Invasive Joro Spiders Have Made Georgia Their Home

For someone squeamish about creepy, crawly, long-legged insects, it may comfort them to know that the spiders won't hurt them.

Arachnophobes, beware. Because an invasive species of spider has made its home in parts of Georgia.  The Joro spiders are native to East Asia but were first spotted in the U.S. in 2014.

Entomologist Dr. Will Hudson from the University of Georgia is personally acquainted with the spiders and says he first saw them in his yard a couple of years ago.

But he says if someone is squeamish about creepy, crawly, long-legged insects, it may comfort them to know that the spiders won't hurt them.  

"The spiders themselves are harmless," he revealed. "In fact, I watched a colleague. They were in my yard collecting spiders for a study that they were going to do, and she was stuffing these spiders into a vial that wasn't a whole lot bigger around than the spider's abdomen itself.

"And the only way to do that is grab them by the front end and push them in. And she was doing it bare-handed," he continued.

Hudson says this invasion doesn't warrant an eradication effort like the one going on in Washington state to find and destroy the Asian Giant Hornet, also known as murder hornets. 

"The giant hornet is a threat to beekeepers and honeybees for one thing, and it also is a direct threat to people because the sting is not just painful, but can cause death in people that are sensitive," he said.

"So, yeah, it's right upfront. It's a whole lot worse invader to have than what we've got. These spiders, they're not aggressive, I can say. I'm not sure what it would take to get one to bite you."

Anyone who sees one can kill them, but researchers say it's not necessary. And for those hoping for a possible self-eradication, Hudson warns that they shouldn't get their hopes up because the Joro spiders really seem to like the climate in Georgia. 

"This it's an ideal place for spiders, and I don't expect that they'll be able to maintain the numbers that are here now," he said. "That's just too big a resource for the natural system to not exploit. So, the system will adjust. We will have these spiders and all the rest of them probably, but they're not going away. We will not be without Joro spiders."

Now it's up to humans to decide if they can live in peace with this new species. 

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