Scientists say invasive joro spiders are here to stay in Georgia

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A colorful, invasive species of spider known to weave gold-colored webs has been spreading across Georgia for years, and scientists say they don’t go anywhere.

The joro spider, a palm-sized arachnid with yellow stripes, is native to Asia but has roamed northern Georgia en masse this year, less than a decade since it was first spotted there.

Reports from the University of Georgia recorded the first sightings of the spider between 2013 and 2014. Scientists used genetic analysis to confirm these sightings as Joro spiders in 2015, and Rick Hoebeke, director of collections at the Georgia Museum of Natural History, tracked them as they spread across the state.

Hoebeke told the University of Georgia his “best guess” how the spiders got to the US was by shipping container.

According to Michele Hatcher of the University of Georgia’s Department of Entomology, the spider has since grown to “extreme numbers” in Georgia, with sightings in about 25 counties. The creepy crawlies have also been spotted in parts of South Carolina.

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‘Pest Control’

At nearly three inches in length and flashy colors, the spider may seem a bit intimidating, but experts say they are not interested in biting people.

Entomologist Nancy Hinkle interacts with an adult female joro spider who she says provides

Rather, they can serve as valuable “pest control,” says Entomologist Nancy Hinkle of the University of Georgia.

“Joro spiders are a great way for us to suppress pests naturally without chemicals,” said Hinkle.

The spiders feed on insects such as mosquitoes, flies and even stink bugs.

“I think people have to make peace with Joros and accept the spiders because they have nowhere to go,” said Hoebeke.

And despite their invasive species marking, Joro spiders do not need to be killed. In addition to the pest control benefits they offer, experts believe that their rapid population growth will soon be naturally suppressed.

The spiders will mostly die in November, Hinkle says, but not before they have laid bags of eggs that may add to their population in the spring.

A female joro spider is shown in Winterville, Georgia.  The invasive spider is harmless to humans and researchers are studying its effects on local ecology.

Scientists from the University of Georgia have not discovered any adverse effects on local, indigenous species in their relatively short time in the United States, which was a cause for concern when the Joro spider arrived. Experts at Clemson University said they did not know if the species would have a negative impact on the local ecology of nearby South Carolina.

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