TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida is home to a number of colorful, sometimes invasive species of wildlife. From alligators to iguanas that turn orange when it’s time to mate, the state has a diverse set of wildlife. A new species may be about to drop in.
The Joro spider, a species with its home in various parts of Asia, first arrived in the U.S. around 2013, according to scientists at the University of Georgia Athens. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the Joro spider is native to Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan.
The huge yellow, blue, black and red spiders cover their environments in webbing. Since their arrival in the U.S., researchers say the species has “spread across the state [of Georgia] and the Southeast.”
Now, they think their crawl across the country could go full invasion.
“New research from the University of Georgia suggests the invasive arachnids could spread through most of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.,” an announcement from UGA said.
The spiders, according to photos published by UGA, are about the size of a human hand. Andy Davis, a research scientist at UGA’s Odum School of Ecology, said the Joro spiders don’t “appear to have much of an effect on local food webs or ecosystems.”
Davis said the spiders may even be an extra food source for native birds and other predators. Rather than fight off the spiders’ spread, Davis said people should learn to live with them.
According to a previous publication from UGA researchers, the Joro spider travels by ballooning, or parachuting, with their webs. An orb weaver species, they let “wind carry them,” where they go.
In the U.S., Joros reportedly eat some pests and prey that local spiders don’t, making them a potential asset against other invasive species.
“Joro spiders also appear to be able to capture and feed on at least one insect that other local spiders are not: adult brown marmorated stink bugs, an invasive pest that can infest houses and damage crops,” Byron Freeman, a faculty member in the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology said in 2020.
While some Georgia residents, and other arachnophobes, may not like the spiders, Nancy Hinkle, an entomologist at UGA, told the Associated Press the spiders help suppress mosquitoes and biting flies, calling them “friends” that catch unwanted pests.
Freeman said other spiders, like dewdrop spiders, that “steal food from others” have been seen caught in Joro webs. The spread of the spiders may not be a bad thing, but it’s also a difficult process to stop.
“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,” Davis said.
A co-author of Davis’ research agreed, saying their spread is also due to human activity.
“The potential for these spiders to be spread through people’s movements is very high,” Benjamin Frick, co-author of the study and an undergraduate researcher in the School of Ecology said. “Anecdotally, right before we published this study, we got a report from a grad student at UGA who had accidentally transported one of these to Oklahoma.”