A spider native to Japan and described as being the size of your palm has been seen in Southeastern states but it could have its sights set on the Eastern Seaboard, according to a study released last week.
The Joro spider, whose eight legs have distinctive stripes of yellow on them, have been seen in the South for around a decade, but researchers say their study shows that it’s likely the spiders are hardy enough to live in colder climates and they may be heading north.
According to Andy Davis, a research scientist in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia and one of the authors behind the recent study, the spiders do not pose a threat to agriculture and, while they use venom to kill predators, they are not dangerous to humans or pets.
A Joro spider can grow to be about 3 inches long. In addition to the yellow stripes, the spider’s underbelly has distinctive red markings. It also weaves large webs that look golden. The spiders have fangs, but according to Davis, they are too weak to penetrate human skin.
The study, which was published in Physiological Entomology, looks at the differences between the Joro spider and the golden silk or banana spider, which first moved to the Southeast from the tropics around 160 years ago.
The golden silk spider has remained in the Southeast because it cannot tolerate cold. Researchers say the Joro will likely not have that restriction as it appears better able to stand colder temperatures.
While a person might be inclined to kill the spiders, “People should try to learn to live with them,” Davis told UGA Today, a publication by the University of Georgia.
“The way I see it, there’s no point in excess cruelty where it’s not needed,” added Benjamin Frick, co-author of the study and an undergraduate researcher at the Odum School of Ecology. “You have people with saltwater guns shooting them out of the trees and things like that, and that’s really just unnecessary.”
The spider, which has been seen in Georgia for several years, gets its name from Jorōgumo, which in Japanese folklore is a creature that can turn itself into a beautiful woman to prey on unsuspecting men.