A venomous 8-inch-long spider native to Asia, whose palm-sized females cannibalize their male mates, is flying up America’s east coast and even spreading out west.
Experts say the Jorō spider can fly 50 to 100 miles at a stretch, using their webbing as a parasail to glide in the wind, and it’s now also hitching rides up east coast highways — but the creatures aren’t known to pose a threat to humans or pets.
The jury is still out, however, on the impact that this giant spider, which is believed to have first arrived in the US a decade ago, via shipping containers arriving in Georgia, might have on local wildlife.
One thing that is certain, according to an ecologist at Rutgers University’s Lockwood Lab in New Jersey, who spoke with DailyMail.com: ‘Soon enough, possibly even next year, they should be in New Jersey and New York.’
A venomous 8-inch-long spider native to Asia, whose palm-sized females cannibalize their male mates, is flying up America’s east coast and even spreading out west
Experts say the Jorō spider can fly 50 to 100 miles at a stretch, using their webbing as a parasail to glide in the wind, and is hitching rides up east coast highways. One ecologist says it will be in New York and New Jersey ‘soon enough, possibly even next year’
‘Because their main methods of dispersal are to either ‘balloon’ with the wind, or hitch rides on cars,’ PhD student and ecologist José R. Ramírez-Garofalo told DailyMail.com, ‘they are generally going to spread to where the wind blows, or where humans are.’
Ramírez-Garofalo, who currently conducts research for Rutgers’ Lockwood Lab, added that while the Jorō spider will likely be able to take advantage of warming temperatures along the northeastern seaboard, their hitchhiking and parachuting methods are sure to take them farther than some other invasives.
‘Their range expansion is more complicated than the typical northward expansion that you see with a lot of species under current climate conditions,’ Ramírez-Garofalo told DailyMail.com.
‘Right now, we are seeing them dispersing into Maryland,’ as the ecologist recently told Staten Island Advance. ‘It is a matter of when, not if.’
Last month, other ecological and entomological researchers in New York, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina pooled their resources in an effort to predict just how fast and how far the invasive Jorō spider was likely to spread.
The short answer is far and wide across the continental United States, Canada and even parts of Mexico.
Their findings, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, ‘add evidence that T. clavata [the short form of the Jorō’s species name, Trichonephila clavata] is an invasive species and deserves much more ecological scrutiny,’ they wrote
‘While impacts of T. clavata on human or pet health have not been documented,’ they said, ‘our data show that their ecological impacts may not be similarly benign.’
The researchers hope their estimates — based on captured spiders and climate comparisons between North American regions and the Jorō’s habitats in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan — will spur action to protect domestic spider species.
‘These patterns should strongly motivate funding institutions and researchers alike to turn their attention toward this invasion,’ they wrote, ‘and consider ways to mitigate its impacts on native communities.’
Last month, other ecological and entomological researchers in New York, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina pooled their resources in an effort to predict just how fast and how far the invasive Jorō spider was likely to spread. The short answer is far and wide across the US
The researchers hope their estimates — based on captured spiders and climate comparisons with North American regions and the Jorō’s home habitats in Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan — will spur action to protect domestic spider species
But Ramírez-Garofalo at Rutgers, who also serves as vice president of Protectors of Pine Oak Woods on Staten Island, expressed caution about overly demonizing the Jorō or panicking over its possible ecosystem impacts.
‘While this is always a concern with newly invasive species,’ Ramírez-Garofalo told DailyMail.com, ‘the Jorō spider does not seem to be a major threat to the native biodiversity.’
While Jorōs are venomous, experts have stated that they are not a threat to humans, dogs or cats, and won’t bite unless they are feeling very threatened.
‘In fact, if you look at the literature,’ Ramírez-Garofalo told DailyMail.com, ‘there have been no documented fatalities, nor any notable medically significant bites.’
‘Taken together with their behavior (they are very reluctant to bite) and the evidence from the literature, they really pose no threat to humans or our pets,’ he said.
If they do bite, then it will feel like an occasional pinch as the spiders’ fangs aren’t big and sharp enough to break through human skin, according to Paula Cushing, an arachnologist at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, who allowed one to go onto her palm.
In contrast, the Jorō spider mostly preys on flies, mosquitos and stink bugs — with the latter being not only a threat to crops, but a threat that currently enjoys free reign without natural predators in many parts of the US.
Researchers say that the Jorō could be a blessing in disguise for farmers and that they should be left alone.
‘There’s really no reason to go around actively squishing them,’ said University of Georgia researcher Benjamin Frick.
‘Humans are at the root of their invasion,’ Frick said. ‘Don’t blame the Jorō.’
More than 150 years ago, a cousin of the Jorō spider called the golden silk spider also made its way to the United States from South America and the Caribbean.
However, unlike the Jorō, these spiders do not have the same body-like features to spread in different climates across the country as they mainly stay in the southeast of the US.
The lifecycle of Jorō spiders usually ends by late autumn or early winter, albeit with one newly discovered catch: a high percentage of Jorō spiders (74 percent) were found to be capable of surviving a two-minute freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
‘Jorō spiders had a higher survival during brief periods of below-zero temperature,’ Frick and is colleagues wrote of their findings last year, ‘which would be akin to a light frost during late-fall.’