’m trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing!” the researcher explained.

This particular species of spider helps eliminate local mosquitoes and biting flies. The Joros are also one of the few spiders that catch and eat brown marmorated stink bugs — pests that can destroy many crops.

Don’t be scared, they don’t bite (really!)

While some spiders in nature pose a risk to humans due to their poisonous bites, the team says the Joro would rather just “hang” with you. In fact, Hinkle visited Hudson’s property just to take the “Joro tour” on his property and show people that these giant spiders don’t really have the ability or desire to bite humans.

“As with all orb weavers, it has small mouth parts … Right now, she is just using me as substrate,” Hinkle explained.

Overall, scientists say the Joro is harmless to people and are large enough for people to see them and avoid them if they fear spiders.

As these bug hunters die off in November, the large yellow females will leave behind sacs full of eggs to keep the species going. These baby Joros will emerge in the spring and start hitchhiking again — possibly to a state near you!

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