Large Invasive Spider Species Growing in 'Extreme Numbers' in Georgia

The palm-sized Joro spider is an invasive arachnid species that started growing in numbers in Georgia years ago. But scientists are warning residents in northern Georgia that the species will be growing in "extreme numbers" this season.

The Joro spider is a species native to Asia and is noted for its colorful yellow stripes. These spiders were first noticed in Georgia less than a decade ago, with reports from the University of Georgia saying the first sighting of the spider was between 2013 and 2014.

In 2015, scientists used genetic testing to confirm the sighting was the Joro spider. Experts believed the species found itself in Georgia after "hitching a ride in a shipping container from China or Japan."

Throughout the years, there have also been confirmed sightings in Greenville, South Carolina, nearly 240 miles away. The collections director at the Georgia Museum of Natural History Rick Hoebeke has been tracking these sightings.

"I think people need to make peace with Joros and accept the spiders because they are not going anywhere," Hoebeke told USA Today.

While the large spider species can scare humans due to its size and color, experts said this species of spider is not interested in humans. Nancy Hinkle, an entomologist at the University of Georgia entomologist, told USA Today that spiders can serve as great pest management due to their diet.

She said the spiders feed on small insects such as flies and mosquitoes, and sometimes even stink bugs.

"Joro spiders present us with excellent opportunities to suppress pests naturally, without chemicals," Hinkle told USA Today. "I'm trying to convince people that having zillions of large spiders and their webs around is a good thing."

While the spider's rapid population growth is concerning residents, scientists said there is no need to kill them. Experts believe the population will naturally suppress itself, and even though there are many Joros running around Georgia, they will serve as free pest control.

Hinkle said she believed the spiders will mostly die off in November when the temperatures start to drop, but that the population will bounce back in the spring when the sacs full of eggs hatch.

Now, researchers are studying the impact of the large population on the ecosystem to see if they are beneficial. Scientists at Clemson University in South Carolina said they are unsure if the addition of the species will negatively affect the ecology of the state.

Joro Spider Growing in Numbers in Georgia
The Joro spider tends to intimidate humans due to its sheer size and colorful stripes, but experts say it is not interested in humans. The spider eat small insects such as flies and mosquitoes, and sometimes even stink bugs, providing natural pest control. LizMinkertJohnson/Getty Images

On Thursday, Newsweek reported about a school in England that closed this week over a suspected infestation of false widow spiders in the building. False widow spiders are the most venomous spider in all of Great Britain and can reach a body length of up to about the size of a small coin, according to the Natural History Museum. A bite from a false widow can radiate pain from the bite for up to 12 hours, however, they rarely bite humans unless provoked.

The school told parents that the school would be closed until the outbreak could be assessed and taken care of. The school reopened Thursday after approval from local authorities.