Terrifying Invasion From Asia Will Infect East Coast This Spring

The Joro spider, an invasive arachnid species that is native to eastern Asia and first spread across Georgia in 2013, is expected to “colonize” through most of the East Coast this Spring, according to a new study that is adding some extra stress to Arachnophoboes.

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“Our best guess is that it [the first spider] came in a shipping container and dropped off here somewhere on I-85 [near Atlanta] in the Braselton area,” Rick Hoebeke said in a statement. “They are great little hitchhikers.”

Joros are harmless to humans and generally large enough to avoid.

The Joro spider was first identified in the U.S. almost 10 years ago in 2014 when Hoebeke, a collections manager at the Georgia Museum of Natural History, received a call about an unusual spider. From that first encounter with the unique spider, Hoebeke led an effort to identify the East Asia native spider and has since tracked the species throughout Georgia.

According to Hoebeke’s statement for the University of Georgia’s New Service:

“Millions of palm-sized Joro spiders have suspended themselves in three-dimensional golden webs on porches, power lines and mailboxes in roughly 25 counties in the state — and counting.

It seems Georgia residents will need to get comfortable with this new arachnid in town because, according to scientists, it’s not going anywhere.

“Last year, there were dozens of spiders, and they began to be something of a nuisance when I was doing yard work,” he explained. “This year, I have several hundred, and they actually make the place look spooky with all the messy webs — like a scene out of ‘Arachnophobia,’” he said, extending an invitation to come to his home to view the creepy scene.

As far as invasive species go, Hoebeke believes this one is “not so bad.” In fact, he has tried to convince the hundreds of people who have sent emails this year concerned about how many spiders are in their yards that paying exterminators will not give them the desired result or solve the problem.

UGA scientists have not noticed any negative effects on any native species, which was one concern. The only negative effect concerning the spiders seems to be the nuisance caused by their extreme numbers this year. All experts agree that, over time, Mother Nature will take its course and the numbers will settle down to a more moderate amount.

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“I think people need to make peace with Joros and accept the spiders because they are not going anywhere. Halloween is coming up, so we all have fine, natural decorations for the kiddos to enjoy,” Hoebeke said.

UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle sees the Joro as a “beautiful creature that provides free pest control.”

“Joro spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals, so I’m trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing!” she said.

Hinkle said they help suppress mosquitoes and biting flies, and Joros are one of the few spiders that will catch and eat brown marmorated stink bugs, which are serious pests to many crops. Scientists are hopeful that the Joro spiders will help make a dent in these populations.

Handling a Joro and allowing it free reign on her arm, Hinkle, who was invited to Hudson’s property for the Joro tour, assured onlookers that the leggy arachnid was not interested in biting her at all.

“As with all orb weavers, it has small mouth parts … Right now she is just using me as substrate,” Hinkle said as she watched the large spider drop off her arm.

For those truly concerned, most will have died off come late November, Hinkle assured, but they will leave behind egg sacs full of eggs. When the hatchlings emerge in the spring, they will hitchhike again, but this time they will be riding the wind on a strand of silk, perhaps extending their habitat.

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The good news is that the bright yellow spider, which is about the size of a child’s hand and has blue-black markings, is mostly harmless to people and pets due to their fangs often being too short to puncture human skin, researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) said. They also normally don’t bite unless threatened.

“People should try to learn to live with them,” Andy Davis, a research scientist and one of the authors behind a recent study about the invasive species told UGA Today, a publication by the university. “If they’re literally in your way, I can see taking a web down and moving them to the side, but they’re just going to be back next year.”

Benjamin Frick, a co-author of the study who works as a researcher in the School of Ecology, recommended people not to be violent toward the spider as it isn’t necessarily bad that they are spreading along the East Coast.