The female joro spider has a body almost an inch long and legs that spread out 3-4 inches. (Photo/Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

The female joro spider has a body almost an inch long and legs that spread out 3-4 inches. (Photo/Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Not too long ago I wrote about the tegu lizard’s efforts to establish a beachhead in the Peach State. Now according to biologists at the University of Georgia’s Museum of Natural History the joro spider is the newest addition to the long list of exotic animal species that have established themselves in Georgia.

The joro spider is native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China. Currently it is also living in Northeast Georgia.

 The first joro spiders were located in Hocshton, Georgia in 2013. Since that time, the spider has demonstrated its ability to expand its population.  To date, they are already spinning their webs in Hall, Jackson, Gwinnett and Madison Counties in the northeast quadrant of the state. The spiders have also spilled over into Greenville, South Carolina.

We may never know how the joro spider made its way from the Far East to Northeast Georgia.  However, Richard Hoebeke, associate curator of the UGA’s Museum of Natural History, believes that the showy spider probably hitched a ride to Georgia on shipping crates carried on container ships that sailed from ports in China and Japan.

The joro spider is an imposing creature.  The body of a female is 0.66-0.98 inches long. In addition, its long, thin legs can spread out 3-4 inches. Males are much smaller.

The joro spider weaves orb-shaped webs. When the light catches these webs just right, they appear to be constructed of gold filaments.

Georgians living in areas infested with joro spiders are far from fond of the leggy arachnids. In fact, many try to eradicate them from their property. In addition, many people are fearful of them. In truth, although the joro spider is venomous, if one happens to bite you, it would probably have the same effect as a bee sting.

In the spider’s homeland, people are fond of them. In fact, the Japanese consider it one of their favorite spiders. The joro spider has even found its way into Japanese folklore. 

According to one of these folk tales, the joro spider can change itself into a beautiful woman. After the transformation takes place, she then attempts to seduce a man. If she is successful, the spider quickly wraps her victim up in her silken web until she is ready to make a meal of him.

To date, the spider is found often in woodlands and residential areas alike. The spiders usually live in groups.  As such, homeowners often consider the large webs unsightly.

It is too early to know whether the joro spider will become the next fire ant and have a negative impact on our native wildlife. Biologists are particularly concerned that the joro spider will displace native spiders. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the joro spider is actually endearing itself to some farmers and homeowners because of its willingness to eat brown marmorated stinkbugs.  For some reason, native spiders rarely eat these invasive insects.  Consequently, they cause crop damage and infest houses.  George Pittman, Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for UGA Cooperative Extension in Jackson County, credits joro spiders for a reduction in the number of reports concerning stinkbug infestations that typically make their way to his office at this time of the year.

Fortunately, birds and mud dauber wasps have been quick to eat their share of these exotic spiders.

When asked whether we can eradicate the joro spider, Dr. Bud Freeman, director of the Georgia Museum of Natural History, responded by saying.  “Should we try to get rid of them?  You can but at this point, they’re here to stay.”

If the joro spider is not already living in Monroe County, I believe it is only a matter of time before the joro spider turns up here. I base this prediction on the fact that annually literally thousands of shipping containers from the Far East pass through our county on I-75.

With that in mind, if you stumble across a joro spider, snap a picture and send it to Richard Hoebeke at rhoebeke@uga.edu along with date and location of your find. He and his colleagues are trying to learn all they can about this striking yellow and black foreign invader.

 

Terry Johnson is retired Program Manager of the Georgia Nongame-Endangered Wildlife Program. He has written the informative column ‘Monroe Outdoors’ for the Reporter for many years. His book, “A Journey to Discovery,” is available at The Reporter. Email him at tjwoodduck@bellsouth.net.