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Joro spiders spread eastward, heading to North Carolina

Large, yellow spiders that are not native to the United States have been spotted just south of North Carolina.

The joro spider is native to Korea, Taiwan and China. But in 2013, scientists found him in Georgia.

The population has been growing in parts of the South and East Coast for years, and many researchers think it is only a matter of time before they spread to much of the continental US.

But spider experts say we shouldn’t worry too much about that.

“My feeling is that people love the weird, fantastic and potentially dangerous,” says David Nelsen, a professor of biology at Southern Adventist University who has studied the growing number of Joro spiders. “This is one of those things that checks all the boxes for public hysteria.”

Scientists are instead concerned about the increasing prevalence of invasive species that can wreak havoc on our crops and trees – a problem exacerbated by global trade and climate change, making local environmental conditions more comfortable for pests that previously tolerated the frigid winters couldn’t survive.

Adult female Juro spiders can grow up to two inches in length. They can also fly (sort of)! They form parachutes with their webs and can travel 50 or more miles in the wind.

They are difficult to spot at this time of year because they are still early in their life cycle and are only about the size of a grain of rice. Adults are most often seen in August and September.

Despite being an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, there are no reports of Joro spider bites in humans in the United States.

Experts say pesticides will work to kill individual joro spiders, but once one is killed, more are likely to move into the area.

WHERE ARE THEY GOING?

Scientists are still trying to figure that out, said David Coyle, an assistant professor at Clemson University who worked with Nelsen on a study of the Joro range published last November. Their central population is primarily in Atlanta, but extends into the Carolinas and southeastern Tennessee. A satellite population has established itself in Baltimore over the past two years, Coyle said.

As for when the species will become more common in the Northeast, an eventual outcome suggested by their research? “Maybe this year, maybe in 10 years, we really don’t know,” he said. “They probably won’t get that far in one year. It’s going to take some incremental steps.”

CAN THEY FLY?

The babies can: Using a tactic called “ballooning,” young Joro spiders can use their webs to harness the Earth’s winds and electromagnetic currents to travel relatively long distances. But you won’t see any adult Joro spiders flying.

WHAT ARE THEY EATING?

Joro spiders eat anything that ends up in their web, which ends up being mainly insects. That could mean they compete with native spiders for food, but that’s not necessarily all bad: a Joro’s daily catch could also feed native bird species, something Andy Davis, a researcher at the University of Georgia, personally has documented.

Copyright © 2024 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All rights reserved – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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