These Giant 'Flying' Spiders May Take Over East Coast

'Try to learn to live with them' is scientists' advice
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2022 10:35 AM CST
These Giant 'Flying' Spiders May Take Over East Coast
Stock photo of a Joro spider.   (Getty Images/LizMinkertJohnson)

Last fall, Georgia residents were dismayed to make the acquaintance of the Joro spider, a palm-sized, "flying" creature hailing from East Asia that showed up in the Peach State by the millions. Now, scientists say, people further north should prepare, because the 3-inch-long arachnids with bright yellow stripes, also known as Trichonephila clavata, may soon infiltrate the entire East Coast, reports Scientific American. A study published last month in the Physiological Entomology journal notes that the invasive species may be particularly suited to cold weather, meaning it could expand its neighborhood beyond the southeastern United States.

The study compares the Joro spider—which gets its name from Jorogumo, a type of Japanese spirit that, as legend has it, takes the form of a stunning woman to lure in unsuspecting men—to its cousin, Trichonephila clavipes, or the golden silk spider, which has been web-weaving in the Southeast since the Civil War era. The latter's "thermal limitations" have kept it confined to that region, but scientists found that the Joro spider has a metabolism double that of its relative, as well as a 77% higher heart rate when subjected to chillier temps.

In addition, the Joro spider appears better able to handle a brief freeze than T. clavipes—74% to 50%. A release notes that the newer spider—whose hatchlings are often spotted "flying" through the air on silk strands, a la the babies in Charlotte's Web—first showed up in the US in 2013, and it doesn't look like there's much we can do to stop them from making further moves, especially because it's apparently an "expert stowaway" in luggage and cars, per Scientific American.

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There is some good news: The Joro spider's bite is weak, and its venom harmless to people or pets (unless they have allergies), and it can even serve to cut down on the population of mosquitoes and other pesky insects. In other words, "people should try to learn to live with them," says Andy Davis, one of the co-authors of the study, per the release. "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." (More spiders stories.)

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