Palm-sized, invasive spiders are spinning golden webs across Georgia in 'extreme numbers'
A colorful, invasive species of spiders known for spinning gold-colored webs has been spreading across Georgia for years now, and scientists say they aren't going anywhere.
The Joro spider, a palm-sized arachnid with yellow stripes, is native to Asia, but has been out en masse this year in northern Georgia, less than a decade after they were first discovered there.
Reports from the University of Georgia peg the first sightings of the spider between 2013 and 2014. Scientists used genetic analysis to confirm those sightings as Joro spiders in 2015, and Georgia Museum of Natural History collections director Rick Hoebeke tracked them as they spread throughout the state.
Hoebeke told the University of Georgia his "best guess" for how the spiders made it to the U.S. is by shipping container.
The spider has since grown to "extreme numbers" in Georgia, with sightings in about 25 counties, according to Michele Hatcher of the University of Georgia Department of Entomology. The creepy crawlers have also been spotted in parts of South Carolina.
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With a length of almost three inches and eye-catching colors, the spider may seem a bit intimidating, but experts say they aren't interested in biting humans.
Rather, they can serve as valuable "pest control," says University of Georgia entomologist Nancy Hinkle.
“Joro spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals," Hinkle said. "I’m trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing."
The spiders feed on insects like mosquitoes, flies and even stink bugs.
“I think people need to make peace with Joros and accept the spiders because they are not going anywhere," Hoebeke said.
And despite their invasive species tag, Joro spiders don't need to be killed. In addition to the benefits they provide as pest control, experts believe their rapid population growth will soon be naturally suppressed.
The spiders will mostly die off in November, Hinkle says, but not before laying sacs full of eggs, possibly adding to their population come the springtime.
In their relatively short time in the U.S., scientists from the University of Georgia have not discovered any negative effects on local, native species, which was a concern about the Joro spider's arrival. Experts at Clemson University said they did not know if the species would bring negative impacts to the local ecology of nearby South Carolina.
Most of the Joros are expected to die by late November, but they may return in equally large, or even larger, numbers next year, though scientists say even that is hard to predict with any certainty.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Invasive Joro spiders with yellow stripes increase in Georgia