Depending on where you live, it may be just a matter of time until you begin seeing black and yellow spiders the size of your palm. If you live along the East Coast, you may start seeing the spiders sooner, rather than later.
Jorō spiders, which can grow up to 4 inches in length, are common in Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. The name Jorō, by the way, is short for Jorōgumo. In Japanese folklore, a Jorōgumo is a spider demon said to be able to transform itself into a beautiful woman to seduce men, entangle them in spider webs, and devour them, according to Live Science.
It’s believed that the spiders traveled from Asia to the southeastern U.S. approximately 10 years ago in shipping containers.
New research recently published in Physiological Entomology notes that Jorō spiders have a metabolism working twice as fast and a 77 percent higher heart rate than a closely related spider in the same genus already established in the U.S. They also can survive brief freezing temperatures that kill other spiders. Finally, the researchers from the University of Georgia in Athens (UGA) note that Jorō spiders are found in much of Japan, which has a climate similar to that of the U.S.
“Just by looking at that, it looks like the Jorōs could probably survive throughout most of the eastern seaboard here, which is pretty sobering,” study co-author Andy Davis said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
A Growing Population
Jorō spiders, scientifically Trichonephila clavata, are part of a spider genus known as “golden orb-weavers.” This genus produces large, highly-organized, wheel-shaped webs, which explains the name.
Last year, for reasons not understood by researchers and entomologists, very high numbers of the spiders were found across much of northern Georgia, according to the Associated Press.
The spiders are venomous, but since their fangs are too short to puncture human skin, the real problem with Jorō spiders is their intricate, and enormous, webs.
Will Hudson, an entomologist at the University of Georgia, explained he basically couldn’t use his front porch last summer because it was overtaken by Jorō webs approximately 10 feet deep.
“The webs are a real mess,” Hudson said, according to the Associated Press. “Nobody wants to come out of the door in the morning, walk down the steps, and get a face full of spider webs.”
On The Move?
Jorō spider hatchlings practice what’s known as “ballooning.” Essentially, they produce long, thin silk threads. Then, when the threads get blown by the wind, the spiders can travel a mile or two — just like a balloon blown by the wind.
But that’s not how the researchers hypothesize Jorō spiders to travel up the East Coast or make their way west.
Instead, Benjamin Frick, an undergraduate ecology student at UGA and co-author of the Jorō spider study published in Physiological Entomology, explains that the spiders may simply catch a ride on a car, truck, or shipping container. Indeed, Frick said that just before the study was published, the researchers received a report from a UGA graduate student saying they accidentally transported one of the Jorō spiders to Oklahoma, according to CNN.
“The reality of the situation, though, is that for every spider that we might see being transported, there are likely 10 more that evade detection,” Frick said.
A Lack Of Consensus
While the study’s researchers contend that Jorō spiders can successfully make their way north and west, not all entomologists are convinced.
“Although it can withstand somewhat colder climates, I doubt it could withstand the climatic conditions found in the northern and western U.S.,” said Paula Cushing, senior curator of invertebrate zoology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, according to CNN.
Anne Danielson-Francois, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, added, “In my opinion, I do not think they would be found further north than North Carolina or toward the west,” according to CNN.
Ultimately, whether Jorō spiders actually begin traveling to other states, thriving or not, it appears people who live in the southeast U.S. will simply have to get used to the spiders — and their three-dimensional webs that can span hiking or biking paths as well as porches. That also, unfortunately, means sometimes getting a face full of spider webs.
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