In the past few years alone, Americans have had to worry about murder hornets and spotted lanternflies infiltrating their backyards. If you didn't like those bugs, you likely won't be thrilled to hear about the latest creepy-crawly invader predicted to take over the East Coast. As Smithsonian reports, Joro spiders are already common in Georgia, and a new study published in Physiological Entomology suggests they're capable of moving farther north. Whether that's good news or bad news for the local environment remains to be seen.
Joro spiders, or Trichonephila clavata, have spread around the globe from their native home in East Asia. It's unclear how they first landed in the United States, but some experts say they arrived in a shipping container that made its way to Georgia's Interstate 85. Since they were first spotted on U.S. soil in 2013, their populations have exploded.
Their spread has been limited to the Southeast for now, but the University of Georgia researchers who authored the study say they're capable of expanding their footprint. Joro spiders have a higher heart rate and metabolism than their relative, the golden silk spider, which has been limited to southern states since arriving in the country. Their physiology means they're capable of surviving in northern states where temperatures dip below freezing. This indicates it could be a matter of time before Americans up and down the East Coast are forced to coexist with the arachnids.
If you live within their range, the invasive spiders are hard to miss. They're spinning golden, three-dimensional webs that are covering trees, homes, and power lines in Georgia. Their bodies sport a vivid yellow, red, and blue pattern, and their spindly legs span as wide as an adult's palm. They're also venomous, though their fangs aren't strong enough to pierce through human skin. On top of all that, they can use tiny silk parachutes to fly.
As long as you can stand the sight of them, the Joro spiders may not be that much of a nuisance. There's even a reason to welcome their arrival. One of their favorite meals is the brown marmorated stink bug, another invasive pest that's proven much more disruptive to local ecosystems. But experts warn it's still too early to say if the Joro spider will end up displacing native species from the environment. Here are more invasive bugs to look out for as the weather warms up.