The jorō spider population explodes across the South

The jorō spider is a large, colorful arachnid native to eastern Asia. These intimidating spiders can grow to be the size of an adult’s palm when their legs are extended. They build large, multi-layered webs with golden yellow silk. This autumn, the population has exploded over north east Georgia and neighboring South Carolina. They were first noted in 2013 and 2014 and it was assumed that individuals or egg sacks may have hitched a ride on containers being shipped in to southern ports. However they got here, it doesn’t really matter, because it looks like they are here to stay.

The jorō is non-aggressive and non-venomous

These large spiders are colorful and quite obvious this time of year. They spin the large, distinctive golden webs and it seems they prefer areas where people like to walk. If you get a mouthful of spiderweb, or one lands on you, don’t worry. It is more fearful of you that you are of it. They are non-aggressive and non-venomous, much like our native Argoipe aurantia, the writing spider. While they can bite, they seldom do and the venom is only deadly to other insects. It may be red and itchy for a few days and that is all. If one builds its web in an inconvenient spot, simply relocate her by scooping her up on the end of a broom and taking her to a less traveled location. Yes, the ones in the large webs are all ladies, the boys just come courting.

Here's a nice, made in USA broom that works great for sweeping porches and moving inconvenient spiders.

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The jorō may not be a threat to our environment

The jorōs are considered an invasive species here in the US, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are harmful to other wildlife or the environment. While invasives get a lot of bad press, like the murder hornet, kudzu and Asian carp. There are other invasives that are actually helpful or have a neutral impact on the ecosystem. The world is getting smaller and it makes sense that as travel and shipping is commonplace, that plants, animals and insects will move around the globe in greater numbers. One of the good things about the jorōs settling in the US seems to be that they find the brown marmorated stink bug quite tasty. Our native spiders won’t eat them, since they are also an Asian invader that they don’t recognize as food. The jorō views them as home cooking, so that’s a win in my book.

Some invasive species do no harm and are actually helpful

There are good invasives that didn’t originate where they now live. Our beloved honeybee is a European import, brought here by settlers hundreds of years ago. They escaped captivity and made themselves right at home and their honey is a tasty and healthy treat. Now, we can’t imagine being without them and assisting their fragile existence is the topic of many conservationist discussions. An invasive species can be introduced where a similar one has gone extinct so they might take over their role in the ecosystem. The giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius have been extinct for years, due to humans. This was affecting the ebony trees that were once common throughout the island. The trees dropped their fruits and nothing was there to eat them and transport the seeds where they could take root and grow. The seeds also benefited from passing through the digestive system of the tortoise. A close relative, the Aldabra tortoise was introduced back in 2000 and it appears that they have stepped into the role that their extinct cousins left when they died. New ebony trees are taking root and growing due to the Aldabra tortoise’s introduction. So invasive species are not always bad, however there are more disturbing reports than good ones.

Here's a tasty honey sampler with six different flavors that is perfect for holiday gift-giving.

joro spider

Be on the lookout for the jorō spider

The jorō spider seems to fall into the helpful or neutral impact on the environment. They love the stinkbugs that our spiders won’t eat and are also happy to collect mosquitoes and other flying insects that tend to make our lives miserable, so I vote to let them stay. Don’t kill them, simply relocate any that build their webs in inconvenient spaces. They seem to like porches and patios where flying insects gather at night, so if you live in their area, pay attention so you don’t get a mouthful of spider web. Chances are, the jorōs will spread to neighboring areas and states, so Southerners be on the lookout. The egg cases survive freezing winters and the young spiders can float on the wind by balooning. They send a strand of silk into the wind and it catches the spider up and it can float for up to 100 miles before it lands. This is how they can move into an area faster than they can crawl. The large spiders you see in the webs are the females. Males are much smaller and tend to just visit romantically. She lays her eggs in a weather-proof sack that can hold over 1000 eggs. The little spiders hatch in the spring and aren’t very noticeable until they reach adulthood in late summer and spin their golden webs.

If you don't have a platoon of spiders, you can always resort to an electric bug zapper like this one.

So far, so good

Invasives don’t always fit in to their new environment like the jorō has, and the jury is still out regarding its impact. For now, scientists are taking a wait and see attitude towards its presence and aren’t actively moving to eradicate it.

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