Giant bright yellow, black & red Joro spiders heading to New Jersey next year

The bright yellow, blue-black and red Joro spider is an invasive arachnid that could spread through most of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

There’s really nothing we can do to stop the bright yellow, blue-black and red palm-sized Joro spider, an invasive arachnid that could spread through most of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

Joro spiders, which can use their web silk to ride the wind to cover distances up to 100 miles, could possibly survive in New Jersey.

But that’s not necessarily bad news.

The Joro spider first arrived stateside around 2013 and has since spread across the state and Southeast, with research suggesting the invasive arachnids could spread through most of the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S.

Discussions of eradication methods ranging from chemical sprays to “Joro sticks” — typically a broomstick or other long stick used to destroy or relocate the Joro spiders’ large, strong webs — are rampant. Joro season is undoubtedly here.

But, according to a team of University of Georgia experts collecting data about the spiders through the newly formed Joro Watch initiative, it’s best to put down the stick (for now) and pick up a camera.

Besides Georgia, where the palm-sized creatures are most common, they have already spread to Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.

“Our native spiders are out there in similar developmental stages, building webs and eating insects,” said Jason Schmidt, associate professor in the Department of Entomology at UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES). “Spiders consume a lot of different prey types, from flies to pest insects. Removing any spider or attempting to indiscriminately or accidentally remove or control all spiders will damage the biodiversity out there.”

The Joro Watch project will jumpstart an online monitoring program to collect data from the public that can be used for awareness, education and to better understand the current spread and distribution of the arachnid.

The growing, multidisciplinary Joro Watch team includes Schmidt, Rick Hoebeke and Will Hudson from the Department of Entomology; Rebekah Wallace and Joseph LaForest from The UGA Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health; Kamal Gandhi, Brittany Barnes and Priscilla Smith from UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources; and Erin Grabarczyk from Valdosta State University.

Andy Davis, assistant research scientist and graduate program faculty at the UGA Odum School of Ecology, has studied the spider extensively and agrees with the Joro Watch team on the risk to native Georgia spider populations. He adds that the orchard orbweaver, whose spiderlings look astonishingly similar to Joro spiderlings, are especially abundant this year. Even as a scientist, the distinctions at this developmental stage are tricky to discern.

“If I were to go out and squish every spider now, I’d probably be squishing just as many native species as Joros,” Davis added.  “And if people are committing to chemical means, you are not just killing the spiders, you are killing insects. (Chemical pesticides) can also harm humans in addition to our environment” by spreading beyond the treated area on your or neighboring properties.

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