Georgia’s newest nightmare: giant spiders

In honor of Halloween, here’s the newest terror of the year: giant spiders crawling their way up to North Georgia.

I wish I was kidding.

The spiders, called Joro spiders, can be up to five inches long and build webs that are several feet wide and tall. This allows for them to catch prey that can be up to the size of a mockingbird.

Size comparison of the spiders, an iPhone, and a ruler.

Mockingbirds can be up to ten inches in length, so that’s unusually large prey for a spider.

They catch the mockingbirds in their webs, which are easily recognized and known because of their distinct shape and tint.

The webs are multi-layered and often orb-shaped with a golden tint. The strength of these webs is what allows them to feed on prey so much larger than them.

The Joro Spider’s web hanging between two trees. [Photo Source: The Nature Box]

The spiders are also unique in their bright yellow coloring and stripped legs. There’s also a bit of red on their bodies, which in my opinion only adds to their frightening appearance.

The Joro Spider’s coloring up close. [Photo Source: news.uga.edu]

However, despite the frightening size and coloring of these ‘giant spiders’, they are not deadly.

Sage Bernard, a researcher at the University of Georgia, commented on the temperment of Joro spiders, “The spiders are not harmful to humans, and for the most part they are pretty timid. They prefer to scamper away rather than confront something that startles them.”

Up until recently, they’ve only been found in Japan, Korea, and China. Now, they’ve made it to North Georgia.

It’s believed by researchers that the spiders hitched a ride over on crates coming from Asia to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport around five years ago.

From there, they’ve spread throughout northern Georgia by stowing away in cars and trucks and multiplied to the point where they are now common in some areas.

The question has arisen as to why they seem to be surging the year of all years: 2020. The fact seems to be that population is naturally growing due to lack of predators and that they are more prone to being seen during the fall. However, there are legends or rumors that a barn in Georgia has recently released a large nest reflective of something out of Arachnophobia (1990), but the evidence is lacking.

Counties such as Gwinnett, Hall, Madison, and Jackson have reported several spiders, but the AJC recently reported many being seen here in Cherokee County:

“Dawn Lane, an avid gardener in Cherokee County, says hordes of Joros began showing up in her half-acre yard in August and taking over. Now barely a shrub or flower in her yard is free of a Joro web, she said. The eaves of her home are covered as well. Altogether, she has counted more than 70 webs” reported the AJC.

“Exotic orb weaving spiders create headaches for homeowners,” AJC

Rick Hoebeke, the arthropod curator at the Georgia Museum of Natural History said that, “The first hour to an hour and a half of my day is spent responding to spiders people find.”

He also says not to worry, saying also that the spiders do more good for the environment than harm.

Despite this, I’d remain on the lookout for the giant Joro spiders. That giant spider web on your neighbor’s porch may not be a halloween decoration after all.

If you aren’t nervous enough, here’s a comparison of the largest spider in the world next to a dollar bill and ruler. When you think about it, there’s not all that much of a size difference.

The Goliath Birdeater next to a dollar bill. [Photo Source: AAAS]

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