JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Joro spider is traipsing its way through the Southeast.
They're colorful, they're the size of a pulled-pork slider and the pest control company Orkin says they could be "ballooning" through the air into a backyard near you.
A native to Asia, the Joro species Trichonephila clavata was first seen in Georgia around 2014, and is expected to continue its road trip across the state in the summer months.
If you come across this spider, don't panic. Or panic a little, but know they aren't life-threatening. Unless triggered, they won't attack you.
According to the director of St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, John Brueggen, they aren't dangerous. "This is a large orb weaver and does not pose any significant medical risk to humans," he said. "Like all spiders, they're venomous, but their bite is like a small bee sting."
Orkin released a "Joro Spider Survival Guide" saying:
“Joro spiders continue to wreak havoc in Georgia. But now, these invasive critters are expanding their reach further along the Southeast.
Scientists believe this non-native spider is spreading so rapidly across Southern states due to being resistant to cold temperatures. Also, the spider is able to travel quickly due to a behavior called “ballooning,” when the spider uses their silks to carry them across the wind to new locations. They also use cars to hitch a ride, with drivers unknowingly transferring the Joro across state lines."
When shown this statement, Brueggen said:
"I have no idea how a spider could be 'wreaking havoc' in Georgia or anywhere else. 'Wreaking havoc' is reserved for creatures like Godzilla. All spiders are technically venomous, but very few are dangerous to humans. This spider is large, and quite colorful, but has never caused even a single human death.
'Ballooning' happens with tiny spiderlings as they disperse in the breeze. It is not the case of an adult spider flying through the air."
I followed up with Director Brueggen, just to be safe, asking if we should we be worried about the Joro spider taking over Jacksonville like spiders in the 1990 movie "Arachnophobia" starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman? Because the spiders in the movie do some hitchhiking like the Joro.
"Unfortunately, whenever movies sensationalize a type of animal it is never good for the animals that have to live in the wake of the conjured fears," said Director Brueggen. "Sharks took a beating after Jaws came out, spiders weren’t treated very well after 'Arachnophobia'. Aliens haven’t been in too good of shape since 'Independence Day.' This is just another case of the press, nothing personal, taking advantage of people’s fears."
"I'm worried that the native orb weavers, also called Banana Spiders, are going to be killed by people because they think they are the Joro," continued Director Brueggen. "They look quite similar and are every bit as non-confrontational."
Orkin says if you see a spider on a huge web it has spun, grab a broom and sweep it away from your property. It would rather not confront you.
Although these arachnids may look menacing, it’s important to remember they’re harmless. They are not aggressive, and you will not be bitten unless you place your fingers in their face, and even then, it is rare.
So, befriend the Joro spider, as the Orkin guide concludes.
They help keep mosquitos and other insect pests under control without chemicals. Let them be. They can become Protectors of your gardens:
"The Joro will feed on insects you don’t want in your garden such as mosquitoes and brown marmorated stink bugs. Serving as a predator, they will eat the pests that native spiders won’t."