Until recently, American arachnophobes could rest assured that the nearly 3-inch-long Joro spider was more or less ensconced in its native East Asia. But in 2014, Georgia Museum of Natural History collections manager Rick Hoebeke confirmed that they’d been spotted in Georgia, possibly having hitched a ride on shipping containers.
The yellow-bodied orb weavers have been busy since then. As HuffPost reports, the Peach State is now home to millions of Joro spiders, and they’ve crossed the border into South Carolina, too. “Last year, there were dozens of spiders [on my property], and they began to be something of a nuisance when I was doing yard work,” University of Georgia entomologist Will Hudson said in a UGA press release. “This year, I have several hundred, and they actually make the place look spooky with all the messy webs—like a scene out of Arachnophobia.”
But while the fears of Arachnophobia’s characters proved to be justified, scientists stress that humans have nothing to fear from the harmless crawlers. And despite the population explosion, this particular invasive species hasn’t done any discernible damage to the local wildlife.
In fact, you might even consider the Joro spider that's set up shop in your porch corner to be a welcome guest. According to UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle, they may help keep mosquitoes and biting flies at bay, and unlike some other spider species, they’re happy to gobble down a particularly reviled pest: brown marmorated stink bugs.
“Joro spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals, so I’m trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing!” Hinkle said.
But dodging zillions of large spiders and their webs is far from ideal, and the entomologists have no qualms about squashing a few—or a few hundred. Hudson recommends using a rake to transfer the spider and its web to the ground, stomping on the spider, and “repeat[ing] as necessary.” You could also simply douse them in insecticide.
Or, you could let them all squat for another month or so. After all, as Hoebeke pointed out, “Halloween is coming up, so we all have fine, natural decorations for the kiddos to enjoy.”