Campus News

Research scientist discusses Joro spiders traveling north

Andy Davis, research scientist in the Odum School of Ecology, spoke with The New York Times about Joro spiders traveling up the East Coast. According to Davis, it is “only a matter of time” before the spiders make their way to New York.

These invasive spiders, originally from Asia, were first spotted in Georgia. The mid-Atlantic region is about the same latitude as places in Asia, making it sensible for Joros to move north, Davis said.

“They seem to be OK with living in a city,” Davis said, noting that he had seen Joro spiders on streetlamps and telephone poles. “These are places regular spiders wouldn’t be caught dead in,” he said.

Davis said that the Joro spiders could arrive in New York sometime this year by hitchhiking on cars and trucks. They can also travel by “ballooning,” or moving through the air by shooting a thread that catches the wind. The air does not carry them very far. “If we were to wait for them to get there on their own steam,” Davis said, referring to New York, “it would be 20 years.”

In an experiment involving blowing air on the Joros with a turkey baster, Davis found the spiders to be shy.

“They don’t like that, and they freeze,” he said. “You can time how long they stay in that position.”

While other species of spiders remained frozen about two minutes, the joros he tested were immobile for an hour.

They are also relative harmless with their venom too weak to hurt people.

“From what I gather, it feels like a bee sting,” Davis said. “I’ve handled about 500 of them. I haven’t been bitten yet. You’d have to manhandle the spider for it to bite you, but same with a bee. If you leave it alone, it will leave you alone.”