The Joro spider has been making waves in newsfeeds and on a lot of popular news channels. In the midst of casually scrolling through pictures of your family and friends, puppies, and news articles, you suddenly see that there are going to be parachuting spiders coming from the sky, fear creeps in quickly (especially when 15% of the population has arachnophobia).
But we’re here to tell you that there’s really nothing to worry about. Though Joro spiders may look intimidating in their 10-foot webs, they are not looking to harm you. They’re simply here to exist on this earth, just like all of us.
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Joro spiders: what you need to know
We spoke with one of Ehrlich’s board-certified entomologists, Marc Potzler, to learn more about Joro spiders, where they came from, if they can harm us, and what you should do if you come across one.
What do Joro spiders look like?
Joro spiders are large spiders from the orb-weaver family — female Joro spiders are even bigger than males. A Joro spider’s head, also known as the Cephalothorax, is covered with short hairs, giving it a shiny, silver appearance. Their abdomen is shaped somewhat like a cylinder and is mostly sulfur-yellow in color with some gray markings. They have long, slender black legs that have very distinguishable yellow bands on them.
This fact gives us the shivers:
A Joro spider’s leg span can be up to four inches.
Where did Joro spiders come from?
Joro spiders are native to Southeast Asia. Potzler said that they probably came to the United States via a shipment of goods from that part of the world. Abroad, they are found anywhere from India to Japan.
Where are Joro spiders most active?
According to Potzler, the main concentration of Joro spiders in the United States is near the junction of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Joro spiders were first found in North Georgia in 2014. Since then, they have spread into North and South Carolina, with a few confirmed sightings in Alabama, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.
Joro spiders are tolerant of colder temperatures, so they could end up spreading throughout much of the continental US up to somewhere around Pennsylvania. Fortunately, this will probably take many years to occur.
When will I start seeing Joro spiders?
If you live in or are visiting any of the above states, you may start seeing adult Joro spiders appear midsummer through late fall, depending on the temperatures. Since Joro spiders tolerate colder temperatures, they’ll probably remain active until the first winter frost, similar to many native arthropods.
Can the Joro spider really parachute?
Ah, the question we all really want to know the answer to.
Yes, Joro spiders can really parachute. In fact, most orb-weavers “parachute,” but only as newly-hatched spiderlings, fresh out of the egg. Potzler explained that the spiderling will let out a long strand of silk and wait for a breeze to catch it, hitching a ride to disperse from its siblings. This act can cause them to travel several miles, and a strong gust of wind may move them even further.
The good news is that adult spiders are much too large for the wind to carry them this way.
What to do if you come into contact with a Joro spider
The chances of you coming into contact with a Joro spider are very slim, making it highly unlikely to be bitten by one. According to Potzler, Joro spiders tend to stay in their webs and they don’t actively hunt people.
Bitten by a Joro spider
The good news is that in the off chance that you are bitten by a Joro spider, their venom is not medically significant. Most people would only experience mild swelling, which can be reduced by applying a cold compress to the area. It is recommended to monitor the bite area by circling the bite with a permanent marker to keep track of the swelling, and to call your doctor for treatment advice.
Found a Joro spider
If you become one of the lucky ones to see a Joro spider, contact your local Cooperative Extension office, as they may have regional protocols on how to handle them. From a safe distance, take a photo of the spider for proper identification. Potzler informed us that there are a few native species of orb-weavers that bear resemblance to Joro spiders and should not be killed indiscriminately.
Protect yourself from Joro spiders
Luckily, Joro spiders aren’t like some other pests and won’t try to gain entry into your home—though they may attach a side of their web to your outside wall or porch. Since they typically build webs in open areas to catch flying insects, a chemical treatment would provide little to no protection from them. However, individual spiders, when found, can be addressed with a direct spray or physical removal.
“While [joro spiders] may out-compete local spiders for space and prey, it is unclear yet exactly what environmental impacts these will play in our ecosystem.” – Marc Potzler